As we reported recently, Nina Wadia is leaving EastEnders and her role as feisty mum Zainab Masood, and in an interview with TV Times about her departure from the BBC soap, Nina revealed that the death of a close friend proved to be the catalyst in making her decision to go.
Nina explained, “In January 2012, a dear friend of mine, who was my age, fell very ill.
“I went through that with her, and she passed away quite soon after.
“She was one of three people I knew who died last year. It made me realise that life’s very short, and that I have a lot that I still want to do…
“In a way, it was a bit of an epiphany.”
She added, “I think it was Ricky Norwood, who plays Fatboy, who then said to me ‘You know, you’ve been in EastEnders for a fifth of its life’ and that frightened me a bit.
“Not in a bad way; it just made me think that I’ve created this person that I hope people have liked, and maybe it’s time to go off and do it elsewhere.”
Nina was then asked how she’d told her co-star and friend Nitin Ganatra, who of course plays Zainab’s husband Masood, that she was leaving the show.
She said, “It was really quite horrible. He sat in the dressing room and I said ‘Listen up; I’ve got some news’.
“Marc Elliott [who played Syed] and myself used to play tricks on people the entire time so, when I went all serious, Nitin was like ‘This is a joke, right?’ ‘I went ‘No, I’m not going to tell you a joke. I’m leaving.’
“He went ‘Very funny, now, come on, we’ve got to go on set’, and I was like ‘No, Nitin, this is not a joke.’
“He went very quiet, but then I explained my reasons and he understood. The same goes with Himesh [Patel, who plays Tamwar]. He was particularly upset.”
Nina was then asked which of her scenes or storylines had been “particularly tough”, to which she replied, “There was one moment where Yusef had to shove Zainab’s head against a window.
“Ace [Bhatti, who played Yusef] and I rehearsed it, technically, three or four times but, when we filmed the scene and we both got into character, I popped a rib out…
“So I got a very slight taste of what it might be like in reality, and it was not pleasant.”
As to what’s next for Nina, she revealed that Marc Elliott – who as mentioned, played Zainab’s son Syed – has written a role for her in a new sitcom.
Of that, she said, “He’s written a part for me called Bob Hewson. Her real name is Burjinda Hussein but she wants to be this white lesbian detective!
“Let’s just say that she is very different to Zainab. I can promise you, you will not have seen this character before!”
I’m really going to miss Nina as Zainab. Are you? Here’s a look at Nina on the set of the show…