‘We Are Lady Parts’ cast discuss friendship, authenticity and breaking down stereotypes
For the cast of We are lady pieces, filming a musical about an all-female Muslim punk band was more than just extra credit on their resume – it offered the chance to challenge stereotypes, build lasting friendships, and find out what it really means to be punk.
The six-part series follows Lady Parts, a London-based band made up of Amina, guitarist (played by Anjana Vasan) Bisma, bassist (Faith Omole), Ayesha, drummer (Juliette Motamed), of Saira, the singer (Sarah Kameela Impey) and Momtaz, the manager (Lucie Shorthouse).
The show, which begins airing May 20 at 10 p.m. on Channel 4, explores brotherhood, belonging and finding your voice and, when I sit down (via Zoom) with Shorthouse, Omole, Vasan and Motamed, I can see how this themes also stuck with them offscreen. Our conversation is full of laughter, passion and authenticity. At one point, Omole – whose character Bisma is the mother hen of the group – tells me, “I think our friendship has longevity.” And I believe her.
Being all too familiar with the stereotypical depictions of Muslim women on television, in film and in the media, the team behind We are lady pieces – led by writer and director Nida Manzoor – offers a refreshing vision, proving just how multifaceted this community can be. The show opens with Amina, a doctoral student desperate to get married, doing an accidental audition for Lady Parts. Saira – the singer of the group – sees a spark in Amina, her former classmate, and finally, she is brought into the fold. Queue chaos, loud concerts and worried parents. Be warned: this show will let you want to form a rock band with your girlfriends.
Below, the cast and I discuss their experiences on set and what they want viewers to take away from this revolutionary new show.
Aisha Rimi: What attracted you to this project?
Juliette Motamed: When I read the script, I was so impressed and blown away by the care given to each of the characters. The writing was so thoughtful, tender and thoughtful and made me feel like it was a piece of art that someone put so much love into.
Faith Omole: It’s something we’ve never seen before. It’s so amazing to read Nida’s mind and see all these crazy places she goes. Everything is so real and genuine.
Anjana Vasan: On a [basic] level, it was also really funny. The writing was so good. This silliness and humor and stupid women is really underrated and really powerful. I love that Amina is weird and that she’s just weird. I think it’s actually a bit of a superpower to play someone who’s a bit weird.
“Our friendship made the hardest parts of the shoot so much easier because there is trust with each other. It was easy to play and challenge each other. “
AR: It’s great to see you together because it seems like you have a great relationship. What was it like working together?
FO: It was amazing, like the most colorful painting. I joined the project quite late and walked in shy on day one and these girls were the most welcoming, funny, amazing, and so talented girls. We all felt so comfortable with each other so quickly and so safe. We were shooting during COVID so we were all in a bubble. It’s so cool because we play girls who support and love each other. Our friendship made the hardest parts of the shoot so much easier because there is trust with each other. It was easy to play and challenge each other.
AR: Representing Muslim women, were you aware of what you were getting yourself into, how you would approach the roles and the reception?
A V: I wouldn’t have had the confidence to say yes to the separation without the fact that Nida, as a woman of Muslim origin, was both a screenwriter and director. We often talk about representation on screen but we do not talk enough about it off screen. There is a level of authenticity that she already brings to the page. She draws all the characters, their contradictions, their flaws and their lived experiences from her personal experiences and the people and women she knows and loves. I had the confidence to ask for anything and she would always be the voice of authority in the room on it.
“I would not have had the confidence to say yes to the separation if it weren’t for the fact that Nida, as a woman of Muslim origin, was both a screenwriter and a director … There is a level of ‘authenticity that it already brings to the page. “
AR: There will be people who will watch the show and say, “This is not the way Muslim women should act”. Are you worried about this?
A V: I don’t think the show tries to say it’s representative of all Muslim women. They are multi-faceted, have different worldviews and different points of view. Nida wanted to portray Muslim women with joy, love and brotherhood. That has always been his intention, and that was the intention of the show and I think it shows.
FO: He should encourage people to know that their stories and their voices have a right to be heard in all ways and that is all he should be doing. What Nida has done is put herself and her world on the page and I think that should be encouraging for people.
“I don’t think the show is trying to say it’s representative of all Muslim women. They are multi-faceted, have different worldviews and different points of view. Nida wanted to portray Muslim women with joy, love and brotherhood.
AR: I loved all your different looks and the way you tie your hijabs. Did you have a stylist who helped you?
A V: PC Williams [the show’s costume designer] spent hours and hours practicing tying the scarves so she could do it on her own before doing it for an actor.
JM: I can’t explain to you how knowledgeable and connected everyone was. When we talk about diversity behind and in front of the camera, it was really present in all facets of the costume department. Everyone was not only respectful, but really caring. You see a variety of different styles which is beautiful because it reflects the variety of life.
AR: Music plays a key role in the series. How important is music in your own life? Did you know how to play your instruments beforehand?
FO: No, we didn’t. I got picked and we started in two weeks and got a bass at my house and had lessons on Zoom. Even in the audition process, I must have seemed like I didn’t care whether I could play or not. I just had to seem to like the music. Now I can’t listen to a song without listening to the bass, but it was hard to learn.
Sarah Kameela Impey: I was in a band for six years a long time ago, but as a singer. Learning to sing punk was like trying to get rid of it all and it was so raw. I had asked the universe if I could have a role in which I would play an instrument. So when this guitar came into my hand it was awesome.
AR: Your characters exude such confidence. What advice would you give to young women who may have confidence issues?
FO: You don’t have to try to be something other than yourself. I don’t think any of these characters are trying to be themselves. You just need to love yourself and take the time to understand yourself and be what you want. Trying to be what society wants is just plain boring.
“Punk is so much about misfits and doing something without getting approval because you wanted to do it yourself.
A V: I would actually say I’m not that confident. Amina’s journey is all about finding self-confidence and self-love and that really moved me. Nida and I sat down and chatted about Amina’s obsession with finding [a romantic partner], and in the end, it fills a void. She suffers from the stage fright that comes from a real fear of being accepted and people laughing at her, and I can certainly relate to that. We tend to think of actors as extroverts and in fact some of us are introverts. So I think young women can watch this show and relate to this shyness and awkwardness and know it’s good and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
AR: What would you like viewers to take away from the series?
A V: I would say, celebrate each other’s uniqueness. Celebrate what makes a difference and love yourself for it. I think friendship is one of the most important and precious things you can find and your stories are worth hearing and seeing. Punk is so much about misfits and doing something without having the approval because you wanted to do it yourself.
We are lady pieces will launch on Channel 4 at 10 p.m. on May 20 and will be available to stream as a boxed set on All 4.