TV Interview: Sandy Sidhu – Nurses, Or Adventures In Script-Land

December 6, 2021

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Television drama Nurses (available on Universal TV on DStv) follows five young nurses working on the front lines of S. Mary’s Hospital, dedicating their lives to helping others, while figuring out how to help themselves. Sandy Sidhu stars as Nazneen Khan.


Was there a single moment when you first wanted to be a film or television performer (or writer, or producer, etc) – a specific movie or show in a particular context? What was it that caught your attention?

I was 14 years old and it was opening night of my first ever play. I joined late so the only role available was for me to be not just an extra, but an extra-extra. It didn’t matter. The minute I stepped on to the stage and I looked out to the audience, I felt a connection that was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I was hooked. I still remember that moment. But it took me a bit longer to realise I could pursue it as a career. I only looked at it as a passion at the beginning. I grew up in a small town, on an island off the coast of Vancouver, Canada. I never even dreamed that someone like me could pursue a career as an actress.


Do you prefer doing as few takes as possible or as many as are necessary? Both choices have their pros and cons…

It really depends on the director and their style. I’m definitely a director’s actor. If a director allows me to explore my own spontaneity, I’m happy to have as many takes as I can get. If a director is really specific and knows what they want, and they feel they got it on the first take, I trust them. If they’re happy, I’m happy.


Getting into character: what are the most helpful outside factors for you in this process (from make-up or costumes to director’s notes)?

I love getting into a character through their voice. I realised it’s how I love getting into the role. I also ask myself a lot of questions. How did she grow up? What’s her view of the world? Is it scary or safe? I ask a lot of questions. Every script is different and I never know how I’m going to get into the character. I think that’s why I love my job so much. There’s no formula and it’s always an adventure.


In such strongly visual mediums, how aware are you of needing to limit what you say or do in order to let the combination of everything in the frame (the location, the lighting, the costumes, your co-stars) be as effective as possible?

When I’m prepping for a role, I can pour over a script for hours on end. I love my prep time. I call it ‘Script-land’. It’s where I can let my imagination go wild. The filming is the cherry on top. On set, I don’t need a lot of prep time and it is important to be as loose and open as possible. I just try to focus and to let myself be open to the set, make-up, actors across from me and the director. Filming is a collaborative process and the scene is almost never the way I imagined it. But that’s what makes it come alive and allows you to really play. Being relaxed is very important, staying present and listening as best you can.


The pandemic has created enormous challenges at every level in the film and television industries, but there is still fantastic work being created. What, or who, are the brightest lights in terms of work you have done recently or films or shows you are watching at the moment?

On Nurses Season 1, I had the privilege of working with the enormously talented Devery Jacobs, who guest starred as my patient in episode 8. She became a friend after working together, and I am in awe of the glass ceilings she is breaking in the industry. She’s got a new show from Taika Waititi called Reservation Dogs that everyone should check out. Devery is a sensation. If you’ve seen Squid Game, you know it’s proof that a cast of relatively unknown minority actors – to the North American market – can create blockbuster success. It’s just a great story and they proved you don’t need a big name to gain an audience.


As a performer – not just as a fan – what makes you excited about the above?

The exciting thing about acting right now is that television really is in it’s golden era. There are so many new shows being released, audiences can hardly keep up. This is allowing for a lot of new actors to shine that otherwise wouldn’t have that the opportunity. The more talent you have, it creates chances for fresh stories because the talent pool is there. As a performer, I get the chance to be a part of those fresh and evolving narratives or simply watch them and be a fan.


Please unpack Nurses? Who is your character and why were they satisfying to play?

Nurses follows five young nurses working on the frontlines of a busy downtown Toronto hospital, dedicating their lives to helping others, while struggling to help themselves. My character Nazneen is wicked smart. She comes from a very wealthy family and moves from India to Canada to reinvent herself and starts her first job ever. And the question is why? Why does she do this? Why does she move to a new environment where no one knows her and why does she pick nursing of all professions? She’s a fish out of water, and even Nazneen doesn’t know if she’s meant to be a nurse. The answer as to why she moved slowly unravels throughout the season. The best part of playing my character is that I had an opportunity to honour my mother’s life. My mother emigrated from India to Canada and became a nurse. Nazneen also emigrates from India to Canada and becomes a nurse. While they’re completely different in background and personality, they’re both pioneers that had to possess immense bravery to build a new life.

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