Harvey Virdi is an English actress who has played doctor Misbah Maalik since May 2017 on Hollyoaks. (Main image as Misbah; Channel 4)
Her theatre credits include The Borrowers (at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff) Tiger Country and Tales From The Harrow Road (Hampstead Theatre,) When We are Married, Twelfth Night (in 1997 and 2004, Romeo and Juliet (in 2000, Square Circle and Playboy of the Asian World (all at the Leicester Haymarket), Airport 2000 (Riverside Studios, Hammersmith), and Jatinder Verma’s production of Exodus (Tara Arts/BAC). In 2003, she was ‘Mrs Peachum’ in a touring production of The Threepenny Opera for the Royal National Theatre.
Her TV credits include just to name a few include The Bill, Coronation Street, Casualty, The Jury, Holby City, Doctors, Citizen Khan and The Windsors.
ALT: A bit your background. What made you decide to become an actor?
Harvey: I always wanted to be an actor, and I always did drama from school. I think I was really lucky because at my, secondary school our English teacher was well into drama and we did a show every year. And I think that, and it was a proper, everybody got involved, the art department did the sets and you know, all of that stuff. I loved it, loved it, loved it. And I think that was probably what started me off. Her name was Mrs Cranish and she would also, she’d take us to the theatre We’d go to the National or go. Not go to the RSC as it was too far away because we were in Kent, but we’d go and see shows at the Southbank or you know, local areas. So we’d go and see, we’d go to theatre and we’d do theatre and that’s I think was started me off.
ALT: And do you remember your first professional role?
Harvey: My first first professional role was in Romeo & Juliet for a school’s tour and I played Juliet. It was a very long time ago (laughs) but it went round East London and and some of the Home counties and we’d do two shows a day. We’d go in our van. We’d set up. We’d do the show, pack it all up, drive to the next place.
ALT: You’ve done films, like Bend it like Beckham., and Citizen Khan so what do you prefer doing TV, movies, or stage?
I love it all because although it’s still acting, it’s a different discipline and what you can do on stage and it is like you have, your voice, your diction, the fact that you have to be with so much bigger, the consistency of every day, people are paying good money. They deserve your best every day. And that might be for a year. It might only be for six weeks, but it’s just a bigger performance, but then you have the joy of a camera where you, you have to almost learn to bring it right back down so that because the camera can pick up the screen. You don’t even have to say anything, you don’t need speech. And yet in theatre maybe it relies on speech perhaps or movement, you know? And so that’s a little joy of how can you play something to camera and let the viewer know how you’re feeling, the camera does that brilliantly. You can just pick that up with a look or something. And that’s actually quite sexy to be able to do that as well.
ALT : What is it like being part of the Hollyoaks family?
Harvey: You know what it’s I know, I know probably people always say this, but it’s really great because it really is a family. It feels like a family. And before I got this job, people would say that and you’d be like, yeah, I mean that you’re probably being nice, but everybody gets on. It’s stressful, you’re working hard, you’re working long hours. Um, but we have fun. We have fun together and it’s about creating a piece of work that goes out every day is hard. It’s hard. Sometimes there’s no glamor, but that too is, is all part and parcel of it. And I think that’s the bit that maybe sometimes people outside the business or the industry that don’t realize that there is not all glamorous , um, it’s very, you know, being able to be part of a family when, you know, in this way you are supported and that’s what makes you come in every day and try and do your best.
ALT : What do you like about playing Misbah, who is she?
Harvey: She is a bright, intelligent, caring,woman but went through a, quite a big trauma, which she hid even from herself. She used that trauma in a way to just try and be the best she could be for her family and for her patients and her friends and, people around her. And that’s really important, her goodness, you know, being able to be a good person and a kind person, but sometimes she does. She’s not perfect when it comes to her family she overreacts and it’s out of protection and care. She’ll maybe overstep the mark, even though they’ve grown up individuals themselves now, young people. But what I love about her is that she’ll think about it and go back and go, I’m sorry, I overstepped the mark that I shouldn’t have done that.
And because there is a strength to be able to go up to somebody and look ‘them in the eye’ and say I was wrong and I’m sorry about that. And I love that about her and I think she’s got a cheeky sense of humor, which doesn’t always come out. But when it does there is this thing, isn’t there where the older Muslim woman, I was really keen to play her as a modern woman. She’s not old fashioned, her values are very forward thinking. She wants her children to be happy, it’s not about, we must be like this and we must live like this and what do the Jones’ think, society and community think. She’s like as long as you are a good person and you are happy, go forth and be happy. And I love that about her, her forward thinking views on family and life is, is, and I think that that’s her underpinning, you know,
Congrats on winning the British Soap Awards for best storyline and best scene?
Harvey: Yeah, well, it was surreal but at the same time it was such an important storyline and the more we did it, the more we research we did over the year, the more you realize how common it is. And then of course you realize how hard it is to actually get justice. It’s hard enough if you go to the police tomorrow for something that happened tonight, and they still, you still don’t get justice. So to try to prove historical abuse or rape or whatever, it well kind of almost forget it really. I had to sit and think about how do we make this a positive outcome. She has to find the strength to admit it to family, to herself, to the community that this man did this and this man is in such a powerful position who is going to believe her and the realization that actually maybe the biggest win is, o your win, finding your peace with it and coming out stronger. And for those reasons, because it’s so complicated, isn’t it for those reasons I wanted, I wanted it to get recognition for that. And so that was what made me really happy. And the other scene I couldn’t do any of it without any of those other actors and the writers and stuff. You can’t do a scene on your own, I’ve got an amazing Maalik family, my TV babies, as I call them are, just beautiful and joyous to work with. And then I have to also say that Raji James, who played Ali, that not un easy thing to do. And he played that with such generosity and the guy, he was scary and charismatic at the same time, which is what we needed him to be. So I was very lucky. I was surrounded by very brilliant people.
We have just come out of the pandemic, so let’s talk about, everything else that happened in 2020. How empowered are you by obviously the representation of the Maalik family, and two, Asian women, winning the Soap Awards on recently?
Yeah, I think there probably is a long way to go. And I think it depends on where, I do feel that maybe theatre was more forward thinking but still we’ve got work to do. I,’m a believer that you just have to keep chipping away and there’s a way of doing it. I don’t have to go and get a hammer and hit anybody around the head with it, but I can be me and I can make my point across and I can just keep doing that and I will keep doing that. Sometimes you’ll get a script and you look at it and you think, why is that written like this? Because this kind of undermines perhaps Misbah or the Maalik family, not on purpose but just a simple sentence would change that, you know, shift the focus and that’s all it needs. Maybe I think, you know, when I first started out, maybe one was a little bit scared to say what you really thought, but you know, I’m 56. I’m gonna say what I like and I think we have to don’t we, and because it’s the only way it’s like, it’s the way I see. It’s like the sea, isn’t it. It’s just gently going away it away. It’s not gonna stop it. Does that make sense?
What was that like for you in the pandemic, what did you actually learn from that experience?
We were on set for about three months, something like that. I think the main thing I learned about me was how I’d stopped giving myself time for me and in a way, having to be forced to stay in and, or just go for your walks and stuff. And it gave me time to reset my personal button of what is important, who is important, what am I doing? Why am I doing it? Because sometimes you just get caught in this wheel of just you jump on and life just takes over and you just go and you go and you go and you every so often you have a thought oh i must do this? Or I actually wanted to, and it gets pushed aside. I think it for me certainly was a reconnect button of, of taking time out. How, what, where cooking back to cooking back to taking.
I did a lot more creative things. I write and I found that when you are here, you don’t get home to half seven, eight. You wanna look at lines for the next day. When do you fit in your writing? When do you write, or so, or do your, whatever it is that gives you personal pleasure for you. I’m not saying I’ve kept all of it up, but I try to, it makes you think about family as well and friends. And I realize that I’m a really huggy touchy, feely person. Not that I didn’t know that, but I, the fact that you couldn’t touch anyone was probably the one thing that upset me the most.
Yeah. I couldn’t wait to get back to being hugging people.. I tell you what I did start and I thought this was great. I was watching, did you ever watch, um, channel four, did this program, Grayson Perry an art program, And so every week they would have a little art program. People would send in their pictures and they would interview different artists, sculptors and musicians, etc. And they were interviewing this one artist who just said, well if it is your craft you should practice your craft every day and for 10 minutes and just 10 minutes, no biggie, not to show anyone just for yourself. And I thought, well, I’m gonna write a poem everyday. And then if it’s finished, it’s finished. If it’s not, it’s not and who cares. So I started a book called Harvey’s Book of Crap Poetry, because it is not good , it was really funny and it was joyous because I’d write something and thought nobody can see this it would be very embarrassing, but it would make me laugh and then every often, you know, as is the way with anything creative, something personal would come out and I think, oh, oh I think this is about my brother or this is because I feel sad about this or the sun was beautiful yesterday. Do you know what I mean? And that was great.
Where do you call home?
I suppose I call Liverpool home now. Yeah. Well I grew up in Kent, London. Although I am a jobbing actor you go everywhere, don’t you? but I suppose London was home for a very long time and sort of still is, but I, I don’t go home as often. Don’t go to London as often. And then of course after the pandemic and when we could travel, I found myself going to mom and dad’s because they were getting older and I couldn’t fit in Kent and London, so it was one or the other and I always went to Kent and then back up here for work on Monday. I think I’m an honorary Liverpudlian I do love it up here. I really, really do. It’s great. Yeah. I don’t miss London.
The British Soap Awards 2022 was on the 11th of June at the Hackney Empire..
Hollyoaks – Misbah’s Historic Rape – Harvey Virdi (Misbah Maalik) – WINNER
Hollyoaks – Misbah Didn’t Consent – Haiesha Mistry (Yasmine Maalik), Harvey Virdi (Misbah Maalik) – WINNER
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