The Bay is back on our screens with a brand-new series, and brand new crime in the sleepy seaside town of Morecambe. Joining the cast is Nadeem Islam, who lives in London and has already had plenty of experience in television, comedy, presenting, and theatre. The star – who is deaf, spent some time with us to talk about the show and representation for the Deaf community in the media.
How did you get into acting, was there a particular performance you saw that resonated with you?
Every cinematic experience I had as a child is what got me into acting – the excitement and the reaction you get from the audience, I wanted to be able to give that. It all started with a little old VHS tape that was collecting dust; I put it in and up came Spiderman. He was my idol growing up and I want to give that to the Deaf Asian young generation. So, from that first experience, I stuck to my dream. I went on to watch Bollywood, then the Deaf productions out there with their TV shows, short films and theatre shows – I knew instantly that anything is possible.
Where did you train?
I trained at the BRIT School for two years in Community Art Practice, it was one of the best experiences that I have ever signed up for. Before that, I did Drama for my GCSE. After all of this, I just went out there auditioning and hustling the game. I trained in the field of acting through my theatre and filming experiences!
Do you feel it is more challenging to get roles being deaf?
Yeah because the industry makes it challenging. Not many productions consider Deaf talent, but if you really look, you’re gonna find so much from us. We’ve got so many things up our sleeves! But it doesn’t stop us, we’re still going. I have been offered many great opportunities and it’s still going which I’m proud of.
Since Rose Ayling-Ellis has been on Strictly, online searches for British sign language courses have gone up by 300%, what changes would you like to see for the deaf community in the Arts community?
Accessible space for us to be welcomed in. Also, many Deaf awareness resources and a more Deaf aware team so we don’t have to keep teaching – we can just jump right in! Rose is my greatest pal, she said that “Sign language needs to be more appreciated, It has such a rich history… people don’t realise it’s such a beautiful language.” So, I also hope that people can learn BSL as well, without appropriating it.I’d really appreciate it if people could work more with Deaf people, sharing the same platform.
Can you tell us about your current TV production: The Bay? What drew you to the piece?
Having watched Series 1 and 2, what drew me to it is the quality of the whole show. The whole ranges from the acting to the cinematography, the writing, the location, the colour grading etc. It was already captivating, but I have to give it up to the writers, for how they craft stories that explore different narratives within the same timeline. When I heard that I’d got an audition and then the role, I was over the moon. I realised that I was part of the story and could capture the audience for this rollercoaster ride! This season is focused on the Rahman family, one of them is murdered and the detectives are trying to find out who’s done it, but at the same time each of the family members are going through their own inner battles with their personal life and their jobs. Just incredible.
What was filming like in and around Morecambe?
Morecambe is so different to London. Morecambe is well known for preserving its tradition and its history. Just beautiful. We were at this house where we filmed, and right there, you could just see the sea and the beach. I was so lucky that I could finish filming and then run down to the beach and see the views. It was also hot, so the jacket that I wore wasn’t great! But we all enjoyed the weather and ended up with great sunny shots. It’s an honour to perform around there.
Where has been your favourite scene to perform and why?
I love them all, but the studio where we filmed the house scenes was incredible. We also filmed at the real house the following week and it was incredible how similar they were. It’s an incredible set, so shout out to the production team! There was one scene where they cooked a curry in the kitchen, and the smells just hit me – it was exactly like my mum’s cooking, so it was a lovely place to be – it’s like I never left home! The cast bonded very closely given that it felt like home, and it helped with our character development as we could work together closely as well.
What is the most rewarding thing about your work?
Being a representative for the Deaf and Asian community. My character is Deaf and Asian, and so am I which is very rewarding. Also getting to show that we can do so much, we can portray a different range of emotions and languages, we’re here and we bring so much difference to the screen.
Who are your influences and inspirations?
I have so many, I would say Spiderman. But if we’re talking about being realistic, hands down my Asian role model, who I look up to a lot is Riz Ahmed who has done so much in changing the industry. I interviewed him on the Deaf Talent Collective, and he was so motivating, and he gave advice that the audience could take away. It encouraged me to explore my Asian identity. For my Deaf role model, I’ve got so many but I have to shout out to Sophie Stone who was the first Deaf actor I met professionally after her theatre show when I was about 16, possibly the first person to convince me that anything is possible, and as a result of her blooming career, she has brought DEAF to the mainstream. We chatted about trying to change, she reminded me that my presence alone is enough and that I should be mindful to go carefully and with the flow – things will change.
Where can people follow your work on Socials?
You can catch Nadeem on ITV 1 on Wednesday evenings at 9pm or The Bay is available to watch in full on ITV Hub and BritBox.