Hey Everyone, I recently had the chance to talk to Waseem Mirza about his role in the newly released Beyond Belief, we talk about the ideas of the film, family and how to research a role.
Q: What was the experience of making this film like?
A: It was a surreal experience as it was my first drama shoot during a full lockdown. It was around 3 days long, but I was involved only on 1 day – which was when we could film in an actual surgery without disrupting patient care. It also happened to fall on my birthday. On the day of the shoot my grandma was in an ICU after having several strokes. The prognosis wasn’t good. I tried my very best to keep things together as best I could for filming, but it was very difficult. The worst thing was that I didn’t want to open up about what was happening for fear of it affecting the performance – a storyline which was now far too close to home.
I remember feeling so drained with a hundred different things swirling around in my mind. With the Director’s help – Haider Zafar – I made a conscious decision to try and use that same energy to depict a tired, but still warm and friendly doctor.
We filmed my scenes in a real GP surgery in the East Midlands in the UK, out of hours on a Sunday.
After wrapping, I remember going to London to see gran and even though she was not fully conscious at the time, I made a promise that she’d be the first to see the film when I had it. She died in mid-january. But, like the characters in this film, I and my family were well prepared for the inevitable by an amazing NHS team.
Q:. Did it change your perspective on coping with grief/life after death?
A: The film did open my eyes to the idea that people have such different views on how to cope with grief. It’s still very much taboo but definitely needs to change. After all, we’re all going to have to face it one day.
Q: What would you say is the message of this film?
A: I think the message really is that there is no one answer to this dilemma of facing death or having to help loved ones cope with someone who is facing a terminal prognosis. All you can do as a health professional is be there for support and signpost to other sources of help.
For doctors and nurses having to go through this on a regular – or even daily basis for many health workers during the pandemic – is one of the reasons why this film really brought home its message to me that they really are the true heroes.
Q: Do you have any funny production stories?
A: no sorry!
Q: How did you get into character for the role?
A: Coming from a family of Healthcare professionals I found getting into character straightforward.
Q: What sort of research did you do for the part?
A: Part of my (unintended) research consisted of going to a&e (for real) after bad friction burns following filming on another project! I used that opportunity (if you can call it that), to really observe!
But it was the personal situation unfolding off-set that began to drive the choices for my character during the shoot. My energy – understandably – needed to be brought down a notch (or two) and Haider was so patient and superb in directing me in every way.
The entire cast and crew were great to work with, but they were unaware of what was really happening. I only opened up to the Director about what had happened behind the scenes, a week before the film premiered online.
In hindsight I should have sounded the alarm earlier. The Show Must Go On and all that. I think I get that from my live TV experience – I’ve been a TV news journalist before making the journey back to screen acting. Live broadcast News is a world where it’s really ingrained in you that no matter what, an audience is expecting to see your program at a certain time and failure is never an option. Maybe I should get around to trying theatre someday!
Check out Beyond Belief available via the Open University and see my review which is on site now.
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