SAIRA Choudhry is a Manchester actress, best known for her role as PC Tegan Thompson in channel fours ‘No Offence’ Her character; is a mouthy, young cop, who is often caught -out in the midst of an on the job quickie! She also portrays more serious issues, such as her most recent story line which saw Saira raise awareness of female genital mutilation in Manchester.
This role was not Saira’s first shot at television, from 2008 -2011 she successfully played Anita Roy in Hollyoaks, her storylines featured racial bullying, self-harming and also one of the first storylines to feature, the dangers faced by young people forming an on-line relationship. She was nominated for an Inside Soap award.
I caught up with Saira to talk Manchester, fashion and empowering young people;
‘My Mum always believed in me, she told me every day, and made me feel like I could achieve anything that I wanted, and it’s that, which drives me. I feel strongly and passionately that all children and young people should have that self-belief. I think it is really important to pay it back, and if you can, it is important to create the same opportunities for others’.
Saira is talking to me about her work with young people. She runs an acting school in Manchester where over 250 children and young people attend each week.
She explains: ‘I never set out to open an acting school, in fact, I didn’t even set out to be an actress. I actually studied TV and Radio at university, but then went in front of the camera and kind of enjoyed it.
‘I then took a few drama classes and signed with an agent and before I knew it, I was at my first ever audition and landed the part playing Anita Roy in Hollyoaks’.
‘It was then that people started to ask me, how did I get into TV, teenagers from the local area were really interested. I think it was exciting to see a local girl land a part in something which everyone watched.
‘And so, when I left Hollyoaks I started a small acting class around the corner from my house, and it just evolved from there. But it’s about much more than acting, some of the young people don’t aspire to be that, there are children that want to do science, or nursing of whatever, but they come to the classes for confidence, self -esteem, leadership skills, it’s those things that I am really passionate about’.
‘Manchester is home to some great TV shows, I have just filmed for a part in Cold Feet, which is one of our local successes, and there’s Peaky Blinders, Fresh Meat, Our Girl, and of course No Offence which are all filmed here. Manchester is definitely a place of opportunity for young people.’
A home girl, Saira who was born and raised in Manchester has never felt the need to leave the city for London, she said: ‘I am not saying, I would never move, but I love Manchester. It is a vibrant and exciting city. I think maybe years ago, it would have been easier for those working in TV to head to London for work, but I don’t think that’s the case now.
She laughs and says in her northern accent; ‘I think I’m better suited up-north, this accent is great for northern TV roles, and I have my family here too, so even If I wanted to I couldn’t just up sticks and decide to move’.
Saira is a Mum and has a teenage daughter Leah, who is successfully following in her Mum’s footsteps after landing a lead part in ‘Creeped out’ a new 13-part series of spooky tale produced for children’s BBC.
In Channel 4’s No offence, Saira portrayed the role of feisty cop Tegan Thompson. She said; ‘I love playing Tegan, she has been one of my favourite roles and story lines so far. The FGM story was a great one to tackle because It raised awareness of such an important issue, but Tegan also allows me to play a fun and ballsy character’.
We asked if there would be more from No Offence as we are all fans here, but Saira couldn’t tell us for sure just yet she said: ‘I honestly don’t know, I really hope so because, I love playing her and working with everyone on the cast there. I always wanted to work with Paul Abbott, I would have loved a part in Shameless too’.
Saira has recently filmed for a part on Porridge which is set to make a comeback with six episodes, following the success of the one-off episode screened as part of the BBC’s Sitcom Season.
Saira’s company TV Talent is based in Manchester and provides fun, drama, singing and dance classes for children aged 3-18 years old. Developing children’s confidence, self-esteem and self-belief, so they are ready to take on the world. If you would like to find out more information about the classes they provide go to www.tvtalentdrama.co.uk