Interview: Nida Manzoor – Creator, Writer, Director and Executive Producer of Lady Parts

Interview: Nida Manzoor – Creator, Writer, Director and Executive Producer of Lady Parts

We Are Lady Parts returns for a second series to stream and watch live on Channel 4 from Thursday 30th May.

Written, created, directed and executive produced by Nida Manzoor (Polite Society), the second series sees the band return with a renewed artistic mission after the high of their first UK tour, only to find a rival band threatening their delicate status quo. But as the reality of chasing success sets in, Lady Parts embark on recording their first album, juggling personal ambitions, and questioning whether ‘making it big’ is really what they wa nt...

Originally a Channel 4 Blap in 2018, the first series of We Are Lady Parts won the prestigious 2021 Edinburgh TV Award for Best Comedy Series with Nida Manzoor receiving the illustrious Rose d’Or Emerging Talent Award. The series was also nominated for BAFTA TV Awards for Best Scripted Comedy and Best Female Comedy Performance for Anjana Vasan alongside a Peabody Award win for Entertainment.

Interview with Nida Manzoor – Creator, Writer, Director and Executive Producer

Did you have a sense of where the story was heading during the first series or was it a blank slate when you embarked on series two?

I couldn't possibly have arced it out for multiple series from the beginning as that wouldn’t have felt true to the anarchic and spontaneous spirit of the show. Between series one and two I made a film, Polite Society, and got to grow as a filmmaker. When I came back, I had so many ideas because I'd had that time for them to percolate so breaking the story actually came very naturally. It felt organic and true to the characters. I was excited to delve deeper into each of the personal journeys and to explore different themes with each character.

What was the collaboration like with your writers’ room this series?

I had a really diverse writers’ room full of Muslim women from different backgrounds and we had amazing conversations about what it means to be Muslim women. We’d get into some intense discussion which was great because it meant we were wading into the unknown or the complex. I'm drawn to areas where I don't have a clear opinion. In as much as the show is a fun comedy about this group of women there are so many different points of view that are valid so to throw those in between five characters is so exciting.

What do each of the characters contend with in this next chapter?

In series two, we see Amina battle between her old ways of people pleasing and her new desire to be her own person. We also explore Saira’s idea of success,and what it means to be creating art as a Muslim artist.How do you navigate delicate, political waters whilst being in the mainstream? Then with Bisma, we explore themes of motherhood, identity and self-expression, as we see her grapple withhowtheoutsideworldperceivesher. ForMomtaz,asthebandmanager,Iwanted to challenge her to find what her greater purpose is outside just being Lady Parts’ manager, what else does she want? I also felt so lucky to explore a queer Muslim storyline with the character Ayesha and we get to take that even further as we get into the intricacies, nuances, pain, love, and joy of that. The audience will get to see the girls evolve while still being the people they love. I am in awe of everybody in this cast.

How do the band members navigate Lady Parts’ burgeoning success?

The band doesn’t have a huge level of fame but in our day and age, having a significant online following equates to that feeling of fame. It was fun to see how that could challenge each of the characters in its own way. If you're in a band with all your friends and you have this beautiful camaraderie and get so much nourishment from the togetherness and the sisterhood, when you try to go fully mainstream or commercialise that safe space, will that work? Can that work? For me, that was such a big question. Can you take this sacred thing and sell it? The band doesn't want to sell out, but they want to be able to gig for a living.

Were you inspired by any particular artists this series?

I wanted to explore the complexities of the music industry this series, so I interviewed a lot of really cool bands, particularly a band called Big Joanie who are an amazing Black feminist punk band. I talked to them about the reality of making a living as a band.

They've been gigging for years, and they are still having to do other jobs and side hustles to stay afloat. They are tenacious and were so generous with their time – I learned so much from them. I also interviewed a band manager to get a real sense of what the industry is like for a newly signed band, because I've set my band outside the world I know of DIY punks, musicians, artists, and poets. I was also lucky to talk to the lead singer of Bastille, Dan Smith. He gave me so much insight into the world of major labels and record deals - I remember saying, “What does a label signing look like?” He said, “I'm about to go to my label signing if you want to come and look?” I was listening to a handful of artists on repeat as I was writing the show and to be able to feature them in episode six was a dream. Keep an eye out for the brilliant Rasha Nahas, Elaha Soroor and Haleemah X – such talented, powerful women.

What can you tease about the original music and covers this series?

Part of the reason I created the show was to have an excuse to write music with my siblings because that's what we've done growing up. We did a song a day in the studio. To be in creative flow and in the zone with two other people whose brains are close to yours, but different, was magical, fulfilling, and joyful. My brother Shez has composed the score again and I think the originals are even better this series. With the choice of cover songs, it happened quite organically. I knew I wanted Britney Spears, but which Britney song I wasn't sure.

What might be in store for audiences when it comes to the new characters?

I enjoyed having our Gen-Z band, Second Wife, but also having a boomer punk and getting to play with intergenerational tensions because Gen-Z has an idea of how you should present yourself versus our millennials who are crappy at it. It was an in-depth casting process working with Aisha Bywaters, who was also my casting director for series one. She's the best and she brought in so many exceptional people. We did chemistry reads and went into real depth to find fun, cool people because these people throw off Lady Parts. We got these amazing, incredible new performers and they were all brilliant.

You also landed guest appearances from Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and legendary comedian Meera Syal. How did these come to be?

Meera and Malala are my heroes so now I can retire! I had this idea for the song “Malala Made Me Do It.” It’s a hype track and it was one of the first things that came into my head as I was thinking about series two. And then I just happened to be at talks where Malala was speaking, and I met her briefly one time and she was talking about how she loved comedy. I wrote her a letter to ask if she would be in the show. She’s an icon, an inspiration. She has grace, strength and so much integrity as a person and what she's doing for women across the world is incredible – and she’s so funny!

To have her celebrated in a way that was fun and tongue-in-cheek – because that’s her vibe – was fantastic. I was completely over the moon when she said she was going to do it but also massively stressed out about how we were going to make sure Malala had a good time! In the end she was so laid back and easy-going, kind to everyone – it was a total highlight of my career to get to work with her. Meera Syal was such a coup for me. She was part of the amazing sketch show Goodness Gracious Me, which I was obsessed with growing up. It was the first time I'd seen South Asian representation on screen where it was subversive and dark. She's a comedy legend. It was a dream come true for me to work with Meera as she has opened doors, paved the way, and broken-down barriers for someone like me working in comedy to come through. So, to get to honour her was everything. I feel so proud of this show and everyone who's made it. I can't wait for the world to see it.

Everyone loved the show’s costume design last series, and PC Williams was given the BAFTA for her work on the show. What can we expect with the evolution of the looks this series?

Every department had so much fun styling them! From the costumes to the makeup, they really went to town. PC Williams came back for series two and took it to a whole new level with these guys. PC has all these incredible new looks for each of the girls and the way she's costumed Momtaz’s niqab and created new niqabs,she's levelled up.She also created really exciting looks for the new cast. She created the most awe-inspiring costumes for the rival Gen Z band. Also, her costume for Malala was NEXT LEVEL – I cannot wait for audiences to see this!

All episodes of We Are Lady Parts will be available to stream on Channel 4 on Thursday 30th May or watch live at 10pm



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