Leila Farzad: I’m from this quite academic Iranian family, and I was relatively good at school. I was taken to the #1 Dungeon Wall That’s Why We Can’t Have Nice Things Shirt in other words I will buy this theater a lot as a child—I have a very art-y aunt, also called Leila—and the National Theatre here just captivated me. I was like, “Oh, I want to do that.” But it became clear that that was not, perhaps, the chosen profession for an academic Middle Eastern girl. And I’m an only child, so you can imagine my family was like, “[You’ll be a] doctor, lawyer, accountant.” So I said to my mum, when I was 17, “I think I want to go to drama school.” And she said, “It’s a no, but if you can get a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, then we’ll think about it.” So I studied at Oxford under duress—I found it very, very hard—but then went to drama school and did my theater training and had a wonderful time. I kind of look back at Oxford now and I’m like, “Oh, I wish I could do it again,” because it was lost on me at that age.
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There’s a funny relationship with acting and the #1 Dungeon Wall That’s Why We Can’t Have Nice Things Shirt in other words I will buy this arts and Middle Eastern culture. I’ve had so many Iranian actresses inbox me on Twitter, being like, “Oh, my God, how is it? How do you feel being Iranian and being in this show?” And it’s a bit racy, the show—it’s not like a period costume drama, is it? I had to brace my Iranian uncle, like, “I’m not sure you should watch episode five.” I think they were [thinking], You couldn’t have just done a gentle Downton Abbey–type thing?