This week, we interviewed the British actress Nina Wadia, best know for her part as Zainab Masood in Eastenders. Zainab lives in Surrey with her husband, the composer Raiomond Mirza and their two children, Tia and Aiden. 

What was life on Albert Square really like? 

Life on Eastenders was hectic, and sometimes painful, but ultimately great fun. In my five and half years as Zainab, besides the more difficult and serious story lines, I laughed my way through my time there.

Was it always your dream to be an actress and how child/family-friendly is the industry from a working mama’s point of view?

I realised that I could be an actress at 18 years old, but I was more interested in being a dancer and writing sketches at school.

The industry is possibly one of the most un-family friendly places to work. My son was just six weeks old when I started at Eastenders, and the crèche at the studios was just closing down, so life was very difficult. Eastenders were lovely to me, they provided me with a cot in a dressing room, so I’d come off set every couple of hours to breastfeed, but it was not easy!

I had my daughter three years before that, and at the time I was doing a BBC radio play with her strapped to my husband’s chest in the green room! Again, I’d come out every couple of hours to breastfeed. Actors themselves are very friendly and welcoming but the demands of the industry environment are not great for bringing up little ones.

Do you have a favourite family recipe?

Gosh, it would have to be the traditional spag bol, a true family favourite!

What wisdom would you like to pass on to your children?

To be honest, anything I do try and pass on is met with rolling eyes and a big smile, there’s too much to tell them sometimes and I’m sure they’ll make their own mistakes anyway!

One thing I would like to pass on, and something I wish I’d been told as a kid, is to not be afraid to ask questions. I can tell when my 9 year old daughter wants to know something, so I always encourage her to ask, no matter how weird, crazy or ridiculous the questions might seem!

How do you find time to relax, unwind and keep on top of everything?

Ha – I really don’t! I’m hoping that once this interview is printed perhaps I’ll be offered a lovely complimentary spa day by some generous company!

I’m on the go all of the time. One of the reasons I stopped ‘Enders, was because between my production company, bringing up my children and my role as Zainab it became clear that something had to give.

How close did you / do you feel to your on-screen family, especially your toddler son, Kamil?

Oh, entirely close – just like a real family in many ways, although Arian Chikhlia (Kamil) would always refuse to call me ‘mama’ – it was always ‘Nina!’ But if ever I wasn’t on set, he’d constantly ask Nitin (Masood Ahmed) ‘where’s Nina?’ – which was hilarious.

Where’s your favourite family holiday destination, and why?

We love the outdoors, whether it’s woods or beaches. We decided that England would be our destination this year, and we fell in love with North Cornwall. We found an amazing stretch of deserted beach just down from Woolacombe Bay. We were so lucky with the weather, it was lovely and hot, which was amazing.

We also explored London this summer, we did the London Duck Tour which was brilliant fun.

What was the hardest part about becoming a mother and what tips can you offer to our readers who are expecting?

The hardest part, and something I never realised and wish someone had told me, was that from the moment you get pregnant you never stop worrying. Never a day goes by where you’re not responsible for this human being that you’ve created. Your entire world changes. What is most amazing is that realise you that that’s what life is about.

When my first child came along, she was very much unexpected, she was a very happy accident, I realised what I was missing out on. Of course, it’s hard work, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I would much rather snuggle up with my kids and my husband on the sofa and have a movie night in, then dress up and attend an awards ceremony. Having children made me realise that this is why I’m here and I absolutely treasure that.

What’s in the pipeline for you next?

We have a couple of feature films we’re working on for mine and my husband’s production company.  Previously we made a very black comedy (definitely not for kids) which did reasonably well, and we’re now working on another dark but funny Manchester based movie. There’s a project that I have just auditioned for that I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed for, an after 9pm drama television programme.

My main focus now is the production company and the feature films we are working on.

What’s the one baby product you couldn’t have lived without?

Sudocrem. Really and truly, I couldn’t have lived without it, it makes life very easy.

I’m also a complete gadget freak – I got invited to the Baby Show years back when it first started and I bought every product I saw there that I thought would be handy, but actually, used maybe 10% of what I bought!

How would you sum yourself up in one sentence?

I wish I were as good as mum as my mother was!