Rana Nazir continues to fight her feelings for Kate Connor in this week's Coronation Street as she prepares to recommit to husband Zeedan. Tonight's double bill sees Kate and Rana (#Kana to Twitter fans championing the secret relationship) kiss again - but where does this leave Rana's marriage? And with whom does she really want to be with? Here, actress Bhavna Limbachia reveals all to RadioTimes.com about her character's quandary - and discusses how the introduction of her on-screen family could add further complications...
So, what has been the public’s reaction to #Kana?
It’s been hugely positive. The viewers have really latched on to #Kana. I think they’re really supporting Rana’s journey and the struggle she's experiencing. And it’s nice to be able to raise awareness within the Asian community, where it’s still a taboo subject.
This clash of culture and love reminds me of the Christian and Syed plotline on EastEnders – how is Kate and Rana’s story different?
With Syed’s storyline on EastEnders, he knew who he was and there was no fighting. Rana is still struggling to come to terms with who she is and how she feels. She’s always used her sexuality to get what she wants – and this is the first time she’s genuinely fallen for a person. But she’s confused about the fact that it’s a woman.
How have things changed since the years of Christian and Syed?
It has moved on – more people within the Asian community have been able to come out. But it’s still difficult, especially for gay Muslim women. There are a lot of frightened women out there and I had to meet people in secret to discuss their stories. The more research I did, the more I realised that these people need a voice. So although things are moving on, it’s a very slow process.
Was it important to you that you did that research?
Well, when our producer Kate Oates pitched that storyline to me last April, she asked me how I felt about my character being gay. I was instantly on board – however, I’m not gay and it’s important for me as an actor to relate to my character. So I felt like I wanted to do my own research to portray it accurately on screen.
Will we get to see how Rana’s own family react to the situation?
It’s interesting you say that because Rana’s family is coming into the show. We saw her mum and dad – Hassan and Saira Habeeb – at her engagement. But she also has an older brother called Imran who’s going to be played by Charlie de Melo. He’s the golden child of the family – or so they think!
Do you think that both Rana and Alia – the character you play in Citizen Khan – are both quite subtly subversive?
Absolutely. And it’s refreshing to see how second generation British Asians are evolving. We are British – we shouldn’t be seen as anything else – but the extra cultural aspect of the identity brings another element to the characters. We like to go out and have a good time. And regardless of race, culture, agenda or age, we’re all humans wanting the same things in life.
What kind of background do you come from?
I’m quite lucky that I come from a laid-back family. I’m from an Indian-Hindu background - my mum was born in India and my dad was born in Kenya. They’re quite liberal and they let me be who I am.
But this storyline did make me think about how my mother would react if I were gay and coming out. I did say to her, “my character’s going to be gay, how do you feel about it?” And I was pleasantly surprised to find she was open to the idea. She said, “if you’re going to help people, then go for it”. I was worried about how she’d respond, but she was actually OK with it. It gives me hope that people will be able to come forward and be who they are without fearing what the older generation will say.
And what can we expect to see on screen as Rana prepares to marry Zeedan this week?
Well, she’s very confused about her feelings. She decides to throw herself deeper into the relationship with Zeedan, but she’s just suppressing her feelings for Kate. The day before the wedding, she ends up having a heated argument with Kate and there’s a heated moment when Kate actually kisses Rana.
The moment is broken when Zeedan comes down the stairs, but it just confuses Rana even more. Up to this point, she didn’t know Kate felt the same way. In her head, Rana hopes Kate will help her escape the marriage, but we’ll have to wait and see.
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