From a media release:
Award-winning Canadian film and television producer, author, journalist, and internationally renowned thought leader for Muslim women in media, Zarqa Nawaz, is delighted to announce the start of production on a new original comedy series for CBC Gem, ZARQA (6×11). Commissioned by CBC and financed by the Bell Fund, the Independent Production Fund (IPF) and Creative Saskatchewan (with the Canada Media Fund and IPF funding the show and trailer development phase), the series films in Regina, Saskatchewan from October 12 to 29 and will premiere on CBC Gem in 2022. International broadcast and streaming partners are yet to be determined.
Nawaz was the creator of the ground-breaking Muslim sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie (2007-2012), which was widely recognized as the worldâ€™s first comedy about Muslims living in the West when it launched in 2007. The show premiered on CBC with record-breaking ratings and won awards at home and internationally. The series aired 91 episodes over six seasons, and was broadcast internationally in France, Switzerland, Africa, Israel, UAE, Finland, Turkey and more, and is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Nawazâ€™s next project is ZARQA; she is the creator, showrunner, and lead actor in the series. ZARQA follows its titular character, a complex, middle-aged Muslim woman (played by Nawaz) who learns on social media that her ex-husband is marrying a white yoga instructor half his age named Bethany. Zarqa impulsively comments that she will attend the wedding with her own clichÃ©: a white brain surgeon named Brian. Now she just has to find him. Watch the trailer here.
The comical chaos continues with the arrival of Zarqaâ€™s former love interest, Yusuf, played by Rizwan Manji. Manji received a 2021 Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Guest Actor for his portrayal of Ray Butani, Emmy-award-winning series Schittâ€™s Creekâ€™s jack-of-all-trades. He is also well-known for his role as Rajiv Gidwani in the NBC comedy, Outsourced.
ZARQA, a project of Nawazâ€™s Regina-based production company FUNdamentalist Films, boasts a team of award-winning writers, producers, and directors, several of whom are diverse, and all of whom are women. Show writers â€“ Zarqa Nawaz (Gemini award-winning Little Mosque on the Prairie, Me and the Mosque), Sadiya Durrani (Little Mosque on the Prairie, Overlord and the Underwoods, The Parker Andersons/Amelia Parker) and Claire Ross Dunn (Little Mosque on the Prairie, Degrassi, Falling For Look Lodge, Cupids on Beacon Street) â€“ each wrote two episodes of ZARQAâ€™s first season.
With the exception of Nawaz who is now stepping into acting in addition to a career in television production, all other ZARQA producers started their careers as actors. These include Dunn (producer for DHXâ€™s Make it Pop for Nickelodeon, The Smart Woman Survival Guide for W/Cosmo TV), Dawn Bird (Producer of Beyond the Curve International Film Festival Best Queer Narrative Film Mercy, producer of Canadian International Film Festivalâ€™s Rising Star Award Winner Bread Thieves, TV series Why Am I?), and Liz Whitmere (producer of CSA Award-winning CBC Gem series The Neddeaus of Duqesne Island, Late Night in the Studio). ZARQA directors are Whitmere (award-winning shorts Up To Here, Catâ€™s Got Your Tongue, the original ZARQA trailer, Candy Fox (ahkÃ¢mÃªyimo nitÃ¢nis / Keep Going, My Daughter, The Other Side) and Iman Zawahry (Emmy-winning short film Tough Crowd, Undercover, award-winning feature film Americanish).
ABOUT ZARQA NAWAZ
Zarqa Nawaz is a Canadian producer for film and television, a published author, public speaker, journalist, and former broadcaster. She created, wrote, directed, and produced episodes for the international CBC comedy series Little Mosque on the Prairie, which won a Gemini Award as well as Best International Television Series and Best Screenplay at the 2007 RomaFictionFest. The television series was inspired by Me and the Mosque, Zarqaâ€™s ground-breaking National Film Board documentary which premiered at the Montreal International Film Festival, examining how patriarchal cultural traditions have become mixed up with theology.
In addition, Nawaz has sold four pilots to ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox Studios, has written a bestselling comedic memoir, Laughing All the Way to the Mosque (published by HarperCollins), was an advice columnist for The Globe & Mail, a broadcast personality for CBC Radio, the host of CBC Saskatchewanâ€™s “The Morning Edition,â€ and anchored CBC Saskatchewan News at 6.
In addition to launching her new self-titled CBC Gem series in 2022, in which she stars, writes, and produces, Nawaz will also debut her new novel, Jameela Green Ruins Everything (Simon & Schuster Canada in Canada, and Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, in the U.S.). The new book is a satire about a disillusioned American Muslim woman who becomes embroiled in a plot to infiltrate an international terrorist organization and, in the process, reconnects with her loved ones and her faith.
A frequent public speaker on Islam and comedy, Nawaz received a Doctor of Divinity from the University of Saskatchewan for her interfaith work in the community. In recognition of her contribution to the world of arts, she received The Brampton Walk of Fame in 2019. Nawaz lives in Regina with her loving but long-suffering family and is the proud mother of four children.