Sandy Sidhu stars as Nazneen Khan in the new original medical drama series Nurses (now on Global). The show follows five young nurses working on the frontlines of a busy downtown Toronto hospital, dedicating their lives to helping others, while struggling to help themselves. Nazneen left India to start a new life and her first job (ever) as a nurse in Canada. Throughout the course of the show, we learn she’s in a free fall of rediscovering who she is outside of the familiar patterns of home.
We chatted with Sandy about Nurses this week.
SDTC: What drew you to the role of Nazneen Khan?
SS: With the part of Nazneen on Nurses, it was one of those rare auditions where its wasn’t so much I was drawn to her as much as it was I immediately had a visceral opinion on how I wanted to play her. The best way to describe it is that I could see the lines on the page but also the iceberg underneath. The audition process was one to two takes max, per scene. Nazneen is whip smart, comes from a very wealthy family from India, and moves to Canada to reinvent herself and starts her first job ever.
How are you similar to her? How do you differ?
You could say me and Nazneen are similar in our admiration for the profession of nursing. My mom, in real life, is actually nurse who immigrated from India to Canada. Just like Nazneen. And my mom loves her job. I always grew up with profound respect for my parents consideration towards others. I am different from Nazneen in background. Nazneen courageously leaves India for Canada, she comes from extreme wealth, and the audience meets her as she starts her first job ever. My first job was at fourteen cleaning up sawdust at a mill and I had a classic Canadian upper middle-class upbringing. My parents immigrated from India and worked unbelievably hard to provide an amazing life for us in Canada. I don’t take for granted the opportunity to play a role like this. And we got a second season before our first season even premiered. I am still pinching myself.
What did your research entail for your first leading role on Nurses?
The only thing I ever asked my mom was if I could paint my nails for the role. Nazneen is very feminine in her self expression, and I knew my character would paint her nails if she could. My mom said something like patient care requires clean nails. I didn’t do any other research for Nazneen. Nazneen was an intuitive filming process for me. In television, it’s episodic, so each script is a new journey for your character. Playing her was a true privilege. I hope the audience enjoys our show as much as we loved being a part of it.
In another life, would you consider becoming a nurse?
I did actually volunteer in a hospital in high school to decide if I wanted to become a nurse like my mother. While volunteering, I really did love the patient interaction, and the ability to try to make a positive impact on someone, but it didn’t feel like my calling. That being said, I have so so much respect for nurses. Our dedicated nurses truly are our unsung heroes. Growing up, I was always an artist. I was drawing on my moms walls at three, and I was known as an art student. I discovered theatre at fourteen, and that’s really when my life changed forever.
Walk us through a typical day in your life, from getting up to going to bed.
I start my day with a positive mantra. I always have breakfast. When I’m at my best, I drink a ton of water throughout the day. Like right now, I’m not having as much water as I’d like. Life as an actor is really weird. I don’t have a standard day to day. You’re always just in the process of getting a task done and trying to keep healthy as well as prioritizing your home life. Days only become standard when you are filming. Then you have a schedule and you can plan your days.
Who/what has influenced your acting the most?
It’s the movie Jurassic Park. Sometimes people are surprised when I say it. I really think it’s why I fell in love with movies. I’ve seen that film hundreds of times. It was a whole other world that I couldn’t even imagine. It changed cinema in a big way and it transported everyone away to a fantastical world. I think Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest filmmakers in history.
What Oscar-nominated film are you rooting for this year?
I was really hoping for Jennifer Lopez’s Oscar nod for Hustlers. I thought she did an amazing job.
What is a fun little-known fact about you?
You’ll always find me in running shoes with a huge water bottle.
What is your motto at the moment?
Don’t look down on someone unless you’re helping them up.
What artist/album are you listening to constantly these days?
I’m loving Spotify’s Hip Hop Favourites track.
What are the qualities you like least and most about yourself?
This is always a tough question. I don’t like the negative thoughts about myself, and I try my best to not give them any weight. I like my optimism the most, I suppose.
Rewind five years. What advice would you give yourself?
I think it’s so important to love yourself. To believe in yourself the best you know how in the present moment. To trust in the path. That validation harms you more than it serves you. I would tell her to have fun. I would tell her to go on more adventures. And tell her she is deserving.
Who/what has had the biggest influence on your work?
Meryl Streep. She’s a living legend.
What childhood memory makes you laugh out loud?
Anything with my sister and brother.
What unnecessary object would you love to own?
I’d love to own a cabin one day.
What tip, technique or hack has made your life better in the past year?
I’ve put more focus into educating myself on the foods we eat. That industry is really evolving and there’s so much more information out there for us to look at. I now believe that whole foods are much healthier than processed. I now try to buy things like my carrots from the local farmers market. I’ve also learned the importance of relaxation.
What issue do you wish people took more seriously?
Climate change. I feel like people can be divided on this topic. And that’s okay. I think it’s important to have respectful conversations, and not necessarily be upset if someone has an opinion that’s different from yours. Our strength is in our differences. We learn so much when we come together, despite them. But for myself, I can see that ecosystems are collapsing and those collapses are affecting us negatively. Species are going extinct at a high rate. I think conversations towards shifts towards green technology is very important.
What outfit makes you feel the most you?
Anything with flats or a pair of running shoes. I only wear heels for events or nice dinners. I tend to go for simple pieces of clothing that are tailored well for my body. I feel the most me in a classic white t-shirt, a pair of blue skinny jeans and a cute pair of shoes.
What do you hope audiences take away from Nurses?
I hope audiences feel that we honour the legacy of all nurses. This show is truly for them. They truly are our unsung heroes. Thanks, mom.
Goals for 2020?
To have fun and to continue to have the courage to fail.