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New Asian family for Eastenders
21st May, 2007

Eastenders is getting two new additions to its cast this summer, played by actress Nina Wadia and newcomer Zahra Ahmadi.

Ms Wadia will play tough-talking businesswoman Zainab Masood while Ms Ahmadi has been cast as her daughter Shabnam.

They will be the first Asian family introduced to the BBC soap since the Ferreira family in June 2003 and axed two years ago in Spring 2005.

Zainab Masood has been cast as a strong-willed woman in her early 40s who owns a string of post offices. Insiders say she will arrive to the Square to shake-up the Walford branch, run by newlywed Denise Fox (Diane Parish).

More trouble will follow when Zainab appoints her daughter to help out.

A source told the Sunday Mirror yesterday: "The Masoods are going to put noses out of joint. Zainab is Walford's answer to Sir Alan Sugar - she's not there to make friends. Shabnam will put the cat among the pigeons too."

"Her direct manner can be hugely intimidating and sparks will fly with Denise [Wicks]. Underneath her fierce manner, however, Zainab is great fun and has a wicked sense of humour."

Nina Wadia briefly played a nurse in Eastenders in 1994. She said: "I'm thrilled to join the show and I can't wait for Zainab to come to the Square and cause some trouble."

Zahra Ahmadi said: "I've watched EastEnders as long as I can remember and I'm really excited to be joining the cast. It was very surreal walking into the Square and seeing all the face I'd grown up watching. I felt like I knew them."

A recent graduate from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, she was last seen playing Nasreen in the acclaimed stage production King of Hearts at Hampstead Theatre earlier this year.

The Eastenders source added: "Shabnam's definitely going to turn heads. She's 21, fresh from university and has no idea what she wants to do with her life. To keep her going, her mum gives her a job at the Post Office."

Eastenders executive producer Diederick Santer said: "I'm enormously excited to welcome Nina Wadia to EastEnders. She's a brilliant comedy actress and I'm sure her character Zainab will showcase all her comic and dramatic talents."

He added: "Newcomer Zahra is a real find. She's warm and great fun. I'm confident the Masoods will be a big hit with viewers."

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