Celebrated radio personality turned actor Eve D’Souza talks about her spin-off show ‘Varshita’, transitioning from radio, working as a producer, and why she doesn’t do kissing scenes.
Should we expect to hear you on radio again?
Radio will always be my first love, but by the time I left Capital FM, I was itching for something more challenging, to learn and grow. TV has really pushed me way out of my comfort zone.
I mean, I joined radio and not TV in the beginning because I was so shy and the thought of being seen by people scared me.
I never say never, but for now, I’m really enjoying working for myself. Running Moonbeam Productions with Lucy Mwangi for the past seven years has been so fulfilling. TV content is what I’m passionate about right now.
Why did you decide to make the transition from radio to TV?
I had hosted a few TV shows on KTN, where Lucy Mwangi was the producer. We had a good working relationship and often spoke about what we’d like to see more of on local stations.
We were both in the same place mentally, ready to risk it all and take a leap of faith. We were both excited about having the freedom to mould and develop concepts for TV we thought Kenyans would appreciate.
By the time I was quitting, coming to work was a struggle. There was a bit of in-house politics that sucked out all the fun of being on radio. My heart just wasn’t in it anymore. I think sometimes God puts you in uncomfortable situations that force you to make difficult changes to open the door to greater things.
You also started acting; did you go for acting classes?
(Laughs)I had no idea what I was doing! No, I hadn’t acted professionally, but my partner Lucy joked that she didn’t know any other Indian, so I had to play the role! I was thrown into the deep end and had to take one for the team.
How do you prepare for your role?
I wish I had something exciting to reveal, but to be honest, all I do is read my scripts the day before and go through each scene about three times beforehand.
A lot of people joke that I don’t need to prep for Varshita because I’m playing myself, so it’s effortless. I’d like to vehemently refute these claims!
Varshita is a spin-off of Auntie Boss. How did the decision to create it come about?
Varshita is a character designed to be an absolute villain. But every time we workshopped with the writers, we had so much fun coming up with crazy storylines for her and Donovan. She sometimes overshadowed other characters.
Lucy kept saying we need a whole different show to explore Varshita as a character. So, we filmed a short pilot called The Donovans, luckily M-Net saw something in it they liked. They saw the potential for a great sitcom, if we could delve into the comedy and challenges of interracial dating and cultural differences.
You play similar roles in Varshita and Auntie Boss. How are they different?
In Auntie Boss, we depict Varshita as a ‘horrible boss’ of sorts. The focus is on the dynamics between the help and their bosses, plus a side show of her being super controlling and possessive of Donovan.
In Varshita, however, we get to see her back story. You understand better how her upbringing affected her, made her somewhat crazy and obsessed with getting love and attention.
We see that through her tumultuous relationship with her mother. Varshita highlights family drama and pressures, cultural challenges in interracial relationships as well as similarities between the African and Indian communities. Bringing in Varshita’s and Donovan’s families also forces us to expose and explore racial bias and conflict, which is still a part of today’s reality.
What do you enjoy most about playing the lead role?
I love being able to speak with no filter, do and say whatever I want, and have no apologies for it. I’m a people pleaser by nature, so playing Varshita is a little like therapy for me! I can just let out any pent-up frustration daily on set!
Varshita has a large following, especially with kids. Was that your target audience from the start?
I can’t believe we got the target audience so wrong! I remember our first day workshopping for Varshita.
We all agreed that our target audience was primarily late 20s to 30-year old women who could identify with the pressure Varshita felt to get married; and men in their 30s who were still single, but also pressured by their parents to ‘grow up’ and settle down.
It came as a huge surprise to us all that our biggest audience is children. But I guess it’s because each character is colourful and animated. I often say that for comedy to work, you have to be a bit of a human cartoon.
What are some of your best fan moments?
M-Net recently threw a special Varshita ‘meet and greet’ with 400 kids and their parents. They got to meet all the characters in the show, and we were just so touched by the overwhelming love and support.
It’s not something I take for granted, that there are people who actually take the time to watch us every week. Meeting and interacting with them was very humbling and special to me.
Why is interracial dating an important story to tell?
I think it’s timely. We have spent years sweeping racial and cultural bias under the carpet. I can understand why.
It’s uncomfortable. Plain and simple. Varshita aims at provoke a discussion about race that often remains too sensitive or uncomfortable to explore. It’s easy to curl up in front of a triumphant story of love conquering all, but real life is not that simple.
Navigating the differences that come with mixed relationships can be uncomfortable for the viewer, but it’s necessary if we are ever going to progress in challenging racism and understanding that we are a lot more similar than we are different.
Plus, I also think it’s good to highlight these challenges by using humour and being able to laugh at how ridiculous and backward some people in society can be. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves as part of the healing process.
Are you open to doing nude scenes?
No! I can’t even do a kissing scene. I definitely don’t have what it takes to go all the way as an actor.
Will we see you in theatre shows?
Maqbul who plays Donovan has so many years of experience in theatre, he’s been trying to convince me to give it a go. May be one day. I’d love to take on the challenge; I think theatre must be such a rush!
Who is your favourite local actor?
Maqbul Mohammed is just amazing. His facial expressions are priceless. I also love Nice Wanjeri who plays Shiro on Auntie Boss. She is just a star! She is a natural and makes everything seem effortless.