Most recently on screen, Zita Sattar could be seen playing Mavis Jug in the Father Brown episode The Island of Dreams earlier this year, and she played Ruth in the comedy series The Cleaner in 2021 alongside Greg Davies. In the CBBC drama The Worst Witch, Zita played Miss Tapioca across all four series, and her other roles have included Yvonne Bukhari in Years and Years, Dr. Ward in Coronation Street and Sam Delaney in Responsible Child. Zita’s early roles have seen her play regular characters Anna Paul in Casualty and Jan in According to Bex, and over the years, she has appeared in many guest roles including in the 2020 release I Hate Suzie. We talked to Zita about playing Ruth in The Cleaner, filming as Mavis Jug in Father Brown and her time as Miss Tapioca in The Worst Witch.
This year, you appeared as Mavis Jug in the Father Brown episode The Island of Dreams, can you say about your character and what was it like to film?
It was wonderful to play someone who was accused of murder! We had such fun filming it, I met some brilliant and funny actors – it didn’t really feel like work, the script and the director (Ruth Carney) were ace – as were the other actors.
My very good mate Lesley Nicol was also in the same episode. I’ve known her for over 25 years and it was so lovely to work with her again.
I’d been a fan of fellow Brummie, Mark Williams for years too, and really enjoyed filming my scenes with him. Bostin’ he was. (That’s Brummie speak for top-tier fab!)
You play Ruth in The Cleaner, how is it being part of the cast and what is the role like to play?
I must admit, I was a bit nervous meeting Greg Davies, as I admire his work so much. But he was just how he is on the telly. Very warm and funny.
Ruth was a great role to play with, and it was a real privilege to work with Greg. Our height difference was comical in itself, as I’m only 5ft, and he’s waaaaay over 6ft something.
How was it reading the script for the first time and why would you recommend watching the show?
I laughed out loud reading the script. Which is sort of rare. The show has a brilliant premise and also some amazing guest stars – people like Helena Bonham Carter and the great Stephanie Cole (who I’ve loved since Tenko).
Was there anything that drew you to the role of Miss Tapioca in The Worst Witch and how much did you know about the franchise before joining the cast?
I had been in the Tim Curry/Diana Rigg The Worst Witch movie as a child extra in the 80s. But my scene had been left on the cutting room floor. So, to then get a second chance to be in the CBBC version years later was a dream.
I’d been a big fan of The Worst Witch books as a child too. I got a bit wobbly when I met Jill Murphy on set, especially when she gave me a signed copy of the first book. It was great loss to the children’s fiction world when she sadly died a few years ago. It was a real honour to have met her, and to have been a part of a show she had had such a big input in.
How was the experience working on a CBBC show and being on set?
Meeting the other witches, people I’d admired for years, was the best bit. I had to pinch myself working alongside Clare Higgins and Wendy Craig. I’m still mates with Clare now. We still have our witchy-woo chats, and meet when we can.
I loved playing Miss Tapioca too. A grumpy, rubbish cook, but her heart was in the right place. She was a proper gem of a comedy role. I miss playing her.
Can you tell us about your character Dr. Ward in Coronation Street and how was it filming the soap?
Well, it was like I’d climbed into the actual telly, it was so surreal. But all the regular cast were so welcoming, and I settled in quickly.
The storyline was really harrowing, but very important and brought more awareness to a subject matter that needs as much exposure as it can.
What was it like being part of the TV movie Responsible Child?
This was based on a true story. Because of that, it was upsetting to film. But, again, an important subject matter – so getting the tone right was imperative. I’m proud to have been a part of the project.
Having played Yvonne Bukhari in Years and Years, is there anything you enjoyed most about this series?
I’ve always loved everything that Russell T. Davies has written, so couldn’t believe my luck when I got the role of Yvonne Bukhari. I had most of my scenes with Russell Tovey, who’s flippin’ marvellous too.
I love the way that Russell T. Davies writes for actors, beautifully observant – such real dialogue, he writes like people actually speak. Making it very, very easy to learn too. He’s a genius.
What’s it like working on guest roles in shows such as Vera, Creeped Out and I Hate Suzie?
Sometimes, guest roles can be a bit nerve-racking as you’re in and out so quickly, but (and I know I’m repeating myself here but it’s true!!) I had a great time on all those jobs.
In I Hate Suzie, for example, I was a drug dealer and had to drive like a maniac. We filmed it on a closed-off road at night, and it sort of felt like I was on an Alton Towers ride. All I had to do was look like I was driving (and say the lines obviously!!), and the crew did the rest. It was a proper rush of fun.
In 2005, you played Jan in According to Bex, how was this?
Filming in front of a live studio audience was the best and most scary bit, rolled into one.
I met my mate Raquel Cassidy for the first time on that show too, we went on to film The Worst Witch together over a decade later. She’s ace.
What are some of your favourite memories from playing Anna Paul in Casualty?
So many memories… one of the ones that immediately springs to mind was having my first ever screen kiss with the lovely Simon MacCorkindale.
Some of your other screen work has included Mount Pleasant, Flowers and Heartburn Hotel, can you tell us about some of them?
Working with the legend John Sullivan was amazing. It was my first real go at filming in front of a live studio audience. Plus, I got to meet Bucks Fizz!! I mean, come ON! That can’t be topped mate!! 😂
Had you always wanted to be an actor and how did you start?
I had always wanted to be an actor. I just didn’t know how I was going to achieve it. I come from a working class family, and didn’t know initially where to begin. But found my way to drama school after my A-Levels, got a grant and began making a path for myself. I don’t know how kids manage it nowadays, unless they have 127 jobs to subsidise their college fees, or affluent parents.
It’s a shame, there’s a whole swathe of young potential actors that might never get the chance to train, as the arts aren’t funded like they should be.
Do you have any favourite TV shows or films to watch?
I like cooking shows, documentaries on the history of the ancient world, and The Chase (obviously!! I mean, who the HELL doesn’t love The Chase??!) and University Challenge, for some light relief.
(I’m desperate to meet Anne Hegerty. She’s a Goddess in this house!)
What career plans do you have for the upcoming year that you can tell us about?
There’s something cooking, but I’ve not signed the contract yet, so I can’t say, I don’t think. But it’s juicy and it’s not filming in the UK. Whoop! Bye and thanks for having me. Z xxx