Saara Chaudry plays Hannah Singh in the Disney+ series The Muppets Mayhem, with the show following the band Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem, and Saara reunited with the rest of the cast for the red carpet premiere ahead of the series release in May. Over the two series of The Mysterious Benedict Society, Saara played Martina Crowe, and she played the regular role of Amy Abbasi across all five series of Holly Hobbie, which is aired in the United Kingdom on BBC iPlayer. On screen work for Saara has also included playing Saara Jain in Dino Dana and Dino Dana: The Movie, and she had her first regular role as Howie Finch in Max & Shred. As a voice actor, Saara records as Shakila “Shak” Chinda in Daniel Spellbound, Carmen Mariposa in Let’s Go Luna!, and in the Oscar, Golden Globe and Canada Screen Award-nominated film The Breadwinner, Saara voiced the lead role of Parvana, and has since gone on to be an ambassador for UNICEF in Canada. Also having stage experience, Saara played Little Cosette in the 25th Anniversary production of Les Misérables at the Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto. Speaking to Saara, she told us about playing Hannah Singh in The Muppets Mayhem, her time filming as Amy Abbasi in Holly Hobbie and voicing Parvana in the animated film The Breadwinner.
Can you tell us about the new Disney+ series The Muppets Mayhem and your character Hannah Singh?
Yes! The Muppets Mayhem follows the iconic Muppets band Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem on their journey of creating their first studio album! Nora Singh (played by Lilly Singh) is my older sister on the show! She is working at a record label and ultimately is the person who helps the band create this album. I play Hannah (Nora’s younger sister), who is a makeup artist that has built a social media empire for herself. In short, she helps her sister and the band on their journey of creating the album, while also going on a personal development journey herself.
What is Hannah like to play and how did you find the experience on set of the series?
Playing Hannah was such an honour. I think Hannah is quite different to who I am in a lot of ways, but at the same time we get to see her humanity really shine towards the middle/end of the series. I enjoyed playing Hannah because of her love for things that I also really enjoy – like fashion, beauty, makeup, and skincare! I also loved the fact that Hannah and her older sister, Nora, get to portray a genuine sibling relationship – one that is flawed, imperfect, beautiful, and authentic. Being on set and getting to continuously discover how I wanted Hannah to be portrayed and perceived was a beautiful process to go through alongside the greatest cast and crew out there!
What was it like seeing the puppets for the first time and filming with them and the rest of the cast?
Seeing The Muppets for the first time was the most breathtaking experience ever. It truly makes you feel like a child again in the best way possible! Somehow these characters have a magical way of making everything in the world seem right again, and that is something everyone needs at some point.
Filming with them was definitely unfamiliar at first! For those who don’t know, we film the show on sets that are built three to four feet above ground and are built in squares that can be moved depending on the type of shot we need to get. In order for us to look like we are standing there with The Muppets, the Muppet performers end up being in removed parts of the set so that they can stick their puppets up and have their bodies not show up on camera.
How was it booking your role in the series and joining the Muppets franchise?
Booking this project was such a special experience. I was already in LA, away from my home in Toronto, Canada, shooting the second season of The Mysterious Benedict Society. Fortunately, my family was in town that week visiting me so they got to experience the joy of the moment with me.
I was actually on my way to the set when my team called me and broke the news! I remember being so overcome with emotion and shedding a few tears with my mom. It was a surreal moment and a really special time in my life.
What was it like attending the red carpet premiere and watching the completed episodes when they were released?
The premiere was an absolute dream come true. Even though it was a red carpet premiere, it just felt like a beautiful celebration with all the people who devoted so much love, time, and attention to the project. I remember sitting at the premiere, next to Lilly and Tahj (Mowry), and all of us being so in awe of what we were seeing on screen. We were definitely all a little nervous – but more excited than anything – to see what the final product looked like. After watching that first episode all together, I just knew we had been a part of something so much larger than ourselves and something that was beyond special.
Is there anything you find most rewarding about being involved with The Muppets Mayhem as Hannah Singh and why would you recommend watching the series on Disney+?
I think the most rewarding thing about being involved with The Muppets Mayhem is the fact that I get to be a part of an iconic franchise. I’m not even going to try to pretend that working with The Muppets isn’t the coolest thing in the world – because it really is! There is nothing quite like it. I feel beyond grateful and humbled to be a part of this greater Muppets family now.
More importantly, I think something rewarding about being involved with The Muppets as a whole is the fact that they are so universal and touch so many people’s lives. These characters stand for joy, love, inclusion, diversity, and embracing difference. They just have a really unique ability to make people feel seen and heard.
What are some of your favourite highlights from playing Martina Crowe in The Mysterious Benedict Society and how was it reprising your role in Series 2?
Playing Martina Crowe on The Mysterious Benedict Society was really special to me. She was one of the first characters who I felt was quite different from me because, at first, she is really aggressive and mean. However, as we got to know her we learned more about her heart, and the reasons behind why she acts the way she does. It was really cool to go on that journey with the character and make her my own. Coming back for Season 2 was awesome!
How would you describe your character Amy Abbasi in Holly Hobbie and what did you enjoy most about playing her?
Amy is a headstrong, intelligent, and passionate girl who shares a lot of universal “coming of age” teen experiences. I loved playing her because she felt really similar to me in many ways and I felt as though I grew up with her. Amy went through many things on the show – bullying, racism, her first kiss, applying to colleges, struggling with anxiety, going to therapy for the first time, etc. It was really incredible to be a young girl who could speak authentically to the character she was playing.
What was it like developing the character over the five series and how was it working alongside the rest of the cast, which includes Ruby Jay as Holly?
Developing Amy over five seasons was a beautiful experience. Again, I felt like Amy and I were growing up at the same time and experiencing it all together. Working alongside a cast that was also similar in age was really cool too, because many of us became close friends through the process of filming the show!
You played Saara Jain in Dino Dana and Dino Dana: The Movie, do you have any stand-out memories from filming the show and what was Saara Jain like to play?
I couldn’t speak more highly of the people I worked with on Dino Dana. Everyone at Sinking Ship Entertainment has become family to me and I could not be more grateful to have spent so much of my childhood working with them! Stand-out memories would be gaining a little sister (on and off screen) by working with Michela Luci and getting to film in really cool locations in Toronto (like the Royal Ontario Museum and Ripley’s Aquarium).
What do you remember most from your first regular role of Howie Finch in Max & Shred?
I remember my character’s iconic quirk of climbing through the window to get to her best friend’s house. The whole concept of being able to randomly enter someone’s room at any time is really silly to look back on, but it was cute at the moment and we all had so much fun with it.
As a voiceover actor, you play Shakila “Shak” Chinda in Daniel Spellbound and Carmen Mariposa in Let’s Go Luna!, what are the shows like to be part of and how different do you find voiceover to on-screen acting?
The shows are amazing to be a part of! I love voice acting, in addition to live action acting! It is different in the sense that you really need to be able to know how to portray emotion through merely using your voice. What I really love about voice acting is the creative freedom you get with it and the different kinds of characters you get to play that you otherwise would not be able to play if you were doing live action.
How was your time recording as lead character Parvana in the Oscar, Golden Globe and Canadian Screen Award-nominated film The Breadwinner, and how was it seeing the response to the release?
It felt like a once-in-a-lifetime project. Getting to tell a story that was rooted in truth and that amplified the voices of so many women and girls that have been silenced for so long was a powerful experience. I worked alongside some incredibly inspiring women (including Nora Twomey and Angelina Jolie) who taught me so much. Working on this project was also the catalyst for a lot of my current involvement in the activism and humanitarian space. I now often use my platform to amplify the voices of youth and women around the world. I am currently serving as a UNICEF Canada Ambassador and can’t wait to see where the journey takes me.
On stage, you played Little Cosette in the 25th Anniversary production of Les Misérables, what was this like?
What a throwback! You folks have really gone far back with these questions – it’s great! It was an incredible experience. I got to play Little Cosette in Les Mis at the Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto when I was around eight years old. Being a part of an iconic musical that is loved by so many was a surreal experience. At that age, this production was one of the biggest projects I had ever been a part of and I was just really grateful and excited to be there. Nothing beats the thrill of being on stage and performing for a live audience. I hope at some point in my career I can go back to do a musical again – it would be so much fun!
Do you have a favourite aspect of working as an actor, and can you tell us about some of the other projects you’ve been involved with, which have included PAW Patrol: The Movie, Lockdown, Odd Squad, Isabelle Dances Into the Spotlight and Degrassi: The Next Generation?
I’ve been working as an actor since I was six years old and I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of many special projects. I think my favourite aspect of this job is the fact that we hold a special superpower of storytelling. Through our work we are able to make others feel inspired, seen, and represented authentically. I am lucky to say that many of the projects I have been a part of have meant something important to several different communities because they felt represented on screen for the first time. I hope my work can continue to make South Asians, Muslims, and women feel like they can be the heroes in their own stories too!
How did you get into acting and was it something you always wanted to do?
It happened by accident! I went to a drama camp when I was in kindergarten with some of my friends and I fell in love with it. It all started as a hobby and, fortunately, has grown into a full-blown career! I never expected it (and neither did my family, haha), but it feels meant to be.
What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch and how do you like to spend your free time?
I love a good rom-com! To be honest, my watching habits are all over the place – one day I’ll be watching a drama series and the next day I’ll be watching Gilmore Girls, it all depends on my mood!
In my free time, I love spending time with my friends and family. Other than that, I love reading, dancing/being active, trying new restaurants, and learning more about the world around me (whether that be through advocacy, fashion, tech, beauty, outdoor experiences, etc)!
What are you hoping 2023 brings for you?
I am a rising sophomore at Harvard College, so I hope 2023 brings me another wonderful year at school surrounded by friends that I love dearly. I hope to discover new avenues of the industry that I enjoy and hope to move into (whether that be producing, writing or directing). I am looking forward to new projects on the horizon and getting to share my journey with everyone. ❤️
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