We’ve seen her on TV but will now witness her breakthrough into the digital world of entertainment with Mehreen Jabbar’s web series.
You may have noticed her earlier this year, in hit serial Ehd-e-Wafa, but Naeema Butt is about to make her breakthrough as she has landed the lead role in Mehreen Jabbar’s upcoming web-series. Based in America, Naeema met with Mehreen (who also shot the series in New York) and auditioned for the role, which she got almost immediately.
Instep got hold of the actress and unearthed facts about her life and career that will make her appearance in a Mehreen Jabbar project even more meaningful. We discovered that Naeema, who’s been living in America for over a decade, has worked in several international projects and has her own theatre company. She brings her strengths in theatre to TV in Pakistan, in which she made a debut in 2019 with drama serial Bhook, followed by roles in Ehd e Wafa and Daasi. Ghazala, the character she played in Ehd e Wafa - as Shariq’s (Wahaj Ali) progressive sister - was small but significant and left a solid impression.
Instep: Tell us about the Mehreen Jabbar web series; most specifically, how did you land the role?
Naeema Butt: I guess Mehreen Jabbar must have seen my previous projects; we got connected through my friend Rajnish Jaiswal, who is also an actor and a writer. In fact, Rajnish and I were working on a web series idea before COVID-19 happened and when Mehreen (Jabbar) wanted to start the project, she contacted me and shared the script. I said yes as I liked the script, and after I auditioned for the role, she picked me for the lead role.
Instep: Do tell us something about the character and the cast you will be working with?
Naeema: It’s a psychological thriller and all the characters are equally important in the series. My character is one of the leads around which the story revolves. It’s a unique story that will keep the audience connected. It also has some really good actors who are based out of New York City; there is Shezi Sardar who has appeared in some TV shows and Tani Kazi; both have done an amazing job!
Instep: How difficult it is for a Pakistani actress like you to find work in America?
Naeema: After COVID-19, I feel it’s very difficult now. All the projects in Hollywood have slowed down, and the same can be said of auditioning opportunities. You need to have an agent and a manager here to find you some work and auditioning opportunities. In short, the competition level is greater here as compared to Pakistan. Most of the industry people are Indians in the South Asian community. You just have to keep working and connecting with people in the film and TV area.
Instep: You worked under various directors in Pakistan in the last couple of years. How was that helpful in training you as a TV actress?
Naeema: My learning experience working with different production houses and writers (also theatrical direction experience) was the reason that inspired me to produce my own series now. I have been working on my own short film web series production as a writer and producer which will be out soon. Based out of New York City, it covers the journey of a Pakistani girl who comes to the US in order to find freedom and acceptance and sees the challenges and comparisons between East and West (much of it has my personal experiences). It will make you ponder about different lifestyles in different cultures and I have kept it for international audiences. The director, Lily Huang and cinematographer, Emmet both are alumni from NYU Tisch School of Arts while there are young creative filmmakers in our team.
Instep: You do theatre as well in America; any plans to bring that experience to Pakistan?
Naeema: I have been trying my best for the past 13 years to travel back and forth and apply all my learning experiences to Pakistan. I will keep doing that until I manage to achieve my dream. I want Pakistani talent to reach the international market; it’s sad but there is a huge gap and I am taking steps to fill that.
Instep: How is Corona Virus treating you considering you are in America, which is a declared hot-spot?
Naeema: Personally, COVID-19 was a haunting experience here, especially since I was here without my family. With no air travel, friends getting infected and hospitalized with COVID-19, and nearly 200 Pakistani people succumbing to it right here in New York City, it was a life changing experience. It has taught me a lot and I believe I have seen the worst time. If I can survive this, I can make it big anywhere for sure.
As an artist, COVID-19 inspired me to write the script for my short film web series project. So, I have finally completed the shoot of the first episode and it’s coming out amazing. I hope the national and international audiences like it since it has some international actors in the cast, including myself.
Instep: Your fans are waiting anxiously for your return to TV; when can that be expected?
Naeema: I was in discussion for a few major drama serials in Pakistan but due to COVID-19, I got stuck in NYC and then I started projects here. By the end of this year or early next year, I will hopefully be back with some great TV productions and possibly films too.
Omair Alavi is a freelance broadcast journalist who can be contacted at [email protected]