Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Interview: Kausar Mohammed Talks ‘The Flash’, Muslim Representation, and More [EXCLUSIVE]

CELEBRITIESInterview: Kausar Mohammed Talks 'The Flash', Muslim Representation, and More

In recent episodes of The Flash, fans were introduced to Dr. Meena Dhawan of Fast Track Labs. Portrayed by Kausar Mohammed, Meena was revealed to be an artificially-made speedster with an unexpected love story with former Reverse-Flash, Eobard Thawne, after he lost his memories. Now known as Fast Track, Meena is teaming up with Team Flash to help them out as the season comes to a close.

Kausar can also be heard on Netflix’s Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous as Yaz and has also had a hand in writing some projects, including the short film The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night, which she also directed and starred in. Aside from acting, she also greatly advocates for the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities.

Nerds and Beyond had the pleasure to chat with Kausar Mohammed about her work so let’s get to it!

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Editors Note: Mild spoilers ahead for recent episodes of The Flash! This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Nerds and Beyond: I wanted to start off by talking about The Flash. You can recently be seen as Dr. Meena Dhawan, who is also Central City’s newest speedster [Fast Track]. What has that whole experience been like since Meena is not your typical speedster?

Kausar Mohammed: The entire experience has been really fun and rewarding. And I think when I first got the character, I had no idea it was gonna be a speedster, and I had no idea it was gonna be four episodes. So it unlocked a whole world of fun for me that I didn’t know what was coming. I think part of it, too, is training to be a speedster or learning about what it means to work with superpowers on screen, and the VFX of it has been such a fun and rewarding experience. Then on top of it, everybody on the cast and crew is really amazing.

Colin Bentley/The CW

Nerds and Beyond: We also know quite a bit about her with her backstory, her whole prognosis, and her unexpected relationship with Eobard Thawne, who was once one of the greatest villains on the show. How will that all play out in the season finale without giving too much away?

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Kausar: Certainly. I think along the way, we’ve seen Meena find out she has powers, trying to get a grip of her powers. And then, you know, this most recent episode, not really knowing what to do with their powers and we sort of see that full culmination of that arc of, you know, her getting a hold of them and deciding how she wants to use them. So in the finale, we sort of see a culmination of that.

Nerds and Beyond: You also do a great deal of voice acting, as you can be heard as Yaz on Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous. What drew you to that area of entertainment, and how does it compare to live-action?

Kausar: Voiceover was sort of something I stumbled upon but ended up being really such — and is now — such a joy in my life in terms of being able to be creative and being able to be active and I, you know, coming from a sketch background, characters and voices and accents were always something I loved and enjoyed doing. Now I get to do that as a voice for animated stuff or video game stuff. And in those ways, it’s just so fun.

And what’s great is that I record from my closet. I have this side closet I retrofitted during the pandemic because everything started recording. I get to do it in my sweats and my little like, my little portable battery-held fan. I don’t die of sweat. But it’s great. I love it.

Kausar Mohammed in ‘The Flash.’/Shane Harvey/The CW

Nerds and Beyond: And like you just mentioned, you do sketch. You are part of the all-South Asian sketch comedy troupe The Get Brown. How did you get involved with that?

Kausar: The Get Brown was actually UCB, Upright Citizens Brigade. It’s a team of six of us and essentially one of the members who, basically, we say like, he “Avengers assembled us” essentially. We would all, you know, we’re pretty much like the token Brown person in our classrooms and sort of over, you know, eye contact here and there and connecting in different spaces in different sketch ways. We decided to come together and make an awesome Asian sketch team. I think one of the most rewarding things about it has been the fact that none of us are the token. When we say something, it’s never something that has to be qualified or explained. You know, I can make a Ramadan joke, and someone else can know how to improv off of that without me explaining what Ramadan is.

And in those ways, we’re able to get really specific, and I think in us getting specific, we ended up being able to be funnier and ended up speaking to a lot of other folks and audiences, whether they are South Asian or whether they’re just first or second gen or whatever. They’re just, you know, BIPOC or whatever it is.

Nerds and Beyond: That’s incredible. I love that so much.

Kausar: Yeah, it’s been really fun. I’m grateful we get to do silly things together.

Kausar Mohammed
Zahra Siddique

Nerds and Beyond: Aside from acting, you wrote and directed the short film The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night, which you also starred in. What inspired you to create it, and what was the process like?

Kausar: That script was born out of, you know, a little bit of inspiration from real life. I have two older sisters who I love very much, but also like I need their approval on everything. I don’t know what it is. You know, I feel like I’m a fairly independent, grown person, but when they don’t like the shirt I’m wearing, I’m like, “Well, shit. I have to throw it away.” I don’t know why that is.

And so, naturally, when I had been seeing my first serious girlfriend for a while, I was introducing them, and I remember being so scared, you know. What if they didn’t absolutely get along or absolutely died and I had all these nightmares born and you know, from there kind of wrote the short. So the short was inspired by that. But when people watch it and when my sisters watched it, I remind them, “These are just heightened versions of yourselves. This is not what I think of you.” And I’m not sure if they believe me. And I think from there, had a really lovely and amazing, talented director come on board, Fawzia Mirza, before their workshop, the project, and she directed it. We kind of had this short that’s currently in the festival circuit that I’m really proud of. And I hope that there’s maybe some other queer Muslim, maybe South Asian folks out there who feel a sense of belonging within it, too.

Nerds and Beyond: I saw that you’re the co-founder of SHIFT, which is a racial and gender equity consulting group created by women of color that centers on and elevates work from people in the BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disabled communities. How did that come about?

Kausar: Definitely. That is founded with my partners Veline Mojarro and Natalie Bui, and since then, since 2017, we’ve grown into a larger group. Many other amazing and talented facilitators and educators who work with us, and that was grown out of a desire to, you know, center voices within these conversations about what is consent, what is diversity, what is equity, [and] what is inclusion. But then really allow and create a platform for queer folks to be at the center of this conversation for women to be with them folks, trans folks, black and indigenous and people of color and how do we really create a platform where folks who have historically marginalized identities get to be at the forefront of… what we think diversity and equity and inclusion should be. So we do trainings and workshops and education for universities and organizations and corporations all over the nation.

Kausar Mohammed
Shanley Kellis

Nerds and Beyond: Do you have any hopes for the group in the future?

Kausar: That’s a good question. I hope that we can just continue to serve BIPOC folks really and serve our needs. As you know, we’re currently in a society where folks realize that equity is important. And a lot of times, it’s a hype word. A lot of times, it’s something that folks, companies, or organizations say that they want but won’t put their money where their mouth is. And my hope is that we’re able to create change on smaller levels, as individuals, and from there growing like really, this idea of like radically imagining what would our work systems look like if we were to really center care and specifically care for BIPOC folks, at the center for them. So my hope is that our org can help lead and further connect the dots for folks. This is work that’s been out there. The work of Adrienne Ray Brown to Loretta Ross to Erica Huggins, so many amazing people who have been doing this work. Namely Black and indigenous, you know, women of color, Arab feminists of color, just to help people connect the dots in those ways.

Nerds and Beyond: How important is it for you to have representation in the entertainment industry?

Kausar: To me, it’s the largest driving force of why I do what I do. The work with TV and film, whether it’s acting or writing, is so largely intertwined with sort of the futures of equity that we dream for ourselves, and I think representation is a large part of that, and being able to see ourselves on screen has so so much power because there’s the power of telling yourself that we are worthy of existing on a screen which is a privilege that we haven’t been afforded in the past. And by we, I mean … or largely, I won’t speak for others, but you know, folks, marginalized identities, so I think the mission is all in one to allow our stories and stories of historically marginalized folks to be at the forefront.

Colin Bentley/The CW

Nerds and Beyond: Besides Camp Cretaceous, which returns on Netflix next month [July 21], and the season finale of The Flash [June 29]. Do you have any other upcoming projects you’re able to talk about?

Kausar: Some of the other stuff I’m excited about is that many of my writing projects are currently developing other projects with Mirza, the director of The Syed Family Xmas Eve Game Night. Along with my sketch comedy team, we’re developing TV and film projects as well, along with some personal horror and comedy projects that I’m really excited about. So I can’t wait to also get those out and about in the world.

Nerds and Beyond: You mentioned that you’re working more on writing. Do you have any desire to work more on directing as well?

Kausar: Funny enough, I think I’m pretty aware that, you know, I don’t necessarily see myself directing. Unless it was a music video. I really want to direct music videos, but I think I’m good. I just love a good music video.

Nerds and Beyond: To wrap up, here at Nerds and Beyond, we’re all about waving your inner nerd flag high. We sometimes like to end our interviews by asking, is there anything that you’re really nerdy about?

Kausar: So, I mean, Harry Potter is definitely one of those things, and I know that maybe, you know, it’s just a big part of my life. I want to be a Slytherin, but I never test it and can never pull it off. I always get Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw, which is really upsetting. But yeah, huge Harry Potter fan.

We thank Kausar Mohammed for taking the time to chat with us! Don’t miss the season 8 finale of The Flash this Wednesday, June 29 at 8 p.m. EST on The CW! Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous season 5 drops July 21 on Netflix.

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