April 26, 2022
“I grew up around disappointed women,” actor Meera Syal told me over the phone. “I could smell it in the room.”
As a first-generation Punjabi girl raised in the Midlands (the area in and around Birmingham, U.K.), she remembers the familiar refrain whenever a woman in her life would question her choices, her husband, or her aspirations: “what will people say?” Syal initially thought her hope of performing was a pipe dream, destined to remain within the pages of her childhood journal. Thankfully, for audiences everywhere, she refuses to be disappointed.
Syal is already an institution in the U.K. Her career has spanned film, television, the stage, and writing. She has more than 128 acting credits, has written three novels and more than a dozen scripts, and starred in multiple stage productions. If roles didn’t exist for a British Indian actor, she wrote them. She co-wrote filmmaker Gurinder Chadha’s Bhaji on the Beach and hit musical Bombay Dreams (produced by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber). But she is perhaps best known as one of the writers and stars of Goodness Gracious Me, the seminal British comedy sketch show that showcased South Asian and diaspora in-jokes, as well as the flatulent grandmother of family sitcom-and-chat show, The Kumars at No. 42.
Now 60, the prolific entertainer is back on our screens in Apple TV+’s anthology series Roar, playing a disenchanted wife who rethinks her marriage on her 60th birthday. And much like her on-screen persona, Syal isn’t afraid of asking for more.