Rekha Shah - Child Actor Turned TV Professional
By: Peta Cooper
Peta Cooper of DesiClub.com interviewed YCDTOTV alum Rekha Shah (1986-1989) in May 2003. Below is her interview. Thanks Peta!
The 1980s - what a wonderful time, especially for television. If you were a child in the 80s you can remember all the classic cartoons and TV shows we had. We were spoiled to have Nickelodeon, a cable network dedicated to children's programming.
Back then, it was very rare to find a South Asian actress on TV, perhaps because she wasn't even cast to play a South Asian. That special rarity for the Nickelodeon generation was none other than Rekha Shah. She starred on "You Can't Do That On Television," a show that had a variety of comedy sketches acted out by children and green slime! And "Fifteen," a melodramatic teenage soap that lightly touched on issues teenagers faced.
After "Fifteen" ended in '93, she took some time off to travel, and decided TV was what she wanted to pursue as a career. Shah went to Ryerson Polytechnic University in '94, and graduated with a BA in Radio and Television arts in '98. Now in 2003, she has discovered a new love for animation and continues to work on children's programming.
Peta Cooper: Back in the 80s you were on YCDTOTV (You Can't Do That On Television), what was it like working in that type of environment?
Rekha Shah: It was a pretty exciting time for me. I was very young, and being exposed to the world of teen television definitely laid the early foundation for my current career.
PC: Last summer, fans of YCDTOTV had a convention with the old cast members. Did you go?
RS: No, unfortunately I had other commitments that kept me away from the Reunion. I did hear that it was a blast though.
PC: In the early 90s, Nickelodeon attempted to create a "teen soap" called "Fifteen," do you think it was a smart move to create a show like that?
RS: Definitely. It was timely, and even ahead of the times in a sense.
PC: You played Janice on "Fifteen," do you think kids could relate to that outcast character?
RS: I think there are a lot of kids that would have related to the character Janice. The early teen years are such a struggle for so many of us. Janice was a new girl, she was awkward but she had a good heart. True to her character, when her peers finally gave her a chance, they realized that there was definitely something special about her.
PC: There are so many aspects in media, what draws you to doing children's programming?
RS: When it comes to production, children's programs combine creativity with education. I know that I am making a difference and helping parents raise strong, smart, healthy kids across the country. It is very fulfilling.
PC: Do you think the media has a big impact on the way children think?
RS: While the media definitely plays a role in influencing children, I really do think it's the responsibility of a parent to monitor what their child watches. I actually think that parents should introduce their children to the media, to the news and to programming that they would not have necessarily let their children watch alone. Watching with their children allows them to play an active role in educating their kids about the media and the role of media in our lives.
PC: What sort of projects are you working on now?
RS: I have plans to continue my work in children's television on the production/creative side - both in animation and live action. I am also an active volunteer in my spare time - working with an immigrant advocacy organization and a women's center in Toronto.
PC: Are you going to stick around in Canada or is the American market an option for you to try again?
RS: In children's production, the American market is key to a successful venture. I love Toronto, and New York and Los Angeles are just a plane ride away!
PC: In this day and age, what sort of improvements do you think the media could implement?
RS: It is always important to present a balanced point of view and remain transparent when it comes to political affiliations of an organization. It is essential to maintaining the integrity of any editorial opinion.
PC: Just for fun, do you think you could pack up your bags and join the Bollywood circuit in India?
RS: Yes, just for fun!
PC: How's Rekha Shah different from the rest of the South Asian talent out there?
RS: Unfortunately I don't know a lot of other South Asian producers or on-air talent, so it is difficult for me to make a comparison. I do believe that my integrity, compassion and genuine interest in others has definitely helped me achieve my goals so far in life.
PC: What would you like to say to the readers on DesiClub.com?
RS: I truly believe that the path to happiness is to listen to your heart and be true to yourself. It is so easy to be swayed by the expectations of others and the outdated traditions and values of our ancestors. If you want it, go for it - and you'll get it.