At 14 years old, actress Aliza Vellani began her acting career as a series regular on Little Mosque on the Prairie, where she played Layla Siddiqui for six seasons. Now four years after she starred on the Canadian TV sitcom, Vellani is taking on an entirely new TV genre: sci-fi. To the envy of many, she stars in the much-anticipated revival of The X-Files. Vellani discusses her experience working on the iconic TV show and acting alongside Gillian Anderson.
Cliché: How does it feel to be a part of The X-Files revival?
Aliza Vellani: It feels so surreal. I am so incredibly grateful to be given the opportunity to work on such a legendary series that’s not only become a part of Vancouver’s film and TV history, but a part of all of Film and Television history.
Did you watch the show before you filmed?
I managed to binge-watch a few episodes before my audition to get a feel for the style of the series. And it was worth it! Hopefully I get some free time to binge-watch the entire series from the beginning. I was 1 [year old] when the series first started, so there’s a lot of catching up to do.
Were you a fan?
I’m a big sci-fi fan. My dad and I have always watched sci-fi movies and TV series together. I was a little young when the series first started, but later on I definitely became a fan of The X-Files.
In the new X-Files show, you play Sandeep. Can you tell us about your character?
Sandeep is a nurse at the hospital. She works closely with Dr. Scully and is based mostly in Dr. Scully’s world throughout the series.
For your role, you worked closely with Gillian Anderson. How was working with her, especially as she resumed her most famous character?
It was an absolute honor to work with Gillian Anderson. I was inspired by how she was able to flawlessly jump back into a character she had been playing on and off for over 20 years. If there is anything I have learned from Gillian, it’s what commitment to a character really looks like.
What has been your experience filming The X-Files?
It was fun! Of course there were long hours and a lot to do each day, but you could tell this series meant a lot to everyone working on the show. And honestly, filming on this series felt like I was walking into one giant X-Files family. It was wonderful, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it.
Was the atmosphere on set for this show different in any way from your other acting jobs, being that it was a show revival?
I think the biggest difference was walking onto set, you could tell this wasn’t a brand spanking new series where everyone was still figuring out the show and its rhythm. This was a story that had been told for 20 years, and walking onto set was like walking into a well-oiled machine. Everyone knew what was happening and what needed to be done in order to give this series what it needed.
The X-Files premieres Sunday, January 24 on FOX.
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Aliza Vellani Discusses Her Role on ‘The X-Files’: Photographed by Liz Rosa