ZARQA pokes good-natured fun at cultural stereotypes as Season 2 films in Regina

Zarqa Nawaz (right) is on set the set of her show ZARQA on Tuesday near Candy Cane Park in Regina.  (Cory Herperger/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Zarqa Nawaz (right) is on set the set of her show ZARQA on Tuesday near Candy Cane Park in Regina. (Cory Herperger/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie is back at it again, shooting the second season of her latest comedy television show ZARQA in Regina.

When we last saw Zarqa in season one, which aired in 2022, the divorced Muslim woman's ex-husband was marrying a younger, white yoga instructor. Zarqa responded by inventing a fake, white boyfriend of her own and went on a mission to find a man to portray him as her date at the wedding.

By the end of the season, Zarqa had three love interests and didn't know which one to choose.

On Tuesday, those in the Candy Cane Park area of Regina may have noticed a film crew spilling out into the street, as they shot footage in front of a quaint house in the neighbourhood. In between wardrobe changes, creator Zarqa Nawaz told CBC News she was excited to give viewers more of her character's chaotic, conniving and, of course, hilarious antics.

"I think this season is gonna be even more fun. There's just not a single person that I don't come across in the show where I somehow end up causing more mayhem [for them] and just utter destruction," Nawaz said.

"I'm like the Muslim Larry David!"

Cory Herperger/Radio-Canada
Cory Herperger/Radio-Canada

Culture clash

Candy Fox of the Piapot First Nation is back directing two of the six episodes of this season of ZARQA, and she said she's happy the show got renewed.

"Whenever I tell somebody about ZARQA, I just tell them exactly what it's about and already it's funny. They laugh at just the idea of the premise of the whole show," Fox said.

"Because there is that culture clash between Muslim culture, between white Canadian culture, even Indigenous culture. Just making fun of one another, making fun of the stereotypes that we hold against one another. I think one of my favourite parts of this series is being able to laugh at ourselves. Being able to not be serious all the time about the differences that we hold."

This idea of laughing at stereotypes was a common trope in Nawaz's Little Mosque on the Prairie, and also another Canadian television favourite, Letterkenny.

Just like the first season, which aired in 2022, ZARQA Season 2 is produced and directed by women. The leading lady herself is adding director to her long list of jobs on the show, which include creator, writer, producer and actor.

Cory Herperger/Radio-Canada
Cory Herperger/Radio-Canada

ZARQA crew includes trainees

In April, the province announced that Saskatchewan was getting an injection of $900,000 in federal funding for the training and mentorship of aspiring media production workers.

The new program, which is getting federal funding through Prairies Economic Development Canada, is providing successful applicants with training workshops and on-set mentored positions with media productions in the province. The program began April 1 and will run for one year.

Nawaz said ZARQA has about 20 of these trainees on its crew right now, and is functioning as a pilot project for the training funding. She spent half her life in Toronto and half her life in Regina, and said it's meaningful for her to shoot her series in the Queen City.

"I never thought I'd be able to come back after Little Mosque on the Prairie to make another production here. The most exciting thing about this production is watching young people being trained in production jobs," said Nawaz.

"What's critical now is to build the production infrastructure back up to what it used to be."

Cory Herperger/Radio-Canada
Cory Herperger/Radio-Canada

The creator of ZARQA said the new hires are receiving the necessary training so that they can apply for more senior positions in the next productions they join. Fox, meanwhile, has seen the Saskatchewan film industry go through many difficult changes over the years, but she's happy to see that productions like ZARQA are now getting support.

"I'm hoping that it continues to grow. Of course we want to see more productions here and the more support we have the better."

Nawaz says fans can expect more of ZARQA to hit the screen in either late 2023 or early 2024. The Saskatchewan-made show will run on CBC Gem.