Nanaimo-born actress Sandy Sidhu (front) plays Nazneen Khan in the new Global TV program, Nurses. (Photo courtesy Global)

Nanaimo actress cast in first lead role in TV series ‘Nurses’

Sandy Sidhu wanted to work in medicine before her interest in acting took over

Sandy Sidhu was on track to become a medical professional when she decided to switch her focus to acting. Now she plays a nurse on television.

Sidhu, who hails from Nanaimo and has a degree in cell biology and genetics, was studying to become a doctor at UBC when she realized she was unhappy with her program. At the same time she was acting “secretly” on the side because she was too scared to admit to herself that she wanted to become an actress.

“It started to dawn on me that, ‘Oh, shoot, I think I love this more. Uh oh, this is starting to become a big interest in my mind, in my heart and in my thoughts. This is really overtaking my focus,’” she said. “And eventually I had to have a real talk with myself.”

Sidhu said her parents were thrilled when she told them she wanted to study medicine, following in the footsteps of her mother, a nurse, and she was terrified to tell them she wanted to abandon that pursuit to become an actress. She said her jaw dropped when they were supportive of her decision.

“They said, ‘We don’t know anything about this field, so if this is what you really want to do just work really hard at it and go for it…’” she said. “And it was really good advice.”

After more then a decade appearing in commercials and assorted TV series and TV movies, Sidhu was cast in her first leading role last year in the Global medical drama, Nurses, which she describes as a “coming of age” series following five rookie nurses in a busy Toronto hospital. The program made its debut on Global TV on Jan. 6.

Sidhu plays Nazneen Khan, a nurse who left her wealthy family in India to reinvent herself in Canada. Sidhu said the immigrant story is reminiscent of her own her mother’s, but that’s where the similarities end.

“In terms of character and personality they’re nothing alike,” she said. “But the thing that they have in common is that they are both pioneers who braved a choice to go to a new environment for a better life.”

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Sidhu said she knew Khan “intrinsically” and felt an “innate connection” with her as soon as she read the audition script.

“I really do give credit to my mother for that because I think as a child growing up having a mother as a nurse … I really do have a deep personal connection and have something to say about this role,” Sidhu said.

In her portrayal, Sidhu said she draws from her mother’s “love of others and her unwavering dedication and passion to looking after other people,” as well as her own experience volunteering in a hospital after school at Dover Bay.

“It really stuck with me because every day there are new patients that would come in and you really got to know people and I started to understand why my mom loved it so much,” she said. “You get to have an opportunity to make a positive change [for] someone.”

Sidhu said attending the Nurses première in Toronto last week was an “extraordinary” experience that she still can’t wrap her head around. She said when she started pursuing acting, she struggled with a lot self doubt and “this is kind of a surreal moment of, ‘Oh my God, dreams can work out.’”

“This is a very emotional moment for me to know that life can work out this way,” she said. “And I really want to share a message that people can do anything that they want and I hope that they believe in themselves and love themselves and really offer themselves the opportunity to do the things that they love to do and find joy.”

Nurses airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Global.

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