ARTS AND FEATURES — 07 January 2014

From Drogheda, Yasmine’s exotic looks and name come from her Pakistani father

By David Hennessy

The career of Drogheda actress Yasmine Akram  received a massive boost last weekend when she starred in the BBC’s latest episode of Sherlock.

Playing Janine, a bridesmaid at Sherlock sidekick Dr. Watson’s wedding, Yasmine had several scenes with Benedict Cumberbatch’s title character, delivering funny lines and dancing with the actor who is now well known in Hollywood with roles in Star Trek and 12 Years a Slave.

Yasmine, whose previous acting credits include small parts in London Irish, Common Ground and Peep Show, told The Irish World the day after the episode aired: “It’s definitely the biggest thing I’ve done.

“The reaction’s been great. I think I was slightly naïve, I thought ‘maybe the odd message from family members here and there…’ but it’s been pretty full on.”

What was it like to work with Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman who is also renowned and the star of The Hobbit films? “It was wonderful. Benedict’s an absolutely lovely, lovely person and it being one of my first big acting jobs, himself and Martin really had all the time in the world to talk with me and help me. They were very kind in a way that they didn’t really have to be which I was surprised by, because I thought it would be a case of doing the job and then back to your trailer but they were so funny and welcoming and generous and couldn’t have been nicer. Benedict’s just an absolutely lovely, lovely guy and I think everything that is happening for him is completely deserved because he’s a wonderful actor as well.

“It was quite weird to even get the job in the first place. I thought they might give it to someone with a bigger profile because I’ve worked more in comedy. I did my training and everything but I’ve been more of a comedian than anything else for the past 2 or 3 years so it was a bit ‘I’ll go along but I’m not going to get this job’. And then to have gotten, it was a bit ‘oh, okay…’, and then to have the reaction that it’s got as well has just been lovely, really really cool.”

Due to the comic nature of bridesmaid Janine’s exchanges with best man Sherlock, the producers must have felt someone with comic timing would suit the role. Will Yasmine appear as Janine again as the series progresses? “I can’t say anything. I’ve been sworn to secrecy. Watch and see what happens.”

However, Yasmine can definitely be seen in the forthcoming third series of Sky comedy, Stella with Ruth Jones and in the new RTE sitcom The Centre which also stars comedienne Katherine Lynch, television personality Jennifer Maguire, Gary Cooke, Norma Sheaban and Hilary Rose.

Amanda Abbington, Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch in a scene from Sunday night’s episode

The Irish World saw Yasmine perform at last year’s Aisling Project benefit, but her heavy workload has precluded her from doing too much stand-up comedy of late.

However, a long-term collaborator with Aisling Bea, the pair are preparing another series of their BBC Radio 4 programme, Irish Micks and Legends. Aisling has had a successful couple of years, winning Edinburgh’s So You Think You’re Funny in 2012. Can we see Aisling and Yasmine on screen together again soon?

“Definitely, I suppose it’s finding the right time and stuff. Aisling’s hilarious and one of my best friends and any time I get to hang out with her is lovely,  but it’s getting rarer now that we can actually be in the same room together because I’m flying around all over the place  and she’s taking over the world!  I would love to do anything with Aisling. When we do the (radio) show, it’s just the two of us in a recording studio and we really have a good time, we really make each other laugh.

“Funnily enough, I was around at her house yesterday and was kind of saying: ‘Sherlock’s on tonight, I don’t know how to feel about that’. She is very good at talking you around and going: ‘Here, enjoy this..’ Because I was honestly convinced it wouldn’t have been as much of a big deal as it seems to have been. She’s very good at that kind of thing.”

Sherlock continues on BBC. Stella is expected to air on Sky at the end of January while The Centre is due for RTE in February.

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