By Easwaran Rutnam
She was best known in Sri Lanka for her character ‘Auntie Netta’ and for the roles she played in Prasanna Vithanage’s films Ira Madiyama (August Sun) and Akasa Kusum (Flowers of the Sky).
However, today Nimmi Harasgama is making it big on British television in the medical drama series ‘The Good Karma Hospital’, which is set to shoot its third season later this year.
Shot in Unawatuna, the Good Karma Hospital sees Nimmi play the role of head nurse Marie Rodriguez.
Nimmi told Leisure Plus that her character has a more prominent role in the second series, with some emotional storylines, after being well received by the audience in the first series.
On being picked for the role, Nimmi said that she was contacted by Prasad Pereira who handled the local casting for the television series.
Nimmi was in Los Angeles at the time of casting and that became a tricky situation.
Nimmi sent her demo and details to the head of casting in London but it seemed her chances were getting slim as Good Karma Hospital auditioned in the UK, Sri Lanka and India for the roles.
“I did not want to give up. Reading the script the show looked amazing and the role so perfect for me. Also, between you and me, I really wanted to come to Sri Lanka to see my mom here because I hadn’t been to Sri Lanka for more than two years,” she said smiling.
And her determination and, possibly, perseverance paid off. Nimmi got the role.
“Nurse Mari’s character wasn’t as prominent in series one but in series 2 the writer/creator Dan Sefton, who is a doctor, expanded the role and we get to see more of who Mari is and learn about her life outside the hospital bigger. It has been an awesome experience. Everyone involved, the Sri Lankan and international cast and crew, the executives, everyone has been fantastic and so supportive. And, we are very excited because we just found out that they have commissioned a third series,” she said.
Nimmi says it was a surprise to her how many people loved the show and her character. On social media, her fans include nurses who feel she is doing a good job as a nurse in the series.
“It is really nice to play somebody that is loved. The feedback on social media is lovely to read. It’s a really interesting experience to be in a show that has become so big in the UK and Australia,” she said.
Nimmi said that her first time on the set of Good Karma Hospital was rather emotional as there is a large local crew involved and most of them were people she had worked with in the past.
The local location service and production for the Good Karma Hospital is handled by The Film Team.
Nimmi says it was a great experience to be able to return to Sri Lanka and work on a British television series with actors she has watched on television when she was growing up.
There has been some criticism though in Sri Lanka that Good Karma Hospital, while being shot in Sri Lanka, is about a hospital based in Kerala.
When asked about this Nimmi insists that all the actors, when interviewed by the foreign media, speak glowingly about Sri Lanka, how lovely the people are, how amazing the filming locations are, and what a beautiful country Sri Lanka is.
She said that, in fact, the show might be increasing tourism because there were numerous instances of busloads of tourists from Australia and the UK stopping by the set. On social media there are tourists who tag #GoodKarmaHospital and post a picture of themselves standing at the front gates.
In fact, Nimmi tells the story of a British couple who arrived at the main filming location in Unawatuna oblivious to the fact that filming was under way. Nimmi met them outside and they were so excited that she offered to take them inside to meet the star Amanda Redman.
“They were over the moon, they had tears when they met Amanda, and they ended up being extras in the show. They got to wear bandages and walk around in the background of the scene like patients. It was amazing.”
Apart from Unawatuna, Good Karma Hospital is shot in other parts of Sri Lanka as well giving a lot of exposure to Sri Lanka as a film location and adding to the local economy.
So what happened to Auntie Netta? Nimmi says she has put the character to bed at the moment but she can always come out if need be.
Auntie Netta is a character that Nimmi created, an eccentric old woman who conducts interviews with prominent personalities using her own style which makes you laugh out loud.
The character was a hit in Sri Lanka when it was shown on ETV television and also became a You Tube sensation.
“I came up with this character when I was in England and I was home and bored,” she said.
A theater company in England liked the character and wanted her to do a one woman show for them which she took to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Nimmi says she even used the ‘Auntie Netta’ character to explore the asylum seeker issue in England.
“As much as she was funny, the show tried to explore some sensitive issues about asylum and immigration that continue to be in the UK news to this day,” she said.
Nimmi says eventually working with Auntie Netta was too exhausting and so she decided to give the character a rest.
Nimmi has also appeared on the British television series Doctors and following her appearance on Good Karma Hospital she was approached to appear in an episode on the British BBC series Requiem that is also available here in Sri Lanka on NETFLIX..
She played the role of a detective in Requiem and Nimmi admits that playing the role of a detective has always been her dream.
In addition to her acting Nimmi is also a writer and a play she has written will have a staged reading in London this May.
Nimmi says that she has received a lot of support from the local film industry, including when she got the role in Good Karma Hospital.
“I think it is important, especially in this industry here in Sri Lanka, because it’s so small, that we do support each other coz then great things can come out of that,” she said.
She also noted that the talent in Sri Lanka is huge and if there is more funding for it then it has the potential to grow.
“There is so much the Sri Lankan film industry can offer this country and it’s not been tapped into. People in the business sector should see the Sri Lankan film industry as a viable business venture,” she said.
A mother of one child, Nimmi says she is selective on the roles she now accepts but notes the support she gets from her husband for her work.
Apart from acting and being a wife and mother, while Nimmi is in Sri Lanka, she also teaches a ‘Drama & Movement’ for kids at Prana Lounge on Saturdays with Tanuja Perera Raymond. (Leisureplus.lk)