"PRU" Star Kosar Ali Explained That Controversial Somali Lesbian Line
"I think that's the whole point of it: You're not meant to laugh."
Kosar Ali made her acting debut less than a year ago, in Rocks. Since then, she's gone on to win two British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) for her role as Sumaya: one for Best Supporting Actress and another for Best Promising Newcomer. She was also nominated for a BAFTA for Supporting Actress.
Now Ali is starring in the BBC comedy show PRU, as pupil Hanna. For those of you who don't know, PRU stands for Pupil Referral Unit, an alternative schooling system in the UK for badly behaved students.
Here, Ali speaks to BuzzFeed News about her experience in her second acting role, and her thoughts about her character, Hanna.
How did you find watching the show?
KA: It's always weird when you're watching yourself on screen. So the first time I was cringing, but when I rewatched it, it was good.
It was a bit new though, because I've never done a comedy before, and comedy is not really my genre. But it was nice... It was something new. I haven't seen something like that before. So it was cool.
You were definitely a natural, so comedy might be your thing. This is the second time you've acted. Did it feel any different from the first time?
KA: I think when we were doing Rocks, it was very different in terms of like, we were all new to it. No one [had] ever acted before. Everything was a learning step, and there was just majority women on set. So now when I went on this set it was like, Oh, OK, so this is how it actually is. And those professional actors, like Tom Moutchi, who is sick. So yeah, it was different but the same.
Your character, Hanna — did you relate to her in any way?
KA: She kind of reminded me of myself when I was in Year 9. When you're young, and like, annoying in school. So when I was in Year 9, that's what she reminded me of.
What were you like in school? Did you get excluded? Did you go as far as a PRU?
KA: No, I've never been to a PRU. I have friends that have been, but I have never been to a PRU. I think I was always the cheeky one. You know, the one that's like, always starting the trouble but getting out of it because the teachers like you. Yeah, that's how I was. I did move from one of my schools to another school. But I wasn't as bad as Hanna though.
What was one of your favourite moments from off-set?
KA: I think when we scared one of the cast members, Jaye Eservas. So me and one of the producers went upstairs — it was a two-storey building, and it used to be a hospital once, so he was really spooked out about the building already — so one of them took him upstairs. And we were hiding in the rooms and started making noises. And he was like shaking around. So that was funny.
When you spoke to us about Rocks, you spoke about representation. Do you feel that you'll be filling a gap with PRU, because it's a TV show this time?
KA: I hope so. I feel like it would be nice to see a hijabi Somali young lady on [the] BBC. Haven't seen that before. So I think that'll be cool.
Growing up, what was your favourite BBC show?
KA: I'm gonna say the Four O'Clock Club. That was CBBC though, not BBC. I liked Four O'Clock Club a lot.
That moment: "How can I be a lesbian anyway? I'm Somali." Some people might not find it funny. Did you have any thoughts about that? (NB: Since we spoke to Ali, this moment has gone viral.)
KA: I think it was definitely an interesting line to break down. But in terms of some people might not find it funny, I think that's the whole point of it: You're not meant to laugh. I think it's meant to contradict the whole the cultural view we have of, if you're Somali, you can't like be part of the LGBTQ community.
So I think it's not really meant to be funny. It's kind of meant to be, like, basically, she's young and she's silly.
What was your favourite moment on set?
KA: So when we did the pilot, my favourite part was throwing a chair. That was really fun. I hit the light and broke it and then I nearly hit one of the dudes in the face. It was fun to throw a chair.
What do you want people to take away from watching Hanna in PRU?
KA: I hope people laugh. She definitely has a journey coming her way. People get to see this part of her, but she has so much more to her coming. So I hope people laugh and relate to her.
Is there anything you want to do in the future, like a type of show or film? What would you want to throw out there into the universe?
KA: I think I'd want to be in something that's set in the olden days, you know, different from the world we're in now. A period piece or action.
PRU is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now.