Ex-Corrie star Shobna Gulati on struggles as actor of colour and new stage show with son Akshay

Entertainment correspondent Caroline Whitmore has been chatting to Shobna Gulati and her son, Akshay Gulati

British actor Shobna Gulati says film and theatre casting should be about "ability" over "colour", as she embarks on a UK stage tour with her son.

Shobna, who is originally from Oldham, shot to fame as Anita in the Manchester-based sitcom Dinnerladies, before playing the iconic Coronation Street character Sunita Alahan.

The 55-year-old is now starring alongside her son, Akshay Gulati, in the The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.

Shobna Gulati stars alongside Ian Kelsey and Christina Bianco in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. Credit: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Shobna plays Mari Hoff - a character she says she's "dreamed of playing" for years.

"To have the opportunity as an actor to play her now - given my cultural background and the struggles I've faced as an actor of colour - it's something that I've always dreamed of", she explains.

"They've widened the casting net. It's not necessarily now about the colour of my skin, it's about the ability to play the part - and that's all that I've ever wanted."

The Olivier award-winning comedy-drama from Jim Cartwright has earned international acclaim across the globe.

It tells the story of shy northern girl Little Voice, played by Christina Bianco, who has a talent for mimicking famous singers.

Shobna Gulati stars alongside her son and fellow actor Akshay Gulati in the theatre show. Credit: ITV News

Shobna plays her mother Mari Hoff and Akshay has taken on the role of Billy, Little Voice's boyfriend, in the theatre show.

"When he was growing up I thought he might be a doctor, but he misspelled it and ended up an actor", Shobna laughs.

Asked whether he enjoys working with his mum, Akshay said: "It's been lovely. Don't get me wrong, with your family there is always challenges.

"But I'm really lucky to have someone so experienced and worldly."

Shobna and son, Akshay. Credit: Family photo

Shobna said: "In the rehearsal room it's not mother and son, it's two actors - and that's been very interesting to relinquish that control of being his mum.

"We can't forget being mother and son, but we kind of have to."

You can see Shobna and Ashkay in the The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at the Liverpool Playhouse, before heading to Salford's Lowry Theatre and Blackpool Grand.

For tickets, visit their website.

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