Before she went into acting, Aiysha Hart seriously considered becoming a lawyer so she could fight for women’s rights. While the arresting 30-year-old eventually ended up in front of the camera, she aims to broach feminism, a topic she is fervent about, through her roles.
In her latest part, Hart, who describes herself as an intersectional feminist, plays Polaire, a fascinating French/Algerian actress and singer who stands up for what she believes in, including freedom of expression. She also questions societal constraints. The film, “Colette,” is a biography about French author Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, played by Keira Khightley. Colette consented to ghostwrite novels for her husband, which gave him all the acclaim. And when “Claudine” was adapted into a play, Polaire took the lead role, which turned her into a star. Ultimately, it’s about how a woman took control of her career.
Aiysha Hart, Dominic West, and Keira Knightley in “Colette”
“By virtue of being a female in the job that I am in, you automatically become a role model in some way, whether you choose that or not. I’m careful of the things I advocate and the message I put out there,” Hart told “Vogue” Arabia. “In a world of Instagram and selfies, I hope I can offer young women something beyond the aesthetic and demonstrate that power comes from a realm outside of the patriarchal gaze. I’d rather offer something relatable than something unattainable.”
While Hart’s mother has always instilled a go get them attitude, it was while she was studying English Literature at King’s College London, where she achieved a first-class degree, that the strong-minded and eloquent actress became really knowledgeable about women's lib. The star has the power to communicate her thoughts directly and admires other strong women like American actress, model and activist Yara Shahidi. Hart also salutes Haifaa Al-Mansour, who became Saudi Arabia’s first female director, for inspiring other creative women in the region.
The clever and witty actress, who became aware of certain constraints on women while visiting Saudi as a teenager and young adult, is now optimistic about female roles in the Kingdom. “It’s often forgotten that throughout Islamic history there has been a long tradition of female freedom to pursue scholarship and civic participation,” Hart also has also said to “Vogue” Arabia. “I hope the developments we see in Saudi Arabia over the next few years will honour this heritage.”
Racism and cultural misrepresentation are other important topics for Hart, who also had post-graduate drama training. With an English mother who hails from Liverpool and a Saudi father, the woke actress knows what it feels like not to really fit in. When her parents moved back to England when she was three, the other students at her school in Surrey made it hard for her to feel like she belonged. Thankfully, she was introduced to acting, which served as a kind of release and really helped her blossom. Finding something she was good at was the boost she needed while struggling with academia and self-confidence.
Aiysha Hart in ”Honour”
The down-to-earth and modest Hart now feels being bi-racial helped shape her character for the better. Her cross-cultural upbringing means she has a unique mix of beliefs. The compelling actress is proud of her dual heritage and still speaks Arabic fluently. She fondly remembers her carefree, formative years in Riyadh. Visiting family, the colourful sunsets, that magical time at dusk and hearing the call to prayer are some of the things she likes the most about the Kingdom.
Hart always chooses ventures that see her playing an inspiring character that has a valuable story to tell. “I aspire to be involved in projects that say something and have meaning beyond just entertainment,” she told “Vogue” Arabia.
Polaire, who ran away from Algeria as a child and became a big stage and cinema celebrity in Paris, was a character she found fascinating and exciting to research. Hart also appears in another recent release, “A Discovery of Witches.” She stars as a 2,000-year-old vampire geneticist in the screen edition of the make-believe trilogy. The talent, whose gorgeous eyebrows have become a social media fixation, had her first leading role in “Honour.” In the 2014 movie that was filmed in Dubai, she plays Mona, who is threatened with an honour killing. Hart shot her first film,“Djinn,” a year before.
Aiysha Hart and her “Atlantis” co-star
The actress is a familiar face on British TV thanks to acting in a number of hit BBC dramas like the award-winning “Line of Duty,” “New Blood” and “Atlantis,” a big budget, action-packed fantasy drama that was aired during prime time. She has also starred in “Occupational Hazards,” a politically inclined play.
As she continues playing diverse roles, Hart hopes to become part of a more inclusive, equal and open-minded industry. “The problem extends far beyond the issue of salary and underrepresentation. Age, race, ethnicity and sexuality further complicate an already extremely challenging industry for women,” she told “Fault” Magazine. “What I will say though, is that because so many high profile females are speaking out about gender inequality and the pay gap, I think things are really starting to change. I’m excited to be around at a time when this gender debate is really gaining momentum, and I believe the industry is transforming.”
Hart also wants to keep finding roles that challenge her, reading scripts that stimulate her and working with people who motivate her.