The first thing I noticed about the extraordinary Nazneen Akhtar Rahim was her voice. As a voice professional I often register with a person on a sonic level before I get to know them. Nazneen’s voice was straight out of the London neighborhood near the British Museum.
I became professionally acquainted with Nazneen through producing work on the talented Joe Lonesome’s web series “Offset.” Joe takes well-known cinematic tropes and re-creates them through the eyes/lens of common folk. Nazneen and I worked on Joe’s “James Bond” episode. In addition to producing duties, I performed the role of Bond’s tech assistant “Q.” It was great fun.
Nazneen was born in Pakistan and, at the ripe old age of 2½, relocated with her brothers and sister to be with her father in London. She took to the English educational system and eventually earned her law degree from Westminster. From there she embarked on a legal career as a human rights lawyer. She has real empathy for the downtrodden and unfortunates in our society and her work has helped many families become whole and healthy.
Nazneen met and fell in love with an American and the two moved to a place about as far from London, England, as it gets: Albuquerque New Mexico. She immediately embraced the hundreds of days of sunlight (as opposed, I guess, to rainy Great Britain). She continually admired the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains out her back yard.
She never imagined a second career in show business, but it was in her blood. Her father, Pervez Akhtar, nicknamed Victor, was active as a background actor in London. He appeared in the “Harry Potter” films in a featured spot but at that time Nazneen was focused on her law work.
Upon arriving in New Mexico, Nazneen registered her two kids for consideration in the background-casting world, and was very surprised one day when she got a call from a casting director placing her in Neil deGrasse Tyson’s acclaimed “Cosmos.” The acting bug that bit her beloved father had now grabbed her. She loved the work on set, but like all actors in the universe, she hated the long waiting periods between the call for “action!”
Nazneen saw that education and information combined to create the key to success in show business. She immediately enrolled in acting classes with one of New Mexico’s premier teachers, Stephen Burhoe. She attended the New Mexico Film and Music Expo and networked with professionals in the business.
Her hard work paid off. Nazneen landed one of the top agents in Albuquerque, Carissa Mitchell. Her dad, Victor, even flew in from London and attended one of Nazneen’s theatrical performances in “The Women” at Albuquerque’s Adobe Theater. He was a proud dad indeed.
Up to this point, Nazneen focused on family and making her way into a difficult profession. She also became aware of the no small matter of citizenship. As a British citizen, she says she took for granted the place of her country and her place in it. She didn’t need permission to live in England.
Her Green Card was her permission here in America, and this privilege afforded her a chance to be employed and, lucky her, to pay taxes. What she was denied, however, was the ability to vote.
When a candidate knocked on her door, all she could do was ask questions, and offer her input to her American citizen husband.
Nazneen started down the road to citizenship. She discovered that one doesn’t waltz into citizenship and that it can be expensive. She encountered skeptical officials but, hey, she already had earned a law degree from a top notch London University. There’s no stopping this brilliant woman.
A few short weeks ago Nazneen Akhtar Rahim published a photograph on Facebook. The photo of a radiant Nazneen announced her as one of the newest citizens of the United States of America.
“I did it for my right to vote!” Nazneen exclaimed to me.
I so look forward to the next time this formidable woman and I work together. I am proud to call her colleague, friend, and fellow American.
“I did it for my right to vote!”
I love the way that sounds.