Zaib Shaikh

Zaib Shaikh
Place of Birth: 
Toronto, ON
Graduation Years: 
Department / Division: 
Honours BA
joint program in theatre and drama

Our theatre and drama studies program was very much ahead of its time in terms of addressing and considering gender, culture and diversity.

Zaib Shaikh

When Zaib Shaikh’s high school drama teacher suggested to his parents that he had acting talent that should be supported, the logical next step was to apply to UTM’s joint program in theatre and drama studies.

“I wanted to act, but I also wanted to think and talk about drama,” he says. “It was a great program, so it made perfect sense. I also had the ability to commute from home and work when not in class or rehearsals and that made sure I wasn’t too much of a burden on my parents.”

Shaikh delighted in being part of a new program where “there was a feeling of newness and a feeling that anything was possible. We were literally forging new ground and it was fun to be there helping to create new traditions.”

Shaikh loves the craft of acting because “you’re trying to make sense of humanity in an artful way. You try to play and understand a human being who isn’t you, and sharing that experience nightly adds a collective aspect that’s interesting.” However, at UTM, he also enjoyed the more cerebral side of the business, soaking up literature classes, with “the opportunity to be inspired by those who came before us.”

Despite living at the family home during his UTM days, Shaikh says, “I spent more time on campus than not. We were usually at the theatre rehearsing late. Theatre is a lot of work and you have to put in your hours, so that became the norm.”

After graduation, Shaikh pursued an acting career. He is best known to Canadian audiences for his role as the imam in the CBC-TV comedy, Little Mosque on the Prairie. Today, he serves as the City of Toronto’s director of film and entertainment, heading a team that is helping to build Toronto into a media and entertainment powerhouse.

“I’m the first person to lead the newly created team of film and entertainment staff at the city,” he says. “Just like at UTM, I like being part of building something new. It’s interesting and exciting to me to try to bring the sum of all of my experiences to bear and say something fresh.”