In a personal essay penned for Stylist Magazine, Anjli said also working on the BBC drama had taught her about self-acceptance as an Asian woman, as she discussed racism and feminism within the industry.
Speaking about her early experience, she wrote: “I was encouraged to put ‘White’ as my ethnicity on Spotlight, the acting database, because it was the only way to get in the casting room for parts to which I felt closest.”
Noting how it felt strange how her “skin colour has become a national talking point” thanks to her role in ‘Bodyguard’, Anjli revealed she didn’t initially want to play Nadia as she felt the role pushed Islamophobic ideas.
“My response was simple: ‘I can’t do it’,” she said.
“I didn’t want to perpetuate the seemingly Islamophobic narrative (something which, when the first episode aired, viewers accused the show of doing).”
She said, however, that after talking to her agent, and finding out what happened at the end, she felt compelled to play the role.
“This character felt real – she wasn’t a plot device. I was able to give her a personal backstory which I then felt compelled to bring to life. The role wasn’t black or white (or even brown) - it was multi-layered and complex. Just like life.”
The revelation in the final episode that Anjli’s character, Nadia, was an engineer behind the bombings received a mixed reception on social media, with many people saying it added to stereotypes about Muslim people.
However, Anjli said that she felt the role showed the complexity of what leads people to terrorism.
“Anyone (Muslim or otherwise) can be driven to inhumane actions if they’re constantly vilified and dehumanised,” she said.
“These terror groups are funded, organised, even - however inadvertently - radicalised by people of power in the West.”
She also wrote that she felt the show had challenged gender stereotypes, due to the majority of the top jobs in the show being played by women: “Actors were chosen – irrespective of their gender – because they were ‘the best person for the job’.”
Bodyguard’s finale, written by Jed Mercurio, was watched by more than 10 million viewers on Sunday night.
Anjli will be back on screen in the upcoming ITV drama ‘Dark Heart’ later this year, playing junior detective Josie Chancellor.