Ahead of the sitcom’s April premiere, the actress and showrunner discussed her choice to play a teenage girl herself and how Chad’s identity struggles reflect her own experiences growing up Iranian-American.
When it comes to sitcoms exploring the challenges of adolescence and making their way through high school, awkwardness is pretty much a guarantee. For Nasim Pedrad and his new TBS sitcom Chad, the 39-year-old actress and showrunner makes sure audiences both cringe and laugh as she plays her protagonist, a 14-year-old Iranian boy who is desperate to fit in.
Walk the halls of Westpark High asFerydoon “Chad” Amani, the Saturday Night Live alumna portrays a teenage boy desperately trying to become popular in all embarrassing bad ways. Sometimes this means that Chad is minimizing, or sometimes totally ignoring, its Persian heritage. No matter how much advice or warnings (many of warnings) Chad receives from his relatives his single mother Naz (Saba Homayoon), his uncle Hamid (Paul Chahidi) or his best friend Peter (Eigth year‘s Jake Ryan), he seems to be a magnet for humiliation and embarrassment.
Hollywood journalist spoke with Pedrad ahead of the sitcom’s April premiere to discuss her choice to play a teenage girl herself, how Chad’s identity struggles reflect her own experiences growing up Iranian-American, and why the series will be accessible to everyone (unless you have been one of the popular kids, maybe).
How does it feel to see this series finally come to life on TBS?
It was a real labor of love. I wrote the first draft, five years ago, I think, and it’s been a real journey to get it here. I think for me it was worth the wait until he ended up landing at TBS, which seems to have been such a good fit for the show.
What was your initial inspiration for the series and the choice to play yourself as a 14-year-old Persian boy?
I love to write about adolescence and the awkwardness of that time. So it was important for me to create something that was honest with my experience growing up as an immigrant child in America. I also thought it would be a fun experience to tell a coming-of-age story where the teenager was played by an adult who is in the joke, the joke being all of us as adults having that prospect of understanding what’s so funny about being a teenager, right? So I just thought you could take the comedy a lot further if Chad was played by an adult and the fun times can be more fun and less sad because you’re not sitting there laughing at a real Iranian kid. , you laugh at an adult who has a certain distance from him. Such funny times can be funnier and less painful with this lens. That was our intention, anyway. Then I really thought I could just disappear looking like a little guy using the wig and eyebrows and posture and lowering my voice slightly. All this, I felt like I could get away from myself, the actor.
Narratively, the series is filled with awkward and embarrassing storylines (like Chad lying about having sex to increase his popularity). What did you like the most and what was the most difficult to write and perform these scenes?
For me, the funniest aspect I would say about producing is improvising because that’s what kept the fun and freshness for me as a performer. You have to keep in mind at that point, I had already been with the material for 14 weeks in the writers’ room. So these jokes and this dialogue, it was quite familiar to me. Often times when you hear something that many times or have been with it for that long it can start to sound a little stale. So that was a really fun thing, being able to be on set and open takes and do alts and improvise and invent things on the spot, it certainly kept it fresh and interesting for me as an actor. I would say maybe one of the hardest things with the show was in the editing, trying to do it over time. We ended up losing a lot of the stuff that really made us laugh just because we didn’t really have time to do it. There were a few instances where we had to cut scenes or had to cut small series that worked, but in order to time the show at typically 21 minutes and 30 seconds, we ended up parting with things that made us laugh. Overall it was so much fun, every step of the way. From the writing phase to production, to editing. It was really fun creating this character and bringing it to life, which I knew was important if I was going to tackle a company as big as this, where I write and produce and wear a bunch of hats. different. It was important that the character was fun and made me laugh. And I was lucky to have had this with Chad.
From the hope of becoming popular to the desire to appreciate one’s own culture,Chad explores adolescence and all itsmany embarrassing situations. How much do your own experiences growing up play in the story?
Adolescents already have difficulty identifying their identity and feeling accepted by their peers. And then if you’re an immigrant child on top of that, that’s just one more thing to do to integrate. But sure, you don’t have to be an immigrant kid to enjoy the show because everyone remembers what it’s like to be in high school and wanting to belong. More precisely, with what I was inspired by and this aspect of Chad is to be of these two cultures, to be in a way caught between these two cultures. I remember being at that age and obviously loved my heritage. I loved my parents. But there was this internal struggle in that I sometimes played down my heritage and felt embarrassed about that part of me because all I wanted was to belong and feel like everyone else. I didn’t want to stand out in particular. I just wanted to fit in. I think that’s an interesting tension that I had in my teenage years that I hoped to bring to life with the character of Chad feeling almost guilty at times for running away from the otherness that comes with being a stranger and how terrifying that is. can feel when all you are trying to do is belong.
While the show gives us plenty of situations that many can relate to, such as a teenager navigating their freshman year of high school, living with divorced parents, or struggling to find their own identity, it’s also great to see a sitcom. highlight Persian families. Can you explain why this show can provide laughs for everyone while putting a positive and relatable spotlight on Persian culture?
When I was growing up I didn’t see a half hour comedy centered around, you know, a Middle Eastern family let alone a Persian family. In fact, much of the portrayal of Middle Easterners on television that I saw was mostly negative, which was very alienating. I didn’t see any Persians on TV who looked like the Persians around me, not just in my family, but in my community. I did not understand. I was like, “Why are the Middle Eastern people on American TV just bad guys?” Like what about those of us who live here who are like all of you, except for the specific cultural elements that we celebrate and still retain. So I hope people watch the show and can actually recognize that yes this family is Persian American, but I hope they can tap into how many similarities we all have and how much we all have in common. . I think Chad’s desires as a teenager aren’t that different from what a lot of teenagers want. I think what Nas sets out to accomplish in her personal life and as a mom is no different than what a lot of moms want, regardless of their culture. So while I was delighted to show cultural specificity in an authentic way, I was also hopeful that the show could be accessible and accessible to everyone.
What do you hope audiences take away and enjoy the most of watching Chad?
I hope when people see Chad, certainly first and foremost are able to laugh at how ridiculous it is. I hope people see Chad and identify with him either in themselves or in someone they knew in high school. That they find something human, funny and specific about this character that allows them to connect on a certain level because that’s what storytelling is. It’s about connecting to something and feeling invested in it … overall hopefully making people laugh, what better time than now, you know. I think we can all use a chuckle.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.Chad premieres April 6 at 10:30 p.m. on TBS.
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