Nasim Pedrad first created her comedy, “Chad,” in which she also stars as the titular teenage Persian boy, in 2016. Then it was set up as a pilot at Fox, but now, as Iran is increasingly in the news due to Donald Trump’s strike on military leader Qassem Soleimani, the show prepares to launch its 10-episode first season on TBS.
“I’m not worried about the comedic elements landing differently,” Pedrad said at the Televison Critics Assn. press tour panel for the show on Wednesday. “My heart is with the Iranian people. I was born there, I have family there, so I think the people of Iran are not dissimilar to us in that they want what we want: They want freedom and they want peace. I am so in awe of their resilience and strength as they continue to stand up against this regime and fight for their basic human rights. I fully support them.”
Pedrad added that she does “feel a sense of responsiblity” in telling this story, not only because of recent news, but also because of her own experience as an immigrant and child of immigrants. In creating and acting on the show, she wanted to instill her titular character with authenticity and honesty.
“It’s a character-driven show and that character happens to be Iranian American,” she said, noting that while there are elements of the character that are very specific, she believes everyone can relate to his desire to fit in.
Although her character is male, Pedrad said there is a lot of her own adolescent experience in his first season journey. Chad is “scared to grow up” and also a “late bloomer,” which Pedrad said she was, too. “It’s about this very awkward 14-year-old boy who’s navigating his first year of high school on a mission to become popular. It’s very overwhelming for him.”
One of the ways Chad attempts to be accepted by his peers is by pretending he has already had sex. Pedrad admitted that this version of the show is able to “explore sexuality in a way that I don’t know that I could have gotten away with on network TV.”
“Unfortunately the lie goes too far and he’s in over his head,” Pedrad said of Chad pretending he’s had sex. “In almost every episode he gets his ass handed to him, usually by his own doing, but he never loses hope that tomorrow will be different.”
That sense of optimism is an important tone for the show, she continued, noting that she didn’t want the characters around Chad to be bullies, and also wanted to offer a different take on an Iranian American character from what was depicted in film and television when she was growing up.
“So much of the depiction of middle easterners on TV was predominantly negative. I didn’t grow up with a half-hour comedy with people who look like me. Most of them were actively working against Jack Bauer on ’24.’ That was my very limited exposure to people that looked like me, and that’s what’s so exciting about making this show,” she said. “Creating a character that has nuance and depth and even flaws, that’s representation. … I think the only thing worse than no representation is a sweaty or contrived attempt at it.”