Nasim Pedrad Talks ‘Chad’ Season 2 and the Joys of Expanding Representation
Teen life can be all cringe. How few of us really want to go back? But it’s fun to watch a show that gets it. “Chad” first premiered on TBS in 2021 as the brainchild of its star, Nasim Pedrad, who sought to tell a coming-of-age romp that also busts TV Middle Eastern stereotypes. It’s all from the vantage point of a quirky Persian-American high schooler juggling the demands of home with being a clueless kid. As is the fate of many original programs, TBS canceled the series after one season. Now it’s been picked up by Roku where the second season is premiering on Roku Channel. Just like its predecessor, it’s a fun serving that might inspire you to look away, just because of how well it evokes the worst of our teenage selves.
Ferydoon Amani aka Chad (Pedrad) ended last season essentially faking a hate crime. The moment was meant to cement his status at school. Instead, it leads to more unwise slips from the teen. That’s the beauty of this series, which isn’t “feel-good” comedy but a hilariously truthful depiction made even stronger by Pedrad remaining in the lead role. She’s like a grown-up walking through memories. This season Chad also tries to do good by helping friends Peter (Jake Ryan) and Denise (Alexa Loo) have a decent spot to have sex. His heart is also overtaken by a new student from Iran, Mona (Sara Malal Rowe), who forces Chad to ponder his cultural duality along with those stinging matters of early romance. Pedrad spoke with Entertainment Voice about “Chad” as a vehicle for representation, capturing youth warts and all and what the future might hold for the series.
“Chad” season two has that same energy from its predecessor where it captures so well the less comfortable realities of teen life. But what can fans expect in this new season that rings differently?
I wanted to stay true to the character and his pathologies and quirks, but I didn’t want it to feel redundant. I knew we couldn’t feel recycling that thread that he wants to be popular. Chad did kind of achieve that at the end of the first season, for all the wrong reasons (laughs). So it was fun breaking down this storyline in the writers’ room to give him a love story and invest in something outside of himself. That’s where Mona comes in and it builds up to the finale.
The way Mona is written is fantastic because she’s a good example of how the show captures the nuances of Persian diaspora life so uniquely.
I always want to write authentically to my culture and people. It’s really for myself because growing up and going to theater school, there was no representation of me and my family. What little representation there was tended to be disparaging or centered around a terror cell (laughs). That’s the only Middle Eastern character I would see pop up in auditions. That led me to writing because I realized I had to write the roles I wanted to play. So aside from playing a funny, ridiculous character in “Chad,” I wanted to make it about a Persian-American family and this family we dive more into the cultural specificity. We were lucky enough this season to cast Oscar-nominated Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, who is such a pillar of the Persian community. I’ve looked up to her for years. She plays Chad’s grandma who is visiting from Iran. I wrote that from my own personal memories of having relatives visit from Iran when I was little.
For a long time in pop culture the image of Persian-Americans was defined by shows like “Shahs of Sunset.” How would you like “Chad” to be seen next to those popular, but boxed in programs?
For anyone who comes from a specific cultural background or a story of immigration you don’t want to be put in any singular box. You want to be seen as a community that has a range of people and traditions and types. You don’t want to be labeled as any one specific thing. I’m grateful I can portray a Persian-American family authentic to my experience while still supporting other artists who are writing TV shows that feel authentic to their experience. Initially, when “Shahs of Sunset” came out there were people in the community nervous about it, the root of that concern is that we had not been represented at all for so long. When people made the comparison that “hey, well, Italians have ‘The Jersey Shore’,” a lot of Iranians were like, “Yeah, but Italians also have ‘The Sopranos.’” So it wasn’t about being against “Shahs of Sunset” but about being boxed in and with time I’ve seen that change. We can have the fun reality show with wild, dynamic characters while having a half-hour comedy about a relatively normal family. Does that make sense?
Yeah, absolutely. Every community within itself is very diverse.
Exactyl. With representation that goal isn’t just to check off a box but to create characters that feel like they come from a place of empathy and humanity.
Your own career has been very eclectic. Many of us remember you from “Saturday Night Live” and those great skits you did on that show. In what ways did that time in your career prepare you for doing “Chad” as both star and showrunner?
I’m so grateful for the time I had on that show. There’s no better boot camp to learn how to survive but how to assemble your arsenal when creating your own show. It’s so encompassing and time-consuming. It demands a great deal of focus and collaboration. By the time I made my own show, I was very experienced in pulling off many things in a short amount of time. You’ll never know what a short amount of time means until you’re doing “SNL.” At least on “Chad,” if we got rained out of a location, we could do rewrites without feeling like we’re going live in an hour (laughs).
You were also very vocal about the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement during the Iranian uprising in late 2022, early 2023. Have these last two years turned you into the kind of artist who remains more politically active going into the future?
Absolutely. I don’t want to speak for everyone in the diaspora but I know I’m not alone in feeling as an Iranian living outside of Iran that I feel such a connection to my homeland, but I also feel responsibility to do what people in the country can’t do. There’s no civic society in Iran. You can’t speak out freely. If you’re at all involved in any opposition you’re imprisoned and silenced. Your internet is cut off. There’s no freedom of speech. So it makes me much more responsible to be their megaphone. My goal is to amplify their voices. As of right now we’re working on a gender apartheid campaign to get the international criminal courts to recognize gender apartheid in Iran. Right now, apartheid is only seen as it relates to racial hierarchies. Change takes time. Revolutions take time. What gives me hope for the future is that 70% of the country is under the age of 40 and they just want to live like the rest of us. A lot of them are not even religious but even the ones that are want a separation of church and state. They want to see a secular democracy thrive in Iran.
And to close off, what can we expect from you next? Will there be a “Chad” season three?
Well considering where we leave Chad at the end, it would be really funny to see how we pick up with him if the show were to continue. But the finale feels like a hilarious way to end the show if we don’t continue. I’m so excited just to promote the show right now. It’s a joy to do press for something that you love. I feel so lucky to spread the word on how funny season two is. I love promoting it in this new family of Roku. Most smart TVs have Roku and even on your phone you can stream it for free on the app. The feedback has been awesome so far.
“Chad” season two begins streaming Jan. 19 on Roku Channel.