For this year’s Women of the Year issue, we asked some inspiring women—past honorees, athletes, and more—to reflect on their work. Next up is actor, writer, and now-showrunner Nasim Pedrad. She’s someone who knows how to go big with her performances: It’s what made her sketches on Saturday Night Live so memorable, and what made her stand out among an epic cast in this summer’s Aladdin. When it came time to develop her own television series, that approach came in handy. Read on for Pedrad in her own words, and head here to buy your tickets for our annual summit and awards ceremony in New York City on November 10 and 11.
Early in my career, either people had specific ideas about who I should be as an Iranian American actor, or they didn’t know where I fit in. At that time so much of the representation of Middle Easterners on TV was predominantly negative. I wanted to play Middle Eastern characters who were funny, nuanced, and flawed. Since those weren’t available, I knew I had to create them myself. That’s why I started writing.
After five seasons on Saturday Night Live, I was determined and excited to create my own show. I had a development deal with a studio and wanted to write something that felt honest to my experience growing up in America as a child of immigrants. That’s how I landed on Chad. I then spent the next five years fighting for it to see the light of day.
Initially, when I pitched the series and told the network I wanted to play a 14-year-old boy, the idea was met with legitimate confusion and concern. The network was on board with the show conceptually, but they really wanted me to play the mom. In fairness, they had every reason to believe I’d pitch them a show where I’d play an adult woman. But a show centered around me as a 14-year-old boy was what I wanted to make. I knew it was a swing, but I also knew it could work.
Playing Chad was a battle I had to win. Having an actual teenager play him would have completely changed the tone and comedic sensibility, the whole DNA of the show. I thought we could push the comedy so much further if Chad was played by an adult who’s in on the joke.
There were so many times I was politely encouraged to write something else. But I believed in Chad, and I didn’t give up until I found a home for my vision. There’s a saying that goes, “They’re going to cancel you anyway, so make the show you really want to make.” I’ve been living by that, and am thrilled for people to finally get to meet this jarringly awkward young man.
Nasim Pedrad, who will host the Women of the Year Summit on November 10, is the creator, writer, and star of the forthcoming TBS series Chad.
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