Nasim Pedrad Gives Guys a Blueprint for Growing Up in ‘Chad’
In Chad, Nasim Pedrad plays the titular high schooler, a teenage Iranian-American boy navigating high school. In its second season, now available on Roku, you’ll forget the SNL and New Girl alum is actually, you know, a grown woman in a wig and baggy jeans. Which is only part of its charm and delight.
I talked with Pedrad about what has and hasn’t changed about high school style, her advice for guys after playing one, and, of course, Taylor Swift.
In her Time Person of the Year profile, Taylor Swift called out the “Dads, Brads and Chads,” and I’m curious how much of the show’s marketing budget was spent on that product placement by Roku?
I can honestly say if 100% of it was, it was well worth it. It’s so funny, because at the time I named the character, it didn’t have all the connotations it does now. It’s funny to see it take a life of its own in that regard.
To me, when we were breaking season one and thinking of having this Iranian-American character who was born with a very ethnic-sounding name like Fereydun, I kept thinking, What’s the most American-sounding name a kid like that would want to be called? and that’s what we came up with.
So you weren’t trying to reclaim Chad?
Right, it was pre-that Chad.
I’m guessing you did a lot of research into high school style and I will preface this by saying, I’ve spent zero time in a high school since graduating in the early 2000s. So, is it just…not different, or was this an intentional choice to have the fashion appeal to and feel familiar to millennials like me?
The puzzle of getting me to believably look like a 14-year-old boy led us down a very narrow path. There weren’t that many wigs that would work. That many designs of eyebrows that sold me as a boy. Nor were there many kinds of clothes.
For example, obviously there are plenty of teenage boys that wear tighter pants. You just couldn’t hide my hips enough when I wore skinny jeans so we knew that wouldn’t work. And the whole goal of collaborating with these amazing hair and makeup and wardrobe teams was to really make sure that I disappear into physically looking enough like the character so you’re not coming in and out of being willing to suspend your disbelief that I am this character.
Without the eyebrows and I’m just wearing that wig, I looked like Kris Jenner. Like, it didn’t work. You needed every component for it to work at all.
So obviously the wardrobe is a huge part of that. And it helped to put him in baggy clothes so that my own figure as a woman is less identifiable and you kind of just buy that this kid looks boyish.
Has this been the most comfortable you’ve ever been filming?
Except for taping my boobs down. Barring that, it was very comfy to be in baggy clothes all the time. I have really long hair, though, so the wig prep was probably the most time-consuming part of the transformation. And gluing down the eyebrows everyday. But that’s why you work with these pros who pull it off so efficiently every morning.
Did the eyebrows get bigger from season 1 to season 2?
They really took on a life of their own, right?
Sometimes they’d be a little curlier. They’d have to shampoo them. Or, “Oh, there’s a little cowlick we didn’t see before.”
What, to you, was the height of guys’ style in high school?
I grew up in southern California, so it was skate and surf culture. Kids wore Dickies and Vans. Vans feels timeless at this point but it was a lot of surfwear. Billabong. Quiksilver. A lot of Rainbows flip flops, and tees and boardshorts for the guys. And for the girls, Quiksilver, Roxy. All of that.
Fashion is so cyclical. The kids playing opposite Chad were all Gen Z. Sometimes they’d be wearing things that feel like a throwback, but it just came back around. This 90s vibe is back. I wouldn’t have necessarily anticipated that until I was shooting with them.
Are you worried that Chad is on Reddit?
I think we should all be worried about that! (laughs) I mean, there’s just so much information on the internet and that’s part of what was fun about setting the show in present day. To tackle the things that kids have to deal with that I didn’t necessarily have to deal with.
That they have the internet at their fingertips where they can access any information whenever they want, and on top of that, they’re under the microscope of social media. So it felt like a cool opportunity to tell a coming of age story that also deals with the specific nightmarish reality of being a teenager today in ways that I look back and I’m like, Oh my gosh thank goodness I didn’t have to deal with that.
At one point, Chad’s mom goes on a date with a man who shows up in Birkenstock sandals and no socks. Is there any piece of clothing men wear that gives you the ick?
I mean, I’m always weirdly confused when people wear open-toed shoes or flip flops on an airplane? That never makes sense to me. I don’t know if that’s a weird thing to take umbrage with, though.
But style is so specific to someone’s vibe, so regardless of how out there it is, if someone’s confident and comfortable in it, that’s what comes through. I’ve seen the craziest shit on people that wear it so confidently that it completely works, and I’m like, I respect that.
If you’re not going to be comfortable, then obviously there are lanes you can stay in to play it more safe. But I think it comes down to how it makes someone feel. And the version of themselves that they’re putting out there. If it feels authentic to who they are on the inside.
What do you want men to know about being a man today?
I guess I’m really lucky in that I spend time with men who celebrate women, and who are not apologetic for having a male perspective but also celebrate and cherish the women in their lives. Whether it’s the ones that raised them, or the ones they happen to be romantically involved with.
So I tend to gravitate towards a more progressive man in my own life. But I was lucky enough that that was the male role model I had growing up—a dad that raised two girls and taught them they could be anything they want to be.
In terms of playing a man, or I should say a boy, for Chad, it’s more a game of survival. And part of the comedic engine of the show is him, having to reconcile with his own masculinity at a time when other people are growing up faster than he is. He wants to be a cool guy but he’s still a little kid.
That’s what’s so wild and horrifying about high school. You’re going to class with kids who are having sex, but you might still be playing with toys on the weekend. Everyone’s developing at a different rate. So for me as an actor it was really fun playing a boy that was possibly a little delayed in that regard and panicking because of it.