Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Nasim Pedrad on Chad season 2 and her high threshold for cringe comedy

Nasim Pedrad in the Chad season one finale
Nasim Pedrad in the Chad season one finale
Photo: Scott Patrick Green/TBS

The first season of TBS’s cringe comedy Chad was built on the premise that the show’s titular character is desperate to join the ranks of his high school’s popular kids. The finale, which aired on May 25, finally lets Chad achieve this goal, but not in the way he hoped. He pranks his own locker to mislead his peers into thinking a cheerleader did it, but as with everything he does, Chad goes overboard. The spotlight is on him after everyone believes (erroneously) he was the victim of a hate crime. Not only does Chad continue to lie about it, he also gets elected school president, losing his actual best friend Peter (Jake Ryan) in the process.

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Chad creator and Saturday Night Live alum Nasim Pedrad, who plays the 14-year-old teenage boy, tells the A.V. Club that this cliffhanger creates immense storytelling potential. “He’s built this house of cards that might come crashing down on him,” Pedrad says.

The show was recently renewed for a second season, and Pedrad is eager to expand the world that was established in season one, including making Chad face the consequences of his dishonesty and frequent disobedience. “I’m excited to explore what happens if and when he is found out and how it intersects with his other objectives, like finding love or setting out to find his dad,” she says. Pedrad adds that it was important for her to see Chad and Peter’s relationship come to a head in “Finale,” when the latter does something for himself for a change—he supports his girlfriend Denise (Alexa Loo) and reveals Chad’s secret to her. “You see it a bit in the previous episode, ‘Lakehouse,’ but I wanted to convey that it’s the first time you wonder if these two can really recover their friendship.” Her primary notion as they kick around ideas for season two is to make sure it feels new and isn’t a retread of what season one’s already accomplished with its storytelling and effective cringe humor.

Chad’s coming-of-age story is mostly presented through the lens of awkward and wince-worthy situational comedy. On its own, it might not be easy to digest, but the show’s writing subverts the cringe factor with surprisingly nuanced, earnest development. “Perhaps my threshold for cringe is higher than most, but what was most important for me was portraying this character from an honest and grounded place and capturing the immigrant kid experience as I remember it,” Pedrad says. “I wasn’t nearly as unhinged or selfish as Chad but the impetus for his behavior and the fear that drives him was based on aspects of my own adolescence.” As an Iranian American immigrant, the actor says she aimed to capture her own time growing up and trying to feel like she belonged while in high school. “I am mortified by how cringey my own life was at the time and I hope people can relate to this authentic character study,” she adds.

Paul Chahidi, Nasim Pedrad, Saba Homayoon in the Chad finale
Paul Chahidi, Nasim Pedrad, Saba Homayoon in the Chad finale
Photo: Scott Patrick Green/TBS

In “Finale,” Chad is welcomed into the group by Reed (Thomas Barbusca) or as Pedrad phrases it, his “platonic obsession.” But it’s still superficial, because while he wants to support Chad after the apparent hate crime, Reed set up healthy boundaries earlier in the episode, Reed sets up healthy boundaries from Chad. Pedrad says this was a specific choice she made because she didn’t want to see her character being bullied for being Iranian and Muslim. “The cool kids and the whole student body are nice and tolerant and even in therapy, they almost don’t notice Chad at all, which for him is much worse,” she says. They don’t poke fun at him for his ethnicity, one that Chad himself isn’t able to embrace yet. He’s fearful of being seen as an outsider and actively avoids talking about it. He even changed his name from Ferydoon.

Pedrad drew on instances from her own childhood here too. “It was at times challenging with a foreign name and parents who are themselves still assimilating to a new culture. Teenagers are already struggling to find their identity but as an immigrant kid you’re also caught between these two cultures and it’s an extra obstacle to get through in your effort to belong,” she says.

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The actor has been developing Chad since 2016, so she says it isn’t as overbearing at this point to play the role of a teenage boy because it’s been with her for so long, and because the writers have a keen understanding of his antihero stature and what makes him tick. It’s also why they’re able to mine comedy gold out of the bizarre concept. Yet the show finds meaningful ways to discuss his background through his family members. The absence of a typical father figure in his life profoundly impacts his absurd decisions, including forcefully forging a bond with his mother Naz’s (Saba Homayoon) boyfriend Ikrimah in the first half of season one. Pedrad says since there’s only so much ground to cover in eight episodes, she’s looking forward to the territories to mine in season two with Chad’s reconciliation with his culture and family. “But I’m also having fun playing this selfish, shameless person when you know it’s coming from a desperate place that you can relate to and also laugh at how ridiculous he is,” she says.