What's It Like to Be an LGBT Iranian-American? This Actress Tells All

Desiree Akhavan - P 2015
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Desiree Akhavan - P 2015

Actor-director Desiree Akhavan, whose movie 'Appropriate Behavior' opens Friday, also has a recurring role on 'Girls.'

This story first appeared in the Jan. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Although there is no dearth of broke Brooklyn girls on the big and small screens, none looks and sounds quite like Desiree Akhavan. The 30-year-old filmmaker wrote, directed and stars in Appropriate Behavior (out Jan. 16), about a bisexual New Yorker trying to make love — and life — work for herself, and also has a recurring role on season four of HBO's Girls. The new indie queen spoke recently with THR.

Your film is inspired by your experiences as a queer Iranian-American woman. Do you plan to continue telling autobiographical stories?

I love comedy, and I love dark comedy. At this moment I happen to be drawn to certain LGBT stories. One day I'd really like to make a movie about my mother's immigration to the States when she was 20 years old. She had gotten married at 19 and had this very big culture shock when the [Iranian] revolution happened. That's a story we've rarely seen that I would really love to tell.

Have you received advice from established filmmakers about where to go from here?

[Writer-director] Joe Swanberg has told me to enjoy myself and keep moving forward because he's constantly creating something. I'm really inspired by his work.

Whose career do you look to as a model to emulate?

I love Sarah Polley's career. Her films are beautiful — she has complete control over them. She's taken her time, but not too much time.

What was it like playing "straight man" to Lena Dunham's Hannah on the new season of Girls?

I really loved it. When I read the script, I felt like I knew who [my character] was and that she was very no-nonsense. And watching Lena work, she does a lot of really great physical comedy in these episodes. It was just a pleasure.

Some directors leap from indies to blockbusters. Could you see a Star Wars in your future?

I love big, blockbuster comedies. I thought Neighbors was hilarious — I would love to do something like that. In terms of sci-fi? No, thank you. I don't speak that language!

What are you most looking forward to at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, where you're nominated for best first screenplay?

There are a lot of filmmakers I have a lot of respect for, and I hope I have the opportunity to tell them what a fan I am: Damien Chazelle, who did Whiplash; the director of The One I Love [Charlie McDowell]. Also, I'm excited to see what people wear, on a very superficial level. I love awards-show fashion — I'm a sucker for it.

Do you know what you're going to wear?

I have no f—ing clue. And I'm terrified. But I'm excited to see what people with wealth and stylists are able to do for themselves.

Akhavan's Appropriate Behavior premiered at Sundance in 2014.