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Life is not a popularity contest, but high school? Perhaps another story. At the very least, it’s one of the ways life is filtered by Chad Amani, the 14-year-old teenager at the heart of TBS’ appropriately titled comedy Chad from creator, writer, executive producer and star Nasim Pedrad.
In the series, Saturday Night Live alum Pedrad transforms herself into young Chad, relentless in his quest to achieve popularity at all costs. As viewers, this means we must endure witnessing Chad’s staggering amount of failure, whether it’s his gambit to convince his classmates that he lost his virginity over the summer, or bringing a literal sword to school to prove how cool he is.
By turns comedic and ridiculous in nature and premise, Chad nonetheless veers into dramatic territory at times, which was a critical part of mapping out the series, Pedrad tells THR Presents, powered by Vision Media.
“I wanted to write a show about identity,” she explains about the show’s roots. “It started with me wanting to write something that felt authentic and honest to my experience growing up in America as an immigrant kid. Everyone can relate to being in high school and desperately wanting to fit in, that you belong and are accepted by your peers. When you’re an immigrant kid, there’s almost an added obstacle in your effort to fit in.”
As personal as this show is, Pedrad makes it clear that she wasn’t as badly behaved as Chad. “I’d like to think I wasn’t as selfish or impulsive or willing to achieve my goals at all costs like he is,” says the multi-hyphenate. “But that’s where a lot of the comedy comes from, too. Even when he’s being quite absurd, hopefully you know it’s coming from such a desperate place and such an earnest desire to not feel different from his peers. Hopefully you can laugh at how ridiculous he’s being, and even empathize with him sometimes.”
According to series director Rhys Thomas, laughter and empathy are meant to go hand in hand.
“For me, I would quickly forget it was Nasim, even when we were doing it,” Thomas tells THR. “I would just come to think of Chad as this independent little asshole, and just enjoy him and his energy.”
But just as Chad tirelessly strives for acceptance from his peers, Thomas says he and his collaborators were on a mission of their own: adding as much dimension as possible to the character.
“It was all about trying to find a way to be truthful to him,” says Thomas. “It’s something Nasim was very good at. We’re not just looking for jokes. It was about trying to get to the heart of this individual, finding these emotionally honest moments, and looking for the weakness in the facade where we could. It was the most interesting thing to me: how do we get past the conceit and really exploit our way in?”
Pedrad’s physical transformation into Chad, with the help of Emmy-nominated makeup artist Michelle deMilt, was key to the process.
“We didn’t want it to be character-y like an SNL character,” says deMilt. “We wanted you to be able to get lost in the character, which ended up happening.” DeMilt adds that she, much like Thomas, often completely lost track of Pedrad on set, instead only seeing Chad.
“What Michelle built and what we all constructed with this exterior shell of his, with the wig and the eyebrows, and all of those components that helped me disappear into the character … it’s part of the reason why it was so fun to play a teenage boy,” says Pedrad. “I felt like I could really get as far away from myself the actress as I could with all those components. It was instrumental in helping ground it as much as possible.”
This edition of THR Presents was made possible by TBS.
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