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Former ‘SNL’ star Nasim Pedrad’s long road to bringing ‘Chad’ to SXSW

Omar L. Gallaga
Special to the American-Statesman
Samantha Barry, right, speaks with Nasim Pedrad in the session “Homeroom with Nasim Pedrad” at SXSW Online on March 18, 2021.

It’s been five years since comedian and actress Nasim Pedrad first wrote the pilot for “Chad,” a TV series in which she plays a 14-year-old boy. The show went from being a project at Fox to a series now set to debut on TBS on April 6.

“I’m so excited it’s finally coming out,” Pedrad said in a SXSW Online chat Thursday with Glamour editor in chief Samantha Barry. “It’s been a real labor of love.”

“Chad,” an episode of which is screening as part of SXSW, is about, “a very awkward Persian American boy who’s navigating his freshman year of high school on a mission to become popular,” Pedrad said. While the show relies on the kind of cringe comedy that has become a staple of cable TV in the last decade — it’s inspired by series like HBO's “The Comeback” — it’s coming from a real place, using some of Pedrad's own experiences as an adolescent. She even cracked open her middle school diaries for inspiration.

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“I really drew from my own childhood in so many ways. It’s authentic to my experience in America growing up as an immigrant kid, finding my way,” Pedrad said. “It’s also such a funny age. Even the most trivial thing feels like it has life or death consequences. The stakes feel so high.”

As in the Hulu series “Pen15,” Pedrad is an adult playing a teenager on the show, but she’s acting alongside teenaged actors playing closer to their own age. Her character is a striver who wants to be popular at all costs. “He’s coming from such a desperate place and a transparent place, and the comedy comes from that,” she said.

In addition to acting and writing on the show, Pedrad is also an executive producer, helping guide the comedic tone and sensibility, which has gotten more complex and darker as the show moved from a broadcast network to cable. For the character, she’s disappearing behind thick eyebrows, a wig and the posture and voice of a 14-year-old. “It’s a whole transformation. The eyebrows really help sell it,” she said.

Now that the first season is complete, Pedrad says she’s hoping to see where “Chad,” the show and the character go from here. When asked what Chad would do if he knew he were the subject of a SXSW panel, she said, “He would immediately hire a publicist. He would love it."

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