ATX Roundtable Interview with The Bold Type’s Aisha Dee and Nikohl Boosheri

Terri and I got to participate in a roundtable discussion this past weekend at ATX Television Festival with Aisha Dee, who plays Kat, and Nikohl Boosheri, who plays Adena, from The Bold Type. They talked about what’s happening with their characters this season, intersectionality of identities, women directors and so much more. Keep reading to see what they had to say!

One of the things I think the show does really well is intersectionality of identities. I was curious for both of you what that complex exploration of class, sexual orientation and race will look like for both of you in season two, if there are particular confluences of those identities that you’re really excited for fans to see. 

Aisha Dee: I think there is a lot we explored in season one and I’m really proud of season one of the show, but I think we definitely have further to go and more to explore. There were things that we didn’t explore that I wish we had, but then we didn’t get canceled so we’re able to explore more. Kat, in episode 2, is going to be doing a bit of self-exploration when it comes to her race and the fact that she is biracial, which I am too so I definitely understand that and connected with that.

Nikohl Boosheri: And she has a really interesting conversation with another biracial character.

AD: Yes, yes. I think it’s going to be really interesting conversations the whole season. Every episode is so wonderful, in my opinion. You also get to see her explore what its like to be in a relationship with a woman, or a relationship period, for the first time, which is another thing that I totally get because I a was very late bloomer when it comes to relationships. I was always like, “It’s not for me. I don’t want to do it.” It gets you at some point.

NB: Someone will get you.

AD: Yeah. But its a beautiful thing and it’s a beautiful thing to explore.

NB: Adena is still, obviously, an immigrant, hoping to be a more permanent immigrant, so we explore that a little more. It’s a  cool thing with intersectionality; the whole is more complex than the parts. There are so many stories to tell and we’re just barely scratching the surface. Hopefully, we just have an opportunity to keep getting deeper into them and figuring out who these people are.

I think one of the things I really love is the strength of the friendships and how they are portrayed because so often female friendships are portrayed as competitive or catty. So what are your feelings about how the friendships are portrayed and why it’s important to change that narrative? 

AD: I think the friendship of the three girls is the heart of the show; it’s the reason why the show works because you want to see what happens with them individually but you also want to see them navigate that together. Also, even with the romantic relationships on the show, they are still rooted in a place of friendship and connection and support. But I’m not surprised people are connecting to that. I am surprised that it is as big as it is and I hope it continues to get bigger and that more people find it.

NB: It’s cool to be a part of the show where the “big bad” isn’t another main character or person or woman; it’s really just growing up and the circumstances that they are in. But the drama doesn’t come from each other. 

Right. That’s what I appreciate, the authenticity of the female relationships. 

AD: But it’s not perfect. It’s messy. 

NB: Right. They fight. But you can still fight and be rooted in compassion.

AD: Yeah. Some mornings I’m like, “Meghan, Katie, leave me alone. I am tired, I am PMS-ing. I do not want to hear your shit right now.” [laughs] But it comes from love and everyone is so wonderful and supportive, in the real world as well as in the show.

NB: I think that’s really cool too. Everyone is really supportive and genuinely really likes each other and are friends. For a lot of us, this is our first show. We’re all dealing with new experiences together as well and get to help each other out in real life, navigating that, so I think that reflects on screen.

Nikohl, I had a question for you. You were talking a little bit about Adena being here temporarily with a work visa for three months. I know the immigration storyline was one of the things [from season one] that was most celebrated, so with her trying to figure out what she’s going to do for work, how much of that struggle are we going to get to see? Because she only has such a short amount of time to figure it out.

NB: Without giving anything away, that is what Adena is dealing with this season. It’s such a tricky thing and me too, I’m Canadian. So as someone in the United States, I’m also an immigrant. You need to get work to get more work, but you need to have paperwork to get more work and you have to find, not loopholes, but it’s just a real struggle. I think we see Adena, who is always so ambitious and nothing really stops her and she goes after what she wants, stumble a bit this season and hit a few roadblocks in that regard. I think that’s cool to watch, everyone stumbles a little, even her. 

Being Canadian and having similar struggles, obviously not to the same extent, was that easier to relate to Adena because you understood the system and how hard it could be?

NB: Of course, yeah. I definitely understand the American immigration system and visa system. So sometimes when things were being written, I could contact someone and be like, “It’s actually like this.” I remember last season, we were talking about her passport, where is her passport from? And I’d be like, “Well, she can’t really have a Middle Eastern passport because she wouldn’t have been able to live in Europe for the last ten years.” Borders are a strange, complicated thing. 

I’ve been living here for nine years and yeah, it’s so real. It’s a struggle.

NB: Yeah, it’s your home.

That’s one of the reasons why the show is so successful internationally because, besides the friendship, this is a real problem.

NB: I think when you start to get attached to a place and with people and the relationships you make, the stakes become even higher and I’ve definitely related to that.

AD: I mean, I’m a dual citizen but none of my family members are. I was born a dual citizen, very complicated, blended family situation that we’re not going to get into, but it’s hard. I’m very separated from my family and have been very separated [from those] that I’ve loved in the past. So it was easy for me to also identify with Adena and like Nikohl said, sometimes it feels like they are bugging our rooms.

NB: Yeah, especially last year with the Muslim ban. I, at one point, was worried that I was going to be on one of those lists. Thankfully, the country I was born in was not, but the country my mom was born in was. So, at some point, she may have trouble. Even if it doesn’t happen, knock on wood, it’s a scary thing to have to worry about when one day it wasn’t an issue and the next day it is.

That uncertainty.

NB: That uncertainty is very scary and feeling like you could possibly be separated from your loved ones at any second.

Will we get to see any of Adena’s family this season or will she have relationships outside of her relationship with Kat?

NB: We do see more of Adena’s world, for sure. And that’s connected to Kat too because Kat is such a big part of Adena’s life now. We open up that world and Kat gets introduced to some of Adena’s friends and colleagues and that’s very cool.

AD: She’s very cool. She has a lot of friends and they are all really cool, they have cool hairstyles, they wear cool clothes. I’m very excited about that part, showing Adena’s world.

I think sometimes the personal relationships really steal the show, but fundamentally its still a workplace story. So tell us a little bit about Kat’s job this year, what she’s doing professionally and also Adena’s art and whether we’re going to learn more about that world as well.

AD: Last season, you got to see Kat make these new strides in her career and by the end of the season, it was like, “Is she even happy? Is that what she wants to do?” I think she needed that moment to separate herself and go and chase love for a moment and now come back and feel reinvigorated and feel like this is something I want to do, this is something I’m passionate about, which I definitely understand. I’ve had my own ups and downs with this industry that I’m a part of now. I’ve taken time before, so that’s something I really connect with. This season you’re going to get to see Kat come up against the board members, time and time again, and I don’t think she’ll ever stop, which makes me so happy.

That was a great scene in the episode that we saw at the panel today where she is in the boardroom with all of the white males and she’s just like, “No, that’s not how it’s supposed to be.”

NB: My favorite scene is the scene after that where she’s explaining it to Sutton.

AD: We did some really weird takes and I was throwing out some really weird shit [laughs]. They used the less-weird one 

Was that you mostly ad-libbing then?

AD: Yeah. A lot of the show is very open, kind of.

NB: Yeah, we get the scripts, we read them and we have thoughts and then we discuss our thoughts and we decide which battles are worth fighting for.

AD: It’s a collaboration. We’re blessed to have a room full of writers who are like, “What do you think? How can we make this work with the story?” I’m very honored to be a part of those conversations because not every show you get to do that.

NB: No, especially now they know us so they’re hoping to write for you and sometimes, they say something and you’re like, “Oh my god. I wish had thought of that,” and sometimes you say something like, “What if we said this this way?” Sometimes we discover things through our own discussions. It’s a really cool process. Everyone brings a lot of themselves to the character.

Do you have a lot of women directors on the show?

AD: I think half of this season and our last season as well. It’s a real priority for them and that’s amazing. We’re blessed with this really diverse crew that have all worked together forever because Montreal is a relatively small… there’s not that much production in Montreal compared to Vancouver or Toronto. We do go to New York, but we’re so blessed to have this crew that has known each other for decades. Some of them have had babies together and they broke up or they’re married.

NB: All the X-Men films shoot there so they’ve done all of those together and it’s just a very cool environment.

AD: Very close-knit set, with people from every different walk of life, sexuality, ethnicity. It’s the most amazing room to be in. From top to bottom, it’s really great. 

Is there a storyline you guys would like to see? Because you’ve touched immigration, you’ve touched fashion, you’ve talked about everything.

AD: Last season, I was like, “Let’s talk about race, baby” [sings to the tune of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex.”] and then now we are and doing it in such an incredible way. I’m actually glad that we waited because it gave us time to explore it in a really unique and different way that hasn’t been really done before and its something that I’ve never seen. But in the future, I’d love for the show to incorporate some non-binary characters. I think that is really important. And I have no doubt we’ll get there.

NB: I’m scared to really say because this is my first experiences being a series regular so you’re getting the scripts and you don’t really know where it’s going; they’re not really telling you your arc. So at the beginning of the season, I’m like, “Why isn’t this happening? Or, we should be doing this. This doesn’t make sense. This is who Adena is, guys.” And then by the end, I’m like, “Oh. I see what you’re doing there.”

AD: “You’re smarter than we think.” 

NB: “You could’ve just told me.” 

AD: I love not knowing because I sit down and read the scripts like a fan. Like, “Oh my god. What’s happening with Richard and Sutton? AHHH. No, they didn’t! Where’s Pinstripe?” I have my moments too, so it’s cool that I feel like I’m going on that journey with the fans and having a lot of the same thoughts they are.

NB: Maybe because it’s a longer process, to stay on your toes its good not to know.

AD: Yeah, that’s always been my thing. I love it.

NB: I’m just not used to that, so I’m like, “What is this?” And you want to make sure you’re doing the storyline justice and there is this fear that if you don’t know where it is going then you won’t be able to to do that. But this is a tried and true method. It’s worked for many shows that I watch and admire so who am I to change it up? We do have some cast members who are able to squeeze out little tidbits.

AD: Oh yeah, it’s Katie [Stevens]. She has her ways.

I think your characters are really strong, courageous role models, especially for young girls. I’m wondering what makes you feel your strongest personally?

NB: A fun one, I love dancing. When I’m dancing I feel very free and sexy. But also helping people. I think that’s a big part of who I am, helping friends and family makes me feel good.

AD: Music has been a really big part of my life. Both of my parents are musicians, my mom is an opera singer, so she was like, “You’re not listening to this. You’re listening to Nat King Cole and Erika Badu and D’Angelo.” She was so specific and I hated it as a kid. I was like, “I want to listen to the Spice Girls.”  Now, I listen to the Spice Girls because Mom’s not here [laughs]. But music has always been a huge part of what makes me feel powerful and movies. Movies are one of my huge comforts. 

The Bold Type airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Freeform.

Photo: Michelle Maurin

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