“The Bold Type” has been taking fans by storm as the newest show on Freeform. And one actress on the show is grabbing everyone’s attention: Nikohl Boosheri. Her character, Adena, is an out and proud Muslim lesbian photographer, and fans are loving the representation that Adena brings to the show. Adena has stolen the heart of Kat, played by Aisha Dee, and the two have become the show’s most popular ship: Kadena. We spoke with Nikohl about representation on the show, her relationship with Aisha Dee, and what is to come on “The Bold Type.”
YEM: First thing’s first: when we last saw Adena, she was going away to Paris! Will we see more of Adena this season?
NB: There is Adena coming up! (laughs) It’s been a great feeling to have everybody asking that, and without giving anything away, yes there will be more Adena.
YEM: What is it like to play a character like Adena, who is Muslim and a lesbian? What is it like to play a character like her on television?
NB: I mean, how exciting right? To play such a complex character that is complicated and not perfect but is strong and empowered. I felt that it was a great opportunity to do something that I don’t think has been done before. I don’t think I’ve seen a character like this, that deals with these kinds of things, on network television before at least. I think when I approached the character at the beginning, I didn’t realize how rare it was. But now that people are seeing it, the response that specifically Adena’s storyline is getting and the kind of people that are contacting me, the kind of messages that I am personally getting, it just confirms what we’ve known all along, which is that there is a much massive lack of representation.
YEM: What has the fan response been like for you on social media?
NB: It’s been really exciting. Just to have the ability to interact with fans in that way that I’ve never had before. I’ve had people from Germany, Switzerland, Tunisia, saying “I’m 16 years old and I’m gay and Christian and I don’t know how I would ever tell my parents, but watching Adena reaffirms for me that your faith is personal and it’s between you and God.” Or, “I’m Muslim from Turkey and I’m 22 years old and Adena gives me faith that one day maybe I can come out to my parents.” It’s just been really incredible. What do you even say to that? It’s so heartwarming and it makes me feel really good because I feel like I really tried to put a lot of care into how I presented Adena. I knew that it was going to be controversial and it had the power of creating and affecting a positive impact. So it’s been really nice for me to see so much positive feedback.
YEM: How do you play the parts of Adena that are flawed?
NB: Well I don’t think anyone is perfect at all, I’m certainly not. I always try to approach any character from a place of non-judgement. Sometimes it’s harder than other times obviously but I don’t think I would have been able to play Adena if I had judged her. I think like all the characters on the show, just like us in real life, she’s just doing her best and she’s figuring it out. She’s allowed to make a mistake or to change her mind. I forgave her for that and I hope people do too.
YEM: And on the show, Kat is going through similar issues that Adena is going through.
NB: Yeah, I think she really admires Kat. They have a lot of similarities in their personalities. They’re both go-getters, they don’t take no for an answer. They’re a real match.
YEM: Fans are so dedicated to the Kat/Adena relationship.
NB: They are! It’s really cool.
YEM: When you first read the script, what was your reaction to Adena’s character?
NB: I think I had a lot of ideas. She was definitely an interesting character on page, but I think what was even more interesting for me was that when I came in to audition, Sarah [Watson, executive producer] and everyone there really were so open to hearing my thoughts and my takes. So we were really able to build Adena up from what was on the page. Like all the characters. Sometimes you work with writers that have a very specific idea and they’re really married to what’s on the page, and that’s a really great experience too. Sometimes you’re working with people who are more collaborative and are more open to you bringing your experiences and your research to the characters. That was what we had in the audition and I feel really grateful for that. That was a really cool experience, just coming up with her backstory and why she dresses the way she does, what kind of headscarf she would wear. I got to fill all those blanks and they were really open to that. Even something like how I don’t cover my tattoos in the show. That was something that I brought up with the writers and everyone was really open to that. I feel like Adena is someone who likes to provoke the people around her. She doesn’t really fit in back home, and she doesn’t really fit in in America. So wearing this headscarf and having the tattoos, it’s like a contradiction that she welcomes. She likes that confusion, she likes people to do a double take.
YEM: So you collaborated with the wardrobe department as well as the writers when creating Adena?
NB: Totally, one hundred percent. With wardrobe, with make-up, they’re really open on this show which is so wonderful. I think it just goes to show how great the casting. When the casting is right and the chemistry is right, you really have a lot of freedom. On the show, they were really open to how we would say things or how we would wear things. We really had the opportunity to make these characters our own. That was great to find out that collaborating was not only welcomed, but encouraged.
YEM: Did you feel nervous to play a character that hasn’t been represented on television before? Or did that make you excited?
NB: I was really excited to work on a show that was so empowering and that had a lot of female characters and people of color and female writers. That was all really exciting to me.
YEM: How much of Nikohl is in Adena? What have you learned from playing Adena?
NB: Of course there is some of me in every character that I play. I do think that I relate to Adena’s rebellious spirit. I think I’ve learned a lot from Adena’s bravery and how she’s not shaken from her moral center and her beliefs very easily. I think there is something to be taken from that.
YEM: And fans are learning a lot from Adena too.
NB: I think so too. I really applaud the writers of the show and their willingness to take the character and the storyline there. It feels very current and of our time – I think the whole show does. I think that’s why people are responding to it so much. And it’s funny, I think we’re seeing in a lot of shows, to “millenialize” them. But this show is just so natural. I see myself in these characters. The issues that they’re dealing with feel very relevant.
YEM: What would you like to see for Adena in the future?
NB: Well I definitely think that we haven’t had the chance to see Adena and Kat flourish because of the obstacles that have been in their way. Obviously, I would love to see that, and not see them running from each other. Or showing up at each other’s home of office every week (laughs). I hope that at some point, things do calm down for them and they can enjoy a relationship in peace. And for Adena, I feel like we still haven’t seen all that she is capable of as an artist. I feel like she really wants to explore her work in America so I hope she has an opportunity to do that.
YEM: Can you give us any info on what’s next for Kat and Adena?
NB: I will say two words – pillow fort.
YEM: Pillow fort?
NB: Yes, I can reassure fans that there will be more Kat and Adena, and I think the best things are ahead.
YEM: Fans love the relationship between Kat and Adena!
NB: How great is that? It feels like people are really excited because for the first time, they’re seeing themselves in these characters. Even if they don’t relate to these characters one hundred percent, or even agree with them one hundred percent, representation matters. It couldn’t be more clear.
YEM: Have you seen a character like Adena being represented on television before?
NB: She’s a woman of color, and she’s queer, and she’s out and proud. I don’t think we’ve seen a character like this before. Personally, the characters I would see growing up, they were all white. But I never felt like I couldn’t be like them. So maybe there is a little Adena in me! And why leave out a demographic that wants to be represented and that wants to be fans?
YEM: Fans are definitely loving seeing a character like Adena being represented.
NB: Yeah, and I think this has been a really great year with movies like Wonder Woman and Hidden Figures, and shows like Insecure, and now The Bold Type. We’re seeing that people are responding to these types of characters and stories in a great way. It makes me really optimistic.
YEM: What is it like working with Aisha Dee? How did you realize that you both had great chemistry together?
NB: OMG it’s so much fun working with Aisha. I actually met Aisha in my last audition that I had. We had a chemistry read and there was definitely chemistry there. I think she would definitely say too that we made a connection then. The first scene we did together was the vibrator scene, so that was definitely an icebreaker. We liked each other right away and had respect for each other. We shot the first episode in Toronto, so as soon as I got there we were able to connect and hang out, and we had similar ideas on the characters and where they would go. She had my back from day one. She’s so good and she’s been doing this for so long. She’s such a pro, she’s fun, she’s spontaneous, she’s supportive, she’s so hard-working. It’s just a great time. We like each other on a personal level as well as a professional level, so that’s an added bonus.
YEM: Is everyone in the cast supportive of each other?
NB: One hundred percent. Everyone is like a family. I don’t have scenes with Katie [Stevens] or Meghann [Fahy] but I’ve gotten to hang out with them on a personal level many times, and everyone is friends. When I watch the show and see the girls together, I’m floored at their chemistry. They’re all so lovely and so unique, and I think it shows.
YEM: What Young Adult shows did you watch growing up that had characters who empowered you?
NB: Topanga [from Boy Meets World] was a great character. The females in that show were absolutely wonderful. She was smart and funky and strong. What a great character.
YEM: If you could create a perfect world for Adena, what would you like to see for her in the future?
NB: I feel like Adena has been on the move for a long time. She travels a lot. I don’t really think she has a place that she calls home or that she feels at home at. I think she feels at home being on the move. I would love to see her stay still for a moment and enjoy that. I hope she gets to come back to New York and develop her work too.
For more of Nikohl Boosheri, follow her on social media and watch “The Bold Type” on Tuesdays at 9pm on Freeform.