Rainbow Crew is an ongoing interview series that celebrates the best LGBTQ+ representation on screen. Each instalment showcases talent working on both sides of the camera, including queer creatives and allies to the community.
Next up, we're speaking to The Bold Type star Nikohl Boosheri.
All three women are integral to this show, and each of them are brilliant in their own way, but if you're being honest with yourself, then your favourite character probably isn't any of these three. It's Adena.
From the moment that she walked into Kat's life, Nikohl Boosheri's character instantly became one of the show's biggest draws. Through Kat's relationship with Adena, The Bold Type explored queerness in ways still rarely seen on screen. And through Adena herself, the realities of life as a queer Muslim woman were finally depicted for the first time ever on TV.
Like Nikohl told us, "You think it's going to be light and froth, but it's not." It's so much more than that. And that's why we're sad to see The Bold Type come to an end after five gloriously fun, enlightening seasons. Digital Spy caught up with Nikohl to reflect on Adena's impact and tease what's in store for the final season.
How did you feel when you first found out that The Bold Type was ending?
I was really surprised and pleased, because the show had kind of gotten shut down due to COVID last year, right? They got shut down in March, and didn't get to finish, I think, their last two episodes and completely wrap it up.
So we didn't know if the show was coming back, if we were going to be able to finish those last two, and what the deal was. Just the fact that everyone came together to wrap this up in a way that made sense and that fans would be happy with, as well as considering the circumstances we're under – I feel so lucky to have been through that.
Your story in The Bold Type has been groundbreaking for so many reasons. Now that the show is coming to an end, what's it like for you to reflect on Adena's impact?
I've noticed that she is not the only queer Muslim woman character on television anymore. So that's huge. I know that when we began, she really was the first.
When you're playing a character that's a first of any kind, or when you're a first of any kind, you're always dealing with… [pause] You're nervous. You want to make sure that you're getting it right. And it was always very important to me that Adena is not the role model for anything – for Muslim women, or queer women, or feminists. I just wanted her to be really nuanced and feel real. I hope that I've been able to achieve that.
When I see people reach out to me personally – even if they may not be able to relate to her in any specific way, just seeing a character that's quite different, it gives people the chance and opportunity to think beyond their own box, and to see another side of the coin. So that's been a real privilege for me.
Do you remember any fan responses that were particularly meaningful to you?
I think the most meaningful for me is when people tell me that watching Adena's journey has given them the bravery to not fear the parts of themselves that make them feel different. It just gives them that courage to really lean into who they really are, and not be afraid.
I know that I certainly felt like an "other", growing up in my life. And when I think about it now, I realise that, as a young girl, there were no characters like this. There were very few Middle Eastern characters on television.
So specifically when Iranian people reach out – Adena is not traditional in any sense of the word. She flaunts her tattoos. She's not conservative. And yet her faith is very much a part of who she is.
To see how many different people feel like they've been able to relate to her, and find some kind of courage watching her story, that's very meaningful for me. Because it's scary to do that. It's scary to put on those shoes. And that gives me the courage, too, to keep going as well.
Do you feel pressure representing such a pivotal character on TV?
I did feel a lot of pressure at the beginning. I think that's why I really — and everyone on the project, was so open. I felt like there was nothing traditional about this character. As soon as we decided that she was, that's when we were stuck in a box, you know?
She's a provocateur in every sense of the word, and she should feel like an alien in a roomful of Middle Eastern or Muslim people, and she should feel like an alien in America. She's kind of taken that on as an armour for herself.
Coming to terms with that, it freed me a little bit, too. So I was not so afraid of that pressure. I didn't feel like I had to be in a box with her.
I have tattoos, and I had been given the choice to not cover them. I was like, "Yeah, she wouldn't. She's a badass. She's a rebel. She doesn't care what anyone thinks about her." That liberated me as well.
Season four revealed that Adena's father once forced her to go through gay conversion therapy. Can you talk me through that storyline and its impact?
I think that storyline caught even me off-guard. It was really heavy. We didn't take it lightly, you know? I was trying to make sense of how this would have worked for her, having not grown up in America.
It's really so sad that so many of the times, the people that you trust the most are the people that end up hurting you, because they think they're protecting you. For Adena, it was her father. We've known from the beginning that she doesn't have that much of a relationship with her dad, and we really got to find out why.
That was a really important story to tell. I felt like it was a huge responsibility to tell it through Adena's lens. I hope we did it some justice.
Another groundbreaking storyline for Adena took place at the start of season two when she and Kat discussed their anxieties around oral sex. What's it like now to reflect on that aspect of their relationship and the impact this story had?
I think that that was a big deal. I always forget that we're of this generation. For us, these things aren't as shocking. We realised later it hadn’t been seen on TV.
I think Aisha [Dee] told me, actually. And she's such a wonderful partner to have had for four years, because she's so smart, and she's so aware. It really matters to her. She does her research. She cares so much. So to have a person like that in your corner, and to be able to be a teammate for her as well, it was a huge honour.
Now that the show's coming to an end, what did you find most challenging about working on The Bold Type?
I think that the conversion therapy storyline was… [pause] Yeah. That season, and those few episodes, were quite challenging, because it was a lot of new information. I had a certain backstory in my head. And this happens very often, especially in television. You have to make a backstory, and it's usually not in line with what the writers have in story for you.
As actors, we're often the last to find out. So that was pretty challenging. Because I felt like it was also a huge responsibility. And it was bridging together the question of Adena's past, and her family, and why she's no longer in her home country. So it was difficult to bring all those pieces together.
But it's always such a treat, because this is the process of what we do as well. There's lots of phases, and making sense of it is a huge, integral part so that it makes sense on set that day, so that it makes sense for the editing, and for the audience. There's so many people that come together to bring these storylines to life.
I really cherish those opportunities, and those challenges. I don't shy away from them either. She's not an easy character to play. I think the hardest part is convincing people that my idea is the right idea. But that's not always the case either. So really, it's just being open, and trusting everyone – trusting the team, and all these lovely professionals of talented writers and directors and actors. It's a collaborative effort, and I really love that part.
Can you tease what Adena's final arc will be in season five?
We find her in a really cool place, because I think, so far, Adena's always been on the go. She's Airbnb-ing, or staying at someone's gallery. She never has a home. She's very much a gypsy.
In season five, we see that Adena is settled in. She has more stability. She really loves her job. She's found her pocket in New York City, finally, after all these years. She's not dealing with immigration issues finally.
One really exciting thing that happens in this season is that we get to meet someone very important to Adena, kind of see where she comes from, and what makes her the way she is. It gives us some really interesting context and nuanced layers.
What kind of storylines would you like to explore if The Bold Type somehow continued beyond its final season?
You mean for a spinoff? [laughs] I think that there's a lot of opportunity with a character like Adena to explore her backstory, her family, her world. I think that Adena has been through a lot, and she deserves to let loose once in a while. But that’s what happens when you're the ex.
Oh, I will say: I wish I was in the fashion closet more. I want to hang out with the three girls, you know? They get to do a lot of fun stuff.
Looking back at everything you've achieved so far in your career, is there one particular thing that you're most proud of?
Whether this is what imagined or not, I've kind of been entrusted with bringing to life these characters that we have not seen before. I know with Circumstance, there had never been a foreign-language film winning the American Audience Award at Sundance. That was the first time that had ever happened, and that was the first time I had ever been on a plane, or in another country. I mean, on camera, even.
And with Adena, again, I was entrusted with this responsibility of being the first Muslim lesbian on television. I am proud of that, because I think it takes guts, and it takes guts to come into these rooms where sometimes you're the only person who could speak to that experience, and to try to bring your point of view, to make sure that it's heard, and to feel like an equal in the collaboration process.
Even though with Circumstance I was a newcomer, I know that when it really mattered, I was able to show up in that way. And that's something that I’m proud of. I realised I was proud of it after playing Adena. I was like, "Oh, God, she's brave. If I had even a quarter of her bravery…" I think after all these years, I could say: yeah, maybe a quarter.
The Bold Type airs on Freeform in the US or Amazon Prime Video and Netflix in the UK.
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