Desiree Akhavan talks “Appropriate Behavior,” “Girls” and her new bisexual TV project

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Desiree Akhavan made a hit web series while she was still in school at NYU. The satirical queer series The Slope followed Desiree as she played a “superficial homophobic” bisexual woman in a relationship with her then real-life girlfriend and co-creator Ingrid Jungermann. It was smart, funny and sexy, and it also inspired Desi to write her feature film, Appropriate Behavior

"Appropriate Behavior" New York Screening

Desi’s feature premiered at Sundance in 2013 and has since played several film festivals throughout 2014. The story follows Shirin, an Iranian woman who is going through a break-up. She moves out of her girlfriend’s Brooklyn apartment and into a new place with frustrating roommates and a daunting loneliness she can’t escape from. Told through a mix of present day situations and flashbacks into her relationship with Maxine (played perfectly by Rebecca Henderson), Appropriate Behavior is a story about someone you know. Shirin has real problems—she’s struggling with coming out to her Persian parents and finding a job that doesn’t kill her soul. Meanwhile she’s romanticizing her relationship with Maxine in her head, even when memories reveal things weren’t so sweet between them most of the time. She kills time by meeting people on the internet and trying out a threesome with a couple she meets at a bar. Nothing feels exactly right, until it does, and the mix of funny, sweet and sad moments that make up the film are equally enjoyable.

After seeing Appropriate Behavior, Lena Dunham called Desi to come and read for a role on Girls, and Desi will make her debut on the show’s second episode of Season 5 this Sunday on HBO. It’s a big weekend because Appropriate Behavior is available today in select theaters and for download on Amazon, iTunes and other Video-on-Demand services.

We spoke with Desi about the film, her role on Girls and the new bisexual-themed TV series she’s working on.

AfterEllen.com: The movie is finally coming out, which must be very exciting! How are you feeling?

Desiree Akhavan: I’m feeling really good, I’m happy that people are finally seeing it. We premiered over a year now so it’s really good that you can finally download it or go to the theaters and watch it.

 

AE: I’ve been reading the interviews you’ve done and it seems like people are asking really great questions and moving beyond the easy questions about sexuality and people of color, so a good discussion has been started about the film. 

DA: Yeah, I feel like we have been going into territory that I guess was mined in the film slightly, but it’s become a broader conversation about race and sexuality which is very cool.

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AE: There’s not a lot of films doing both of those things at the same time. There are films about the queer experience or films about the Iranian experience, but rarely together in one film, if ever. When you were first writing the film, how aware were you that your perspective is something that hadn’t been shown before?

DA: I was very aware because I felt very underrepresented by movies and TV out there.

 

AE: Has there ever been anything you watched or read where you felt like that person was like you?

DA: So many things speak to me because you don’t have to have the superficial outliers. Muriel’s Wedding spoke to me, High Art spoke to me, the book Adam spoke to me a lot. And those are not stories of bisexual stories. Something is different now. The path has been paved and this story is one that felt so powerful because I had never seen Persians depicted outside of the victims or villains, and now I’m starting to feel the same way about bisexuals, that bisexuality is a punchline and I never see it depicted anywhere beyond, I mean it’s on random TV shows a characters here and there in the periphery, but yeah, I am tired of apologizing for Anne Heche

 

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