Nikohl Boosheri
Photo: Kelsey Hale / Press

Nikohl Boosheri

When Freeform’s The Bold Type came to a close at the end of June, everyone’s stories were tied up with a bow. And though it was bittersweet to bid farewell to these characters, it’s nice to know we can always revisit them (thanks to streaming) and relive the incredible stories they had to tell — like that of Adena El Amin, played by Nikohl Boosheri. From episode one, Adena’s character was a proud Muslim lesbian, something incredibly rarely seen on screen, and Boosheri embraced that tale and brought the character to life over the course of five seasons of the show. As the series drew to a close, we spoke with Boosheri about falling in love with this character and working with such an incredible team of people on the show.

I would love to start with the The Bold Type since it just ended and go back to the beginning. Do you remember your first day on set?

Oh yeah, I do. My first day on set was the first day of the pilot. Actually, I think that it was the first scene that we had shot of the series and it’s the scene where Kat and Adena are packing up dildos and sex toys — in the room on cushions on the floor surrounded by candles. It was staged very beautifully and romantically. We were like, whoa, OK. This is the Middle Eastern girl’s apartment and it was very literal. The decor was very literal. It was a great get-to-know-you. I had met Aisha [Dee] a couple times. I met her at my final audition when we were in Ontario before we started shooting. We went and got coffee. We were in touch. But that was our first scene together and it was the kick-off to the entire series.

How was the last scene you filmed? I imagine it was emotional, but how was your last day on set?

So in the last episode where you have the gala and Jacqueline giving the speeches and Kat with her speech with the announcement that she’ll be taking over Scarlet, that was the last day shooting for me. It was really emotional, especially because shooting with the pandemic regulations, it was very restricted for us. We had very little interaction outside of our time on the set, and even that six feet in between us at all times. It was really challenging to tell these intimate stories. That last day kind of felt like it was really emotional for everyone. People were crying in between takes and crying in the middle of takes.

I’m sure the last season wasn’t what anyone expected because of COVID restrictions, but at least you got to actually film it, yeah?

At least we got it. I know that everyone felt that way because after season four got shut down early because of the beginning of the pandemic, we didn’t really know if we were going to get another season. I wasn’t in season four, so I didn’t even know if I was going to be in season five. That was a really happy surprise to be able to give some closure to myself and to the viewers and the fans as well, of course.

How did you feel about Kat and Adena’s ending, and Adena’s in general? 

This character is so near and dear to my heart. You have a lot of invested into it and we have our own ideas of how we think it should go, but this last season I feel had something for everyone. You couldn’t really complain with the way that things turned out. I loved that we got to explore her home life, her family, her mom that’s been mentioned so many times. When we meet Adena, she’s this on-the-go, globe-trotting, gypsy woman, and by the end of season two, she starts talking about how it’s wearing on her. It’s obviously affecting her relationships. She’s separated from her family. She doesn’t feel like she has a home and she really wants that. She tells Kat time and time again, ‘I can’t do things halfway with us,’ because that’s ultimately what she wants with her. We finally got to see that. And Adena got to have her own apartment in season five! There was a set built for her and it was so detailed. They did such a beautiful job. All of that I thought was so symbolic, too, of the journey of being this lone wolf to really allowing yourself to depend on people and to have a family and to have that stability. I loved that for her. I’m so happy we got to see that.

Nikohl Boosheri
Photo: Kelsey Hale / Press

If you could look into Adena’s future a few years, where do you think she’d be?

I feel like her and Kat would travel the world together. There’s just a wealth of opportunity of what you can show with that, really, within that relationship, and within that world. I think that we would see more of Adena with the other girls, with this family of Kat’s that becomes then, by extension, Adena’s family as well.

What was it like working with this cast of incredible women that you were around all the time?

I mean, I just got goosebumps even thinking about it. We’ve really grown up together. It’s been, like, four or five years of our lives and it’s incredible to watch each of their journeys and all these relationships develop and the way that everyone goes to bat for one another. I’ve seen that from Aisha to Katie [Stevens] to Melora [Hardin]. There really is this sisterhood and this incredibly supportive environment for everyone to grow. Filming is a really intense process. It’s tiring. It’s emotional. To have that family that you can lean on there … as much as you wish it were always the case, it isn’t. You come into a job and you go pop onto the next. But this one … it really does feel like this family that didn’t begin and end on this set. We are all still very much in contact and very much a part of one another’s lives. I think that’s really beautiful.

So your character brought a lot of representation to not just the show, but to TV in general. Did that ever feel difficult or did you ever feel pressure with that?

I don’t want to say pressure, but there was fear involved at the beginning, for sure. There was pressure to get it right. But I feel like that gave me kind of the confidence to be vocal where I felt like it was necessary. I felt a sense of responsibility. But I just tried to the best of my ability. I tried to make her as authentic as I could. Hopefully in the future, there’s a little less pressure there because it’s not a first anymore. It’s been done, so people can have a little more leeway to explore from there.

Adena does have some moments that are tough and heavy for you to film, like with immigration, for example. How do you prepare yourself to film that and then come out of it at the end of the day?

When I think of the immigration stuff, that hit very close to home for me. I’m an immigrant in America. I’m Canadian, but my parents are Iranian and there was a moment around that time where we didn’t know if Iranians were going to be on the travel ban list. There was this fear and this pressure around your sense of safety in a place that you call home. I felt like I could pull for that very easily. You just try to tell the best story you can. Usually when writing is good, something in it connects to something inside of you. It might take a minute to figure out what that is or how to bring it onto the screen, but I think that it’s something The Bold Type does really well is make these intense stories very relatable.

I also liked that throughout the five seasons, Adena learned a lot about herself. Did you learn anything from Adena by the end of the show?

I think Adena is incredibly inspiring in her bravery, in her audacity to take up space. As the actor playing her, which, in a way, you’re acting as like a lawyer for that character, defending that character, I had to learn to take up more space as well, in my own life and on set, especially because those parts of the character just start to leak into you. I thought that I was brave, and I think at the beginning I brought some of that to Adena, but in the end I took a lot of that from her as well.

She became such a role model for viewers over the course of the show, which was super cool to see.

So cool to see, because she doesn’t fit in a box and she’s not like anything we’ve seen because she makes some mistakes that are sometimes pretty bad. She puts her foot in her mouth. She’s emotional. She can be reactive. She can be judgmental. She’s not the perfect feminist. She’s not the perfect queer representation. She doesn’t fit into any clear box. To see an audience kind of stand behind her and support her through all of that is really eye-opening to the power and intelligence of an audience.

Nikohl Boosheri
Photo: Kelsey Hale / Press

I was reading an older interview where you said that one of your goals is to always challenge stereotypes, challenge the status quo. Can you expand on that?

I do feel like I’ve always felt like a misfit or like I never fit into a box. And so, whether it was on purpose or not, these were the type of projects and roles that have come to me and that I’ve found that I’ve connected to. I hope to have opportunities to do more of that in the future. And I won’t lie — you don’t want to just create a new stereotype. You want to break stereotypes. That means that we constantly have to be on our toes and make sure that we’re not feeding into just another trope. When I look into my inbox, what I’m mostly offered to audition for or to play are roles that I’ve already done before.

It’s difficult. You obviously want to keep working and you want to say that there’s change being made and that there are roles for all sorts of people now, like that we’ve expanded our sense of what’s possible of who can be a lead now. But I still feel like it’s quite limited. That takes me having to say no to things, to wait for something that I feel is going to be right. At times I’ve done that, and at times I haven’t. We are artists. We have to eat and there’s that constant dichotomy of push and pull of being grateful to work but wanting to make a difference as well.

Are there any genres you’d love to dive into or character types you’d like to play?

I love psychological thrillers. I love that intensity. I really do love drama as well and I feel like I was raised on classical American theater like Tennessee Williams. I’d love to be involved in something that really brings that intensity as well. I love as an audience member bingeing through something and being on the edge of my seat — not in a scary movie kind of way, but more in a psychological drama kind of way.

I think the only other thing I was going to ask is what’s next?

There’s something I can’t speak on yet, but that could go, which would be another big chunk of this next year and would be a dream job for me. We’ll see. But more big challenges, more adventure, more all of it. I feel really ready to have my own kind of show that I have that involvement in. I would love to produce and kind of be more hands-on and I feel like, yeah, at this point in my career, I’m ready for that. I also write music with my partner — his artist name is Wild the Coyote. He does very cool alternative country. We wrote two EPs together and I think we will probably write a third one this fall. I’m really excited about that too.