Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

The Indiewire Springboard: 'Appropriate Behavior' Breakout Desiree Akhavan On Threesomes, OkCupid and Lena Dunham

Photo of Eric Eidelstein By Eric Eidelstein | Indiewire June 27, 2014 at 10:24AM

We got the opportunity to chat (over coffee served in mason jars) with the director/writer/actress about her film, online dating and getting cast in season four of Lena Dunham's "Girls."
0
Desiree Akhavan in "Appropriate Behavior."
Desiree Akhavan in "Appropriate Behavior."

Every Friday, Indiewire's Springboard column profiles an up-and-comer in the indie world who made a mark that deserves your attention.

Desiree Akhavan, co-creator of the brilliant short web series "The Slope," is about to make it big. She, along with Ingrid Jungermann, has appeared in every episode of the short, which takes a look at spacey, homophobic lesbians who reside in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. She has a great sense for situational comedy, clever banter and is a hilariously awkward physical presence. All of which is magnified in her feature film debut "Appropriate Behavior," which was warmly received at this year's Sundance Film Festival and is a more elaborate exploration of her unique voice. It's a singular effort about a bisexual Iranian coping with a recent breakup in New York and all the woes that accompany being alone. 

READ MORE: Tired of Disgruntled New York Hipster Comedies? ‘Appropriate Behavior’ Is a Welcome Update to the Formula

Fortunately, we got the opportunity to chat (over coffee served in mason jars) with the director/writer/actress about her film, online dating and getting cast in season four of Lena Dunham's "Girls." The film recently played at the BAMCinemaFest in Brooklyn.

Appropriate Behavior

I started writing ["Appropriate Behavior"] during the second season of "The Slope" and originally envisioned it as a vehicle for me and Ingrid to do together. We did that show and it just didn’t make sense to continue with the film because we both wanted such different things. So then I retooled the script around my life and what I was doing and the subject matter that most interested me and instead of making it this buddy romance comedy it became more of a breakup romantic comedy. 

The emotions and the drive behind it is all me. The subject matter is me. But, the actual anecdotal things that happen were completely fabricated and that's what's funny about traveling with this because it really gets sold as the autobiographical, 100% from life, stolen from her diary "Appropriate Behavior." And that's not the case at all. I was never closeted to my parents when I was with my ex. In the film I live with her and lie to my parents that we were just roommates and that never happened. My whole experience in terms of facts did not unfold like that. 

I care a lot about how sex is depicted in films and I really wanted to show an experience. I had gone through a phase where I felt like I was just having one disposable encounter after another and it was really demoralizing and I wanted an experience that showed how it was empowering; I felt youthful and on top of the world, and on the other hand I felt really alone, I was having all these encounters and not connecting with anybody. 

'Appropriate Behavior'
'Appropriate Behavior'

One time I met with this man who was much older than me and right outside of the—I won't be that specific because—but I'm sure he doesn't read Indiewire. Right outside of the subway he grabbed me and it was such a non-sexual, non-romantic, non-connection moment, but just because we were at the subway and he had walked me to the subway... Well, he had the most ferocious, lizard-like tongue kissing I had ever experienced in my life.

Men in this city can feel so entitled. Not all of them, but the type that I tend to attract on OkCupid. They had a sense of entitlement, like they were auditioning me, like "the world is my oyster, it's you today, and then like a bazillion other ones tomorrow." Not that I was like "please marry me," but yeah that was the interesting thing about OkCupid. And when I did it my experience was that I was completely disposable. But, at the same time, I was on it for the adventure and for me they were disposable as well. I just wish they hadn't been so obvious about it. 

I didn't know of any Iranian gay people. Period. Since the film premiered I've met a few people. But, the idea is that with anything ugly and in this community being gay is ugly, you don't ask and you don't tell. And when I was coming out many people close to me were begging me to keep it to myself. And even after I told my parents they were like just let it go.

So I met Lena [Dunham] in February, right after we premiered at Sundance. She saw the film and we met up and it was a really lovely meeting and I was crazy about her. She's an incredible person. She was really supportive and gave me a lot of great advice. And then several months later I got an email asking me to be in her table reading. And they were like let's see how it goes. Just put it on the table and it might not be great, but let's see if it works. And it was such a great reading and I had such a good time doing it. And afterwards she asked me to play the role. 

I'll tell you that I'm a classmate of hers at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. That's it. 

I have a couple of projects in different stages of development. One of them is an animated web series, but the closest to my heart right now is a pilot that I'm working on. And I'm sort of figuring out the right home for it at this time. 

This article is related to: Indiewire Springboard, Desiree Akhavan, Appropriate Behavior, Interviews, Lena Dunham, Girls, LGBT, Interviews