Necar Zadegan

Strong like a woman.

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Necar Zadegan is regularly type cast.

And while this idea usually conjures up images of redundant, flat characters, Zadegan’s type is actually positive for women: she is confident, intelligent, and ferociously ambitious. It’s a role Zadegan plays often and plays well, most recently on Bravo’s Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce.

Born in Germany and brought up in America by technically brilliant parents who were artists “on the side,” Zadegan has been embedded in the arts since before she was born. “I always knew I’d be acting,” she recounts on a call from Los Angeles. “Before I was born, my mother would talk through plays with me still in her tummy.” Her mother, a part-time dancer and cosmetics executive, is convinced that it was these pre-birth rehearsals that prepared Zadegan for the life of an actress. Her father, a sometimes-drummer and engineer with Tesla, fed into Zadegan’s artistic upbringing, too, and at 16 she began her career in a theatre production at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Through her late teens and college years, though the road was long, her ambitions and motivations were unwavering: “The dream seemed so far away, but I always knew I would get there.”

It was never an issue of an easy or difficult path; in fact, the day-in, day-out process of Zadegan getting to Hollywood was almost irrelevant. “If you’re good and committed, you’ll make it,” she insists. Possessing both of those criteria from the day she started working, Zadegan has since logged a decade of television work, including roles on 24, Emily Owens, M.D., Extant, Masters of Sex, and Archer. On Girlfriends’ Guide, Zadegan plays Delia, a divorce lawyer who is, miraculously, very pleased with the life she’s created. Delia has charged herself with deciphering what modern relationships, both in work and play, mean to her. In kind with her character, Zadegan relishes in her craft and is constantly appraising and evaluating how the climate of her industry changes. “Actors and actresses used to get their feet wet in television, and then start working on films,” she says. “But today, there’s been a reversal. Television actors are very happy with their work, and more and more we’re seeing film actors starring in primetime pilots.”

In the last decade, Zadegan has also witnessed shifts in the social climate in the industry. “[Sexism] isn’t unique to the television industry—it’s a societal issue,” she notes. “But the arts have to take responsibility and help to propel society forward. Art is more than ornamental.” It’s a two-way street: the temperature in the acting world will likely mirror that of the larger public, but as women in the real world continue to achieve great things, Zadegan is well aware that it is the responsibility of popular culture to portray them.

Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce has largely taken this as its purpose. “People ask me a lot why women love the show, and I think it’s because it’s about female relationships and navigating love as a woman,” Zadegan says. “It’s surprising there aren’t more shows like this out there.” In the case of Zadegan’s character, while Delia’s occupation is often the embodied antithesis of love, this exploration becomes a balancing act. Delia was written specifically for and in collaboration with Zadegan, which is why Delia’s development has taken a few twists and turns. In the first episode, for example, a wedding ring can be spotted on Delia’s hand, but in the following episodes, it vanishes. “We spent a period of time just trying things,” Zadegan explains, noting that they had fun with Delia’s development. “We figured she was the kind of woman that would wear a wedding ring out just to be left alone sometimes.” She laughs, adds: “Which doesn’t work, by the way.”

Being allowed to experiment with Delia was a change of pace for Zadegan. In addition to deciphering her character’s motivations, Zadegan also had to unpack Delia’s foundation as she went. “She has a very modern relationship with love,” Zadegan explains. “She’s encountering questions like, ‘What is love?’ ‘What is marriage for?’” Coming from family law, witnessing countless divorce and custody battles, Delia seeks to decide for herself what love and success mean—a quest that Zadegan is amply familiar with. “We have a lot in common,” she says of her character. “I learned early on that you need to decide what success is for you, and then be happy with what you can create.”

As Girlfriends’ Guide rolls through its second season, it can seem surprising that women like Zadegan don’t seem to get more airtime. But if American culture is teetering at the precipice of more inclusive and equal media, it is comforting to know that Zadegan and co-stars Lisa Edelstein and Beau Garrett are helping usher in this next wave of television. Marked by wit, integrity, intelligence, and confidence, this sort of type casting stands to empower.

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March 15, 2016