The energy surrounding Elena Undone Iranian beauty Necar Zadegan permeates through television and film screens with an explosive spark that can be seem from miles away (figuratively speaking, of course). We could hardly take our eyes off of her when she partnered with Supernatural actress Traci Dinwiddie to break the record of “Longest Movie Kiss” on the aforementioned Nicole Conn film. What can we say? She’s gorgeous, smart, outgoing and full of vim and vigor in the sometimes-stagnant world of entertainment. She is the first one to point out in conversation that she is from a very diverse ethnic pool (she was born in Germany and is of Iranian descent).
Beginning her acting career in San Francisco, California at the bright age of 16, Zadegan has garnered roles on hit television shows like Kiefer Sutherland’s 24 where she played “First Lady Dalia Hassan”, the Neil Patrick Harris sitcom How I Met Your Mother and a slew of other notable roles on CSI: Miami, Nip/Tuck, The Unit, NCIS, General Hospital and The Shield. If her work on the lesbian-drenched drama Elena Undone is any indication whatsoever, this is just the beginning of a long and prosperous career for Zadegan…which is good for us because we’re not quite ready to take our eyes off of her yet.
You currently star in the critically-acclaimed Nicole Conn film Elena Undone. How was your role as leading lady “Elena” different than your former roles in film?
You know, the character is really different and that is really where it starts is with the character. “Elena” is very different in that I think that I was playing a lot of women that were really in charge of their direction, but “Elena” was a woman who seemed really conflicted about that. She wasn’t living in the driver’s seat of her life, so to speak. What I liked about the story is that she does have that change and then lives in the driver’s seat. The conformity with which she adjusts her life to kind of mask what is really going on in her life really makes her different. You know, I like to play different characters. The ones that are different from others I’d played before. This was one that came my way that I loved.
Did you encounter any specific obstacles relating to your role in this film being that it had a specific LGBT narrative?
You know, I was in the middle of another project at the time – another television series. When I was approached about this project, I immediately said no without having even seen the script or anything. I just didn’t even think about it because I was already doing something else and just didn’t have the time. While they were going through the casting sessions, they just weren’t finding what they were looking for and Jane Clark [Producer] contacted me a few times and then finally she convinced me to just show up to the audition so that she could show Nicole what she was looking for and soon after that, I agreed to do it. As far as the LGBT narrative, I have a personal desire to do things that wake people up and dealing with a matter in our society that needs to be recognized. That was naturally just something that was of interest.
“Elena” wasn’t originally supposed to be foreign and have the type of background that she had. When Nicole met me, those were things that she decided she wanted to explore more. We had different ideas. I wanted to go totally that way. She talked with me about modifying the character about what she saw that I could bring to it, then that became more interesting to me. I thought that it could add to the character. Ultimately, the film that you see is Nicole’s image because I lost the battle about it becoming a little bit more political. By the time we got to shooting, Nicole didn’t want the story to be all that political so we didn’t take it all that far. Nicole wanted the story to be based around the two women who love each other rather than all of that. It’s a love story. I hadn’t really worked on love stories previously.
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The shooting schedule was brief. How did that affect your performance preparation?
It was Christmas break and I was coming down with a cold. I ended up having that cold throughout filming. The shoot was only 12 days. I like to prepare a lot for my roles and I’m crazy about research and stuff. For this one, I showed up at the audition and, all of a sudden, they were just thrilled at the work Traci and I were doing for the film.
I didn’t even realize that there was a “Longest Movie Kiss” record, but you seem to have broken it! What did you think when you heard about the controversial record-breaking in the media?
Yes, that is true! That was really Nicole’s desire to accomplish that in the film. To tell you the truth, there is a lot of choreography that happens with every stage kiss, but particularly with that one because of not just the nature of it and that we were doing it for so long, but also managing the camera around you. On top of that, I was really sick that day on the shoot. So, you know, just being conscience of all of that kind of stuff. Really, my only hope was that the story would shine through beyond the choreography that was really encompassed through the whole shooting of it [the kiss]. We didn’t have to shoot it too many times, though. Traci and I are really great at kissing!
Do we know why Nicole aimed for breaking the record of “Longest Movie Kiss”?
I had no idea there was either! These are the things that I just don’t think about, but they are things that Nicole thinks about. Yeah, it was like, the first day I met her she told me that this was something that she really wanted to accomplish in this film. Setting a record in your life for anything is really cool. I won a watermelon contest once and that was pretty cool [Laughs]. I don’t even know how she came across the record, to be honest. I think that what she did was look up kisses and then stumble across this record. I’m sure she wanted to do it for many reasons, even personal reasons. It definitely was a thing that was outside of the realm our story. It was a specific number that we wanted to achieve. For Traci and me, we really had to put that out of our minds and try to tell the story while Nicole was literally outside of the set with a stopwatch!
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Elena Undone is currently making the LGBT film festival rounds. Do you anticipate attending any or all of the screenings? If so, are you prepared for your new lesbian fans to love and adore you as you exit the theaters?
I’m thrilled! I am absolutely over the moon about it! I want everybody to follow me – men, women, cats, dogs, etc. That’s great! I hope that they Facebook me immediately.
I was able to attend the Frameline Festival premiere in San Francisco. That is where I am from and it also happened to be my birthday. It was really cool to have the opportunity to go home to my birthday. My whole family came out to see the film because, well, it was my birthday and why wouldn’t they? It happened at the beautiful Castro Theatre. It was just an awesome place to see the film! It premiered during Pride. I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to San Francisco during Pride but the city just basically shuts down. You can’t drive anywhere. It takes over the city. That was when the film was happening and it was just such a festive time and a wonderful way to open the movie. The fact that my family all came out was really cool, too. We had a really great time up there. I hope to attend as many premieres as I can this summer. I’m working on some things right now, but when I can make the time to get out to the premieres, it’s the most wonderful way to experience the film because you see it with the audience. To watch other people celebrate it with you is really cool.
The story of Elena Undone tackles the subjects of religion, sexuality, being gay and raising a family (among others). Can you give us some insight into what viewers can anticipate on-screen when they view the film?
Ultimately, the story that shines through is this idea of the truth that love can bring and how it can be magnified within a world that is occupied by so many other things. I think that is the story that really shines through the film. It’s not just a story that LGBT people can relate to – everyone can relate to this story.
In your eyes, how is the modern day “model family” different than it was back in the time of The Brady Bunch for instance?
Family is a group of people that you surround yourself with that love you, support you and want to be a part of your life. That is family. Personally, I grew up with an old-fashioned family. My mom and dad are married, have been all of my life, are crazy in love and are LGBT-supportive. I mean, you know, we’re from San Francisco so an LGBT lifestyle was never foreign to us. People think it’s weird that my whole family came out to see this film and watch me make out with Traci. I am just so lucky to have so much love in my life. However, if that is not your story, that doesn’t mean that you don’t exist within an incredibly proper family. I have many people in my life that come from divorced families, are same-sex partners with children, etc. My fiancé and I have been engaged for many years now and we are planning on getting married. Sometimes it’s a group of friends in your life that come together and they can be your family. Friends are your family, definitely. Family is a totally supportive group of people who love you.
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That was beautiful. What a great way to put it. On an entirely different topic, you played the First Lady in Fox’s popular series 24 starring Kiefer Sutherland. What was that experience like?
Oh, that was so cool. That character was just awesome. She was one of those characters I just wanted to play my whole life. I didn’t realize that she would come into my life so early in my career. I thought that it would be years until I would play a woman of that stature and caliber. I was very lucky that she did. It was an extreme joy. Every script that I received was such a constant challenge that took the character higher and deeper and that is only a thrill for an actress. The story grew over the course of the season and that’s such a wonderful way to work on a character because it allows you to really get to know the character so much because you have so much time to explore the character and it’s wonderful.
If you could give any advice to the current First Lady [Michelle Obama] what would it be?
Oh my goodness! I couldn’t possibly give her any advice! I would have to ask her for advice! What a great question, though! Hmm, tell her to write a book. That would be my advice for her.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
I am working on a project called Outlaw right now. It’s a television series that will air probably in the fall – we’re shooting it now. We’ll see what happens next. I hope it’s something awesome.
We do, too! Congratulations on everything!
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