When Aussie actress Aisha Dee first read the script for The Bold Type, she thought the show lacked complexity. But, like many people who first watch the show, she realized how nuanced it is with its strong women leads and timely subject matter.
The incredible actress, singer, songwriter (and violinist!) Aisha Dee plays Kat in this fun, upbeat show that manages to discuss difficult, but necessary, topics that affect all women. Kat is the head of the Social Media department for the fictional Scarlet Magazine and is a bold young woman who is always outspoken against injustice. Throughout the course of the show, Kat discovers more about herself as a queer woman of color, a character that television is desperately lacking.
Dee talked with BUST over the phone about how Kat has inspired her to write her own stories and what she hopes The Bold Type explores in the future.
What have you been doing during quarantine?
I actually started cooking at home for the first time in probably a decade. I always made the excuse that I didn't have time before and now there's really no excuse and so it's been kind of a nice hobby and you know, meditating.
Are there any recipes that you love making now?
I actually got a smoothie maker and that has really changed my world because it's summertime and sometimes you just want to like cram a bunch of spinach in the smoothie and feel like you're doing the right thing by your body. So, I've been really into using my smoothie maker to make like a vegan queso with cashews and like green smoothies and stuff like that.
When did you know that you wanted to be an actress?
I've said this a lot now and it sounds kind of like a cliché or a lie, but I actually realized I wanted to act when I was watching Sesame Street. It just kind of was the first time that I had seen myself reflected on TV or anywhere really. I wanted to go hang out with the kids on Sesame Street and my mom told me that they were actors, so I was like "Okay, I guess I'll be an actor, then".
If you couldn't be an actress, what career do you think you'd want to pursue?
Oh, I wish I knew how to do anything else. I don't have any skills! My mom always wanted me to be a musician because she's an opera singer and I grew up playing violin. So, I would I would probably have just kind of followed in her footsteps, I think.
Can you describe your character in The Bold Type for me?
Wow. Kat is for lack of a better word, she's very bold. She is really outspoken and she has a really strong sense of justice and what's right and I think that that really guides her in a lot of her choices. And she is a little impulsive at times, but it always comes from a good place.
Is Kat the character from the show that you relate to the most would you say?
I actually feel like I would relate to all of the characters in a very specific way. I feel like they all feel so familiar to me. I think that's what's special about the show is that you can kind of see parts of yourself in everyone.
Can you describe the relationship between Kat and her friends, Jane and Sutton?
I think the thing that is really special about their friendship is that it's a reflection of the friendships that I've experienced in my life. There's no backstabbing and there's no competitiveness. Anytime one of them makes a mistake, they're okay to turn around and apologize and try to be better. So, I think the most important quality in terms of their friendship and their relationship is just their ability to be honest with one another.
How do you feel playing a queer female character for a major network?
Well, I mean, it's incredible to be able to tell a story that's really not been told before. It's so rare to see queer women of color [on] TV and it's a big responsibility, but one that I'm really honored to have.
So, with the end of season four of The Bold Type, what stood out to you about the show when you first read the script?
My first initial impression was that the show was gonna be kind of basic. I think I judged it at face value a little bit. But once I dug deeper, I realized that there was so much going on and that these characters were so full, and that the stories they were telling were really important, too. So, it surprised me and I think that that's a lot of people's first impression of the show is that it's surprising. You go into it thinking it's one thing and then it totally subverts every expectation you had about it.
What specifically surprised you when you first started playing Kat?
I mean, first and foremost, just the introduction of lesbian Muslim character, I think is really important in terms of representation that's so rare and is still unfortunately really rare on TV. And I think that Adina was one of the first of her kind. I'm not exactly sure, I could be wrong about that, but I think she was one of the first. And, Nikohl Boosheri bought so much specificity to her and we both really loved her and Kat so much. So, it was important to us that we kind of came into it and we did a lot of research and also, we're really blessed to be part of this process. That's really collaborative and they were always really open to hearing our thoughts and feelings about the characters, too.
What do you think we can learn from The Bold Type season four, especially during these times?
Well, it's hard to encompass that in one kind of thing because there's only so much happening for all three of the girls. But I think at the end of the day, no matter what's happening for the three of them, whether they're in love or going through a breakup or dating someone new, or whatever is going on for them, they always have each other. And, I think that that's the biggest thing that I take away is just the fact that you always have your friends; your friends are your soul mates. They're the ones that are with you [through] everything.
A storyline that stood out to me during this show, in season two, was when Kat and Jane had a discussion about privilege. I thought it was like a much-needed scene. So, what did you think of the significance of that scene when you read the script?
It's obviously been a relevant conversation for a long time. And I think especially now, it feels very relevant to be talking about our privilege. The thing that I love about it actually, is the fact that it wasn't this thing that drove them apart. They were able to have the conversation and recognize their privilege. It was really important too in that moment, that Kat recognized her privilege and we see privilege as this thing that can be you know, privilege is this thing that can ignite feelings of compassion in us and it can actually bring us closer and we can have compassion for the experiences we don't know. I think that that's really beautiful. And I actually think that the show could explore it more, I would love to see it explored the future.
Were there other "tough discussions" that you liked in the show?
I don't want to spoil it but I think that coming up there's some really cool stuff with Meghann, actually, with Sutton. We get to see her explore where she came from in this really kind of open and honest and also heartbreaking way. And, I think that that's really important, you know, just moving through the world and especially being in your 20s, I think there's a lot of like looking back, too, and kind of kind of assessing the ways in which your childhood and the things that have happened to you influence your choices. I know it's not the most political story, but I think it's really powerful and really important and something that everyone can relate to.
Without giving too much away about the end of season four, in what ways do you think that this season differs from the others?
Well, we didn't get to finish this season. The season finale feels to me like, this might be a bad analogy, but it kind of feels like you're on this roller coaster and like you're going like "chug-a chug-a chug-a" all the way up to the top and we were like about to go over the edge and then the season just ends. So, there's all this stuff that's kind of in the midst of happening. I will say that that's kind of different for the show. But I also think that it's kind of a beautiful season finale, too. And I just hope we get to go back to do more.
And what is it like working on a show like The Bold Type? Do you guys have fun as a cast?
Maybe too much fun. There’re some days where I'm sure they're sick of us laughing and not concentrating. You know, I would think probably not be having a very fun time on the show if I didn't really really love the people I work with. So, that's a huge blessing. But yeah, I've been so blessed to really be so close to the girls. I would say, most of the time, the three of us, you know, the thing that is at the forefront of our mind is like, "When is my next meal and when can I sleep?" You know TV schedules are a lot but we're super blessed and grateful for all that stuff.
Your show has been praised for its depiction of issues that millennial women face in the workforce. Do you find that The Bold Type's portrayal is accurate to your own experiences as a millennial woman? Is there anything that you think the show might need to work on?
Yeah, I mean, obviously, you know, everyone's experience is so unique. So, I think there are definitely parts of the show that I can definitely identify with and I think that's why people love it so much, because at times it feels like someone bugged your home and like, was listening to a conversation you had a week earlier. And then I'll like read a script and be like, "Wait, hold on." So, I mean there's always so many things that I identify with in terms of, you know, the stories that the show explores, but I have been saying this for a while and now I just figure if I say it in enough interviews that they'll have to do. I really want the girls to get their periods. We haven't seen it on the show, and I don't know what the timeline is, who knows what the timeline is of the show, but I would assume they would have gotten their period by now. And I think that that's an important topic to talk about because, you know, for centuries, women have been shamed for having a period, and periods don't necessarily mean anything about gender, but I think it's an important subject to talk about because we can see it as being this thing that makes us love our bodies more instead of thing that makes us have a disdain for our bodies.
Is there anything else that you wish that the show would address in the future?
I would also really like Kat to have a queer community around her. It makes sense to me that, you know, as someone who is discovering her sexuality and moving in queer spaces, I would love to see her have more queer friends and friends that are people of color, too. I think it's really important to see more than one person in the room at a time.
I saw that you recently released an EP of four songs. You mentioned that your mom is an opera singer, so is this something that you hope to explore more in the future? Maybe include some of your violin skills?
You know, I don't have my violin but since the quarantine had happened, I've been tempted to go buy one. I really released the music not really with any big intention behind it other than to just maybe hopefully create some chill vibes for someone because I know how much music helps me when I'm feeling anxious. So, you know, if there's like, four or five people out there who are having a bad day and they listen to my music, and it makes them feel better then I'll know that I'm in the right place and I'm moving in the right areas. It's just kind of a creative outlet for me. I mean, both my parents are musicians. So, music has always been a really big part of my life.
Did you write the songs yourself? What's your writing process like?
Yes [and] oh, it's so all over the place. I tend to have an idea for a song or just kind of have a feeling. I can spend, you know, maybe days or weeks or sometimes even months just writing down kind of like little thoughts I have around that same subject and then if I feel inspired by a sample or a chord progression, then I can use that to kind of improvise lyrics on top of that, and then things just kind of fall into place. I have such admiration for people that write songs for a living because if someone asked me to like, sit down and write a song right now, I wouldn't know how to do it. I think inspiration kind of hits at moments when it's usually not that convenient for me. So, no, I don't have a super mathematical process, but I love writing music. It helps me sort through a lot of feelings and emotions.
Are there any other projects that you're working on right now that you're excited about?
I'm actually working on some more music right now. And I'm trying not to rush it because you know, time isn't real anyway. Might as well just release it whenever it feels right. So, that's been taking up a lot of my time. I'm also kind of working on trying to share some stories of my own because I obviously, you know, we need to see more stories that are for us and by us and I think playing Kat has really motivated me to be more confident and kind of saying, like, "Oh, I think I can do this". Maybe a few years ago I wouldn't have said that, but now I feel really motivated to be in the driver's seat and to tell stories that I find really interesting, too.
What are some of your favorite career moments so far?
I feel like honestly, just being on set is really the place where I feel the most calm and confident. I feel the most in my body when I'm on set and the cameras are rolling and I find so much comfort in like living in make-believe land. And I know that probably sounds so cheesy, but it's really the truth. The fact that I get to do what I always kind of dreamed of doing is a really big blessing.
What are your aspirations as an actress for the future?
I think something I've realized just over the last few years is that things usually come into your life when they're supposed to. And, as long as you're moving through the world with an open heart and an open mind, then the right things will come in. So right now, I'm trying to just stay open to whatever the possibilities are.
The season finale for The Bold Type airs Thursday, July 16 at 10/9p on Freeform. Watch the Season 4 trailer here:
Images courtesy of Sami Drasin and Freeform.
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Georgia is a journalism student at The New School in Manhattan who loves writing, watching cartoons and intersectional feminism. She is an avid napper and cat lover. Because she is behind on the times, follow her only recently made twitter @georgiagrdodd.