Editor’s Note: This article initially ran in our May 2018 issue.
The comedic actress brought a wink and a smile to her impersonations of Kim Kardashian and Arianna Huffington on “Saturday Night Live.” Pedrad, who was born in Tehran, Iran, and grew up in Irvine, has also shown off her affable comic verve as a recurring character in Fox’s “New Girl.” Here are a few facts about the University High School alumna (class of 1999).
→She’s starring in the live‑action “Aladdin.” She plays Dalia, the handmaiden and confidante of Jasmine (Naomi Scott) in the retelling of the 1992 Disney animated tale. It’s directed by Guy Ritchie, with Will Smith in the role of the Genie, originated by Robin Williams.
→She studied karate as a kid. According to Pedrad, her parents were convinced she was going to be kidnapped and presumably wanted her to be prepared to defend herself. The martial arts training started when she was 5 or 6 and ended when she was in fifth grade. It came in handy during the filming of an episode of “Scream Queens” in which she fought off the Red Devil, a chainsaw-wielding psychopath, with a karate kick.
→Growing up, she watched “I Love Lucy” and “Saturday Night Live” in an effort to understand American culture and assimilate. Her parents spoke Farsi at home so their children could become bilingual. Pedrad says she has early memories of watching “SNL” hoping it would help her stay in the know, even though she was too young to catch all the references and nuances.
→She had a huge teenage crush on Conan O’Brien. She confessed to the talk show host that in high school, she created a vision board in her bedroom with photos of the movie “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” Claire Danes, Destiny’s Child, and O’Brien. “I had two huge celebrity crushes,” she told him. “It was you and Macaulay Culkin. The two pillars of masculinity.”
→Comedian Tina Fey helped her get her big break. As a struggling young actress in L.A., she started to feel stagnant and decided to do something proactive: She wrote a one-woman show called “Me, Myself, and Iran” that came to the attention of the “30 Rock” and former “SNL” star, who recommended her for an audition on the sketch comedy show.
→She was intimidated when she came face to face with Kim Kardashian, but the reality TV star didn’t seem to mind her “SNL” impersonation. Pedrad said that while Kardashian looked “perfect” that day, she herself was wearing an extra-large T-shirt and resembled “a person who woke up in a dumpster.” “(Kardashian) did say at one point, ‘Do we really sound like that?’ I was like ‘No’ and she goes ‘Oh good.’ She was so sweet.”