Natasha Behnam | Photo Credit: Timothy Fernandez

They say we’ve reached “Peak TV”—an era where our gobs and gobs of streaming options has become impossible to keep up with. If that’s true, then that makes Natasha Behnam’s breakout performance on Max’s The Girls On The Bus a real diamond in the rough.

The Southern California-born Behnam is a queer, first-generation Iranian-American star who followed her passion for the arts to college where she studied film and television, inevitably winding up at the heart of it all in Los Angeles.

There, she cut her teeth in the city’s comedic institutions like UCB and The Groundlings and flexed her comedy muscles. Before long, she was booking roles in some television favorite across a wide range of genres, from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to You to Mayans M.C.

But this year’s dramedy The Girls On The Bus—the story of four political journalists on the trail of a very dramatic presidential campaign—represents her biggest role yet, and it’s the perfect showcase for Behnam’s talents. As Lola, the TikTok-obsessed Gen Z reporter with an activist’s spirit, the actress brings so much of herself to the role: her radiant charm, her thoughtfulness, her warm heart, and, yes, her TikTok obsession.

Much like Behnam, Lola also comes from an Iranian-American family, who get a spotlight in series standout episode “She Was Against It, Before She Was For It.” Being part of one of the first and only Iranian-American families on TV was an experience she could only describe as “sacred, special, and surreal,” speaking to the true power of representation on our screens.

Surely only big things are ahead for this rising star, so we were eager to sit down with her for the latest round of our rapid-fire Q&A series, Dishin’ It. In our conversation, Behnam opens up about important lessons learned from the set of The Girls On The Bus, the movie character she had the biggest crush on, and how TikTok helped affirm her queerness.

Is there a piece of media—whether a movie, TV series, book, album, theater, video game, etc…—that you consider a big part of your own coming-out journey, or that has played an important role in your understanding of queerness? Why does it stand out to you?

I think this will sound silly, but actually, TikTok was so helpful in affirming my queerness. During COVID when TikTok was practically all we had, I obviously ended up on “queertok” and it was so cool to see how many different kinds of queer people were making content about their experiences. It was so varied and enlightening and really made me feel so much more connected to the community in a way I hadn’t experienced yet. 

You’re one of the stars of Max’s The Girls On The Bus, which—among many other things, seems like such a cool opportunity to work with so many talented, experienced co-stars and filmmakers. What’s something you learned from that set that you hope to be able to apply to your career moving forward?

Be prepared, know your stuff, and ask questions. You’re allowed to care about every single aspect of your art. Simultaneously… take it easy. A lot of people come together to make films or television but, sometimes you have to let go and just flow with what works for the team.

Since your character, Lola, is a big TikToker, we’re curious: If TikToks could be nominated for Oscars, what’s a TikTok you would nominate for Best Picture and why?

Any video that Joe Castle Baker makes should be nominated for an Oscar. He is so funny. There’s this video he posted from about 3 years ago where he’s a sommelier explaining the vibe of a wine to a table of customers and it goes so crazy. 


Sommelier smells something surprising in a wine

♬ original sound – joe castle baker

In one of the standout episodes of The Girls On The Bus, we’re introduced Lola’s Iranian-American family, which you’ve described as “sacred, special, and surreal.” What aspect/detail of that episode and storyline would you say you were especially proud to depict on screen and why?

I was so proud to depict a middle eastern family that wasn’t bound by the typical western stereotypes. The story was not about our ethnicity at all, it was about our relationships and what was going on with Lola. Being Iranian and speaking Farsi was just normal for them, not a talking point or a political statement. I was so proud, and grateful, that we got to exist in ease. 

Where’s one of the first spaces you can remember that made you feel a part of a queer community? 

I lived in New York for a few months when I was 21, and I spent a lot of time with my best friend Cameron, who I grew up with. He had this huge community of queer friends and they all welcomed me in so lovingly, and it changed my life. I had never felt so seen and so beautiful than around all those diverse & gender expanded people. In a way, I learned what beauty was during those months. It was divine.

@natashabehnam i love queer #ihavepurse @terry hu #wlw #jojosiwa #lgbtq #queercouple #queer #ethelcain #robyn #loveliesbleeding ♬ Sun Bleached Flies X Dancing On My Own – icarus lemaitre

You come from a background in comedy and improv, and have gone through training at UCB and The Groundlings, so what we want to know is: Who’s the funniest person you’ve ever met and why?

This is so hard because I do feel like I’ve met some of the funniest people ever (T gawd). But at the end of the day, I’ve gotta say my best friends Danya Jimenez & Hannah McMechan are literally the funniest people I’ve ever met. They’re fully from another planet.

Who’s a fictional character you had a crush on at a younger age (or maybe still do!)? What do you remember loving about them?

I had the BIGGEST crush on the lead character Haley in the 2006 HIT FILM Stick It. That character was played by Missy Peregrym. Oh my goddddd she was so cool and effortless and HOT and she had the whole, “bad girl on the outside, softie on the inside” thing going on. I loved it… 


On the carpet for Diamond in the Rough, streaming on creator + now!

♬ original sound – Natasha Behnam

Who is a queer or trans artist/performer/creator that you think is doing really cool work right now? Why are they someone we should all be paying attention to?

ALOK!!! They are so brilliant, talented, and wise. I think they channel some really divine dharma in their work while simultaneously making it so accessible to everyone. I’m obsessed. I’ll also shout out Brandon Kyle Goodman, who I think is putting out so much GOOD into this world, which we need. I think they’re both really tapped into the Spine of what we’re doing here on Earth… I see you both!! 

The complete first season of The Girls On The Bus is now streaming on Max.

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