We’re a big fan of superheroes here at Playboy.com, so when we got the chance to feature not one (the beautiful Laura Mennell) but both sexy female leads of Syfy’s hit series Alphas, it was a no-brainer.
Fresh on the heels of her series’ second season premiere, our newest Femme on Fire Azita Ghanizada stars as Rachel Pirzad, a socially awkward former CIA linguist who has the power to focus and heighten one of her five senses by immobilizing her remaining ones.
Ghanizada sat down with us while indulging in her favorite French grape and wine diet to talk about working on Capitol Hill, the art of turkey meatballs and being the most prominent Afghani woman on Western television.
Playboy.com: So do you have a manservant hovering over you dropping grapes into your mouth?
Ghanizada: Always! On set I’m like, “Can somebody please bathe me in Evian and feed me some grapes?” No, I’d be uncomfortable if I had a manservant; what would I do with him?
Playboy.com: So you’re not the diva on set Laura Mennell’s told us you are?
Ghanizada: You talked to Laura? Oh no, Laura is such a diva. [laughs]
Playboy.com: Tell us about what’s going down this season on Alphas.
Ghanizada: I don’t remember…[laughs] We’re really getting back into the character stuff. Specifically for Rachel, she’s got to learn how to control her abilities. She needs to learn how to be an adult. Towards the end of last season she was learning how to make decisions as the strong young woman she is inside. Second season she goes on a journey to become a woman.
Playboy.com: If you had the ability, what would you use it for?
Ghanizada: The ability to drink wine and not be hungover…that would be terrific. It would be so cool not to go to airports, to teleport. “Oh, I need to go to Comic-Con? No problem, I’ll be right there.”
Playboy.com: How was Comic-Con for you?
Ghanizada: Incredible, getting to see the fans, and we had a packed ballroom. It was really exciting. I don’t think it’s an experience you can ever replace. It’s the most creative people on the planet all in San Diego.
Playboy.com: You learned English watching television after arriving from Kabul; what shows did you watch?
Ghanizada: My mom was obsessed with Dynasty. I don’t really remember things, but I do know my mom would dress like Joan Collins. Lots of soap operas! We didn’t have cable, but we had the five channels where things were in syndication, and there were two things I watched all the time: Three’s Company and Blazing Saddles. Totally inappropriate movie for a young person to watch — but I would watch it over and over.
Playboy.com: Coming from a conservative family, have you found any challenges regarding that in the industry?
Ghanizada: Finding a balance between being responsible to a culture that’s sensitive to having somebody in the arts, there’s a responsibility that people have — I have to try and not make a fool out of myself as the only girl from Afghanistan now in this mainstream limelight. You want to be independent, you want to break out and make these raw choices. But at the same time, you want to serve as an inspiration to an entire nation of young girls and young people who are so excited to see somebody come out of a war with no links to Hollywood or financial security and break into a business that isn’t very kind. I try my best not to make any really bad decisions; I try to be a lady as much as possible, but I’m not sure if I’m doing the best job.
Playboy.com: We think you are, if it counts.
Ghanizada: [Laughs] Ha! Thanks, Playboy.com, I feel much better about it.
Playboy.com: You worked on Capitol Hill; what was that like?
Ghanizada: I grew up outside Washington D.C., and everybody I grew up with was a lobbyist or a politician. From an early age, if you didn’t know your politics, you had nothing to talk about. I had the opportunity to shadow a Democratic congressman, spend some time working in his office and going to hearings. It was fascinating. I get a lot of questions about politics and Afghanistan and I always say, “I will never pretend to be a policy maker; I’m an actress.” It’s an incredible job but a lot of power. The women have to wear pantyhose? It’s terrible; I grew up in a culture where they told us what to wear.
Playboy.com: How do you keep such an awesome figure?
Ghanizada: I work out. I had a boyfriend when I was 18 or 19 who would always go to the gym. Then we would go out and all these pretty girls would be like, “Heyyy!” and I was like, “Who are all these women?” And he would say they’re from the gym. So I started going to the gym… [laughs] I honestly became addicted to running; it became part of our relationship. I lost the guy but I kept the running habit! I love yoga and pilates, I love seeing how far I can push my body.
Playboy.com: Lightning round:
Favorite city? New York. The city has soul.
Drink? Whisky…when I drink whisky I’m a lot of fun.
Food? Turkey Meatballs. [laughs] I love a good meatball. I think there’s an art of meatballs.
Shot? Patron, chilled.
Pickup line? What’s that one, “You must be tired because you’ve been walking through my dreams”? That’s so bad. But there was a guy at a bar and he walked by and said, “You’re like a seven.” I was like, “What?” And he said, “Well, you’re supposed to ask me why now.” It’s like the book The Game…I gave him a death look.
Guilty pleasure song? Gonna say “Purple Rain”…first thing that came to mind. [laughs]
Secret talent? Umm…I’m really good at yoga, I do a mean scorpion.
Dream Car? I recently wanted to buy a vintage car, something from the ’50s or ’60s. I’m lucky to have transportation.
Embarrassing moment? I had an audition, and after I had to do a screen test. I had never done anything nude or topless and this role might have required that. You had to agree to show your body to the casting director, you’d have to take your clothes off in front of her. It was one of the most uncomfortable situations in my life. I took my dress off and she was like, “Oh great, cute little body, kind of like mine.” Oh god, give me my clothes back. I pretty much felt horrible for the rest of the day.
Playboy.com: Anything like this in Alphas?
Ghanizada: Rachel doesn’t wear a lot in one of the upcoming episodes. I think they saw some of my body last year, and I think they started to request filming at least one scene partially undressed. [laughs]
Playboy.com: What was your first Playboy?
Ghanizada: The only Playboy I’ve ever seen was with Cindy Crawford on the cover. I was so fascinated by her.