“Being an agender person of colour has helped me fall in love with being a character actor”
BY ELEANOR NOYCE/NIC CROSARA, IMAGES BY ANDREW GERARD
Who doesn’t love cosying up under a blanket during the colder seasons and escaping into a Hallmark movie? Based off the Susan Wiggs novel, The Secrets Of Bella Vista is a beautiful story about family and learning to accept and love each other. The film also features the amazing Donia Kash, an out and proud aagender actor. This is a big moment for representation as they are the first openly non-binary actor to feature in a Hallmark movie. Here’s what they had to say…
DIVA: You’re the first non-binary actor to appear in a Hallmark movie, being cast in The Secrets Of Bella Vista. Congratulations! What does this project mean to you? And what has the journey been like?
Donia: This might sound silly but this project and experience has opened me up as a person. The opportunity to play Suzette in The Secrets of Bella Vista taught my hard shell of a heart that I am moving through this particular world that easily expresses love and the importance of family on the screen. To allow the queer community see themselves thriving out there in this world. Our director, Heather Hawthorn-Doyle and the producers of Hallmark honoured my pronouns from day one, and loved how I approached this character to match the beautiful story that Susan Wiggs wrote in her novel and Jamie Pachino wrote for the screenplay adaptation.
What does it mean to you to represent your history and your identity in this role? How do you hope that your message will be received?
I hope my audience feels that they can relate to different characters I get to play and share their stories. Breaking the outdated binary construct of what we’ve seen in film and TV has been fricking amazing! What’s better than people being inspired?!
What was your journey towards coming out as agender like?
It was rough, but so worth it. Let’s just say, I look like an American football player when I have to put on high heels. Being told to hide myself, grow out my hair to have a better life/career was the wrong advice. Telling my Persian parents was hard at first. To be honest, still to this day most of my extended family still don’t know due to the laws of the Iranian government. I have a really great community around me now that empower who I am as a person or as an artist. Being an agender person of colour has helped me fall in love with being a character actor.
How does your Persian background speak to your identity as a genderqueer person?
Coming from a nomadic tribe called Qashqai who believe in human rights brings me so much curiosity. I have so much hope that one day the women and genderqueer folks in Iran have democracy. It feels like a scale, on one hand I get to express myself wholeheartedly and give hope to those who are in hiding. And on the other hand, I risk being blacklisted to ever have the chance to meet my family in Iran.
What does representation mean to you? Does it feel important to you to be involved in creating industry change?
Change will always be scary. It causes us to look within ourselves and our systems and ask ourselves to grow. We are so blessed to be a part of this change, to be able to fight as a collective for all of our stories onscreen and I give all the credit to the pioneers before us that fought the real fight in balancing for gender/genderqueer equality.
You have a background in martial arts, and you’re inspired by the unique ways we as humans move through the world. How does this inform your work and your creative vision?
I grew up watching the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers hoping one day I would be one of them to show kids or anyone that they can kick ass. So I was curious, how the heck am I supposed to be a real Power Ranger? That seed of inspiration has given me the gift of curiosity. I learned many languages, humbly immersed myself in other cultures and even learned how to throw knives. Now that I am an adult, and I won’t be wearing spandex and a helmet every day, this journey has led me to see how special you, her, he, they are. If we stay authentic we can see our own special abilities because we are all power rangers.
Is there anything else you’d like to address?
I wrote and directed my first short film KETCHUP WITH ME which balances the struggles of uncertainty and internalised homophobia. Which I can’t wait/hope to share with everyone in the UK. I’m also working on the first gay Hallmark starring Jonathan Bennett and Directed By Ali Liebert, The Holiday Sitter.
Donia is represented by @msrepresents
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