Soon after the documentary series “Wild Wild Country” premiered on Netflix last year, audiences found themselves captivated once again by Ma Anand Sheela, the former spokeswoman for the Rajneesh movement. Perhaps this is why, despite the presence of actors like Michael Keaton and Owen Wilson, the real star of the two-part “Documentary Now!” season 3 premiere is Necar Zadegan.
Best known for her work in television shows like “NCIS: New Orleans” and “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce,” the actress plays Ra-Sharir, a character she describes as “a louder version” of Sheela as “Wild Wild Country” depicts her. Metro spoke to Zadegan about the character ahead of the season 3 premiere, which executive producer and writer Seth Meyers titled “Batsh*t Valley.”
“I had seen the documentary before getting involved, and Ra-Sharir for sure is probably the most closely related to the actual person who inspired her,” she explains. “She’s an interesting character and, of course, she’s even a louder version of Sheela in ‘Wild Wild Country.’ Everything is more heightened. In that sense, she’s even a bit more glamorous than her counterpart… especially when you consider the things Seth did to distance Ra-Sharir from Sheela.”
That Meyers and the “Documentary Now!” team go to great lengths to heighten, or exaggerate, the subjects they’re lampoon makes sense. This is a comedy series, after all, and comedy that means to satirize something lives, breathes and dies by exaggeration.
When done right, like in “Batsh*t Valley,” this kind of comedy can even be used to heighten serious matters in an otherwise humorous setting. The two-part premiere does this so well with the character of Ra-Sharir and it’s worth going into Wednesday’s episodes without being spoiled. So relax, because there are no spoilers here, but that didn’t stop Zadegan from gushing about the experience.
“Oh my god, it’s so hilarious what Seth and those guys have done,” she exclaims. “And it’s weird how relevant it is. Think about our current politics and how all these discussions are happening about how so many people were duped. Ra-Sharir is sort of a spoof of that discussion, especially since she’s such a duper herself. I mean, it’s obviously terrible, but the character is so exaggerated that it’s comedic.”
As much credit as Zadegan gives to Meyers, her co-stars and the “Documentary Now!” team, however, she too deserves plenty of accolades for her work in Wednesday’s two-part premiere. The Ra-Sharir character is a force to be reckoned with throughout “Batsh*t Valley” and much of this stems from her onscreen presence.
Even so, she still can’t believe that she got to appear in “Documentary Now!,” let alone work with Keaton and Wilson.
“I was under the impression that I was going to be working with Fred [Armisen] and Bill [Hader], so it was a surprise when that didn’t happen,” she laughs. “I was imagining Fred playing Owen’s part and Bill playing Michael’s. So that was news to me when that casting happened, and it was just so awesome to get to work with Owen and Micheal instead. I mean, I always thought this was going to be awesome when I pictured it in my head.”
“Documentary Now!” season 3 premiere airs Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 11 p.m. on IFC.