Trigger warning: discussion of suicidal ideation
Dasha Nekrasova is one of those people who are very famous in certain corners of the internet, and harder to explain to someone tapped out of it. The 32-year-old New York-based actor, podcaster, writer and director, has carved out a distinct online presence and following, one synonymous with knee high socks and shitposting and practising Catholicism ironically until it’s sincere.
If TV’s more your thing, you’ll recognise Dasha from her role in Succession playing Comfrey – a crisis PR consultant who gets hit on by Cousin Greg while she tries to steer Kendall away from various impending public disasters. If you’re an indie film head, you might know her from the likes of Eugene Kotlyarenko’s Wobble Palace, or her own low budget horror, The Scary of Sixty-First, which she wrote, directed and starred in.
Then there’s her politics. Dasha first went viral in 2018, when she told a reporter from the alt-right channel InfoWars that she supported Bernie Sanders and universal healthcare, and that “you people have like, worms in your brain, honestly.” Red Scare – a podcast Dasha hosts with her friend Anna Khachiyan – later hosted InfoWars founder Alex Jones on the show in 2021, in a move that inevitably (and probably intentionally) incensed a few fans of the viral video.
It’s this kind of move that typifies the podcast, which features the hosts commentating on culture and world events in a disaffected drawl (one that Sydney Sweeney has said her White Lotus character was based on). And while it’s been described as a critique of capitalism and neoliberal feminism, it also pedals in the kind of offensive language and ideology your Act-voting neighbour would love.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to delve into it all – we had a 20 minute Zoom call before she had to let her maid in. Instead we’re here to talk about a new film she’s in, the dark comedy Bad Behaviour.
Shot in New Zealand, it’s the directorial debut of Alice Englert, who also wrote and acted in it. There’s also appearances from Marlon Williams and Jane Campion (Alice Englert’s mum), while Jennifer Connelly takes the lead. She plays a former child actress trying to seek inner peace at a spiritual retreat, led by a supposedly enlightened leader called Elon. This is where Dasha comes in – as the model/actress Beverly, whose particular brand of innocence, insecurity and pathological fear of ageing rubs Jennifer’s character all the wrong ways.
Despite Dasha’s initial reservations about playing Beverly (Beverly’s a model, Dasha isn’t), there are some parallels between them – not least the capacity to appear remarkably unperturbed at pissing people off. Below, Dasha discusses this, her teenage penchant for New Zealand bands, and what it’s like to swaddle a crying Jennifer Connelly.
Note: we couldn’t talk about her other roles because of the strike
Did you know much about New Zealand before you turned up?
I had never been before, but I knew that it was notably scenic and beautiful. And when I was young, and still today, I was a big fan of this record label called Flying Nun – bands that came out of New Zealand in the 80s and 90s that I was very fond of. So I always had this feeling about New Zealand, that there was something very special about it that had produced all this music that was really important to me, especially when I was a teenager.
Did you like it?
I was in Wellington exclusively, really, and it was in June. So it was winter down there, as you know.
Yeah, I live in Wellington. It's pretty cold and windy that time of year.
Cold and windy, and I was working so I didn't get to really see all its splendour. But I had a nice time.
How did Bad Behaviour come about for you?
I met Alice in Bangkok, when we were both on this BBC Netflix show called The Serpent. We really just hit it off. We didn't stay in touch much, but she offered me the part of Beverly and I was very excited to take it.
What was it that you were drawn to?
I loved Alice, she just seemed so dreamy. I remember when we talked about acting in Bangkok, and our approaches to it. She said something very interesting, which was when she acts she does something kind of immersive, in pretending that she's like in a dream. And the way you behave in a dream, you can be in very sort of absurd circumstances, but you respond to them as if you would in your waking life. So I liked her mentality, and her whole vibe and everything. So I was excited to work with her as a director, and then the script I thought was wonderful.
Do you have a similar process when you’re acting?
It really depends on the character. All the information you really need about a character – if a script is good – is in the script. I think behaviour is revelatory of character, so it's really just about investigating, and trying to look deeply at why people do the things that they do and what that means about who they are, and incorporating that into your understanding of the character. But I studied the Strasberg technique. And so I do like to act, if possible – which it isn't always – in as immersive of a way as I can. And Alice was really great in that way too, because I feel like she gave me a lot of freedom. She had a very supportive environment on site that made everybody feel like they could be experimental.
Beverly’s your classic model/actress type, but she also pokes the bear a bit. Were there any particular references or people that you drew on for her?
I mean, we all know a Beverly type. She's a very contemporary person. But I had reservations when Alice first offered me the role, because I'm really not a model. But she was very sweet and affirming, and we had a wonderful costume designer, so we spent a lot of time on Beverly's wardrobe. That was really how I found the character, because I feel the way Beverly dresses is kind of revelatory of her character. When she first arrives at the retreat she's very styled, and very deliberate in the way she presents herself. Then as the film progresses, she almost starts dressing like Elon. That's something she does to endear herself to people. Maybe not even consciously, but I think she is like a little bit of an operator.
Your podcast is similarly provocative – is that kind of something you get a kick out of, or you wanted to bring to Beverly?
Beverly is funny, but it was really important to me not to play her as a joke. I think that her struggles, while they are funny, really are hers. I feel for her, even though she's annoying and a little villainous. I think, maybe much like me, she can't help but provoke.
Do you feel like your acting and your podcast are quite distinct things? Or do you feel like they really feed into one another in terms of the roles that you go for, or the roles that people want you for?
It's hard to say. The podcast probably hinders me in some ways, right? Because the climate in Hollywood is very homogenous, let's say. And not super tolerant of unorthodox thought. Most people would prefer actors just didn't say anything. But unfortunately I have an additional vocation. But also fortunately, because I think the podcast has given me a lot of opportunities. I feel really lucky to have a livelihood from it. So I don't have to be a jobbing actor who's desperate for work. I can really be deliberate about the things that I do, because I don't need to work as an actress to survive. But yeah, there's a trade off. It's hard to say if it's harmed or helped me more, because you could also make the case that I wouldn't have a career at all without it.
What were you doing before the podcast and these bigger roles?
I was trying to do the LA actress thing. But I didn't start acting until pretty late in my life. When I was 24, 25, I really started taking it kind of seriously. And yeah, I was on the desperate actor grind, then I moved to New York in 2018. That’s when I started to get sort of more opportunities and smaller parts. But in that way, I think it's a pretty standard accumulative thing.
Did you ever think you'd be swaddling Jennifer Connelly while she cries in your lap?
Definitely not. Working with her was a dream come true. Even though our characters have antagonism with each other, that also was super fun. She's just fantastic. So that scene, for me as an actress, was unbelievable. I really admire her because she's not – being as much of a celebrity as she is, especially off Top Gun. I think it's so cool that she treats her work in a very professional way.
Beverly’s terrified of ageing. Do you have similar fears?
No, not really. I have suicidal ideation in a very female and melodramatic kind of way at times [like Beverly does]. I can definitely relate to that. But I'm not so concerned with leaving a beautiful corpse in the way that Bev is.
You also co-wrote, directed and acted in The Scary of Sixty First – what was that experience like, do you prefer being in front of the camera or behind?
Well I acted in my movie as well, which was challenging, and not something I would do again. But I wouldn't say I prefer one more than the other. Acting is wonderful because you get to show up and leave. Directing is wonderful because ideally, you have a lot of creative control, but you have to live with the project in a way that is bigger.
The film’s set in Jeffrey Epstein’s former apartment, and features a lot of Jeffrey Epstein conspiracies and sexual fantasies. Do you feel like in your writing and directing work you’re drawn to the same kind of provocative subjects or tone that you are in your podcast?
I don't know, and as much as I am a provocateur, I think it's something that comes about very instinctually. And I think horror movies should be provocative. I made a genre movie because I was interested in the conventions of that genre, and on the podcast, it's sort of like – you know, we live in very polarising times. So taking a stance on anything will inevitably be divisive. But I don't think it would be a very good show if we just took some centre line consistently.
Bad Behaviour is in cinemas now