Fresh from her success in The Miseducation Of Cameron Post, Desiree Akhavan is back with The Bisexual. Gemma Dunn finds out more

IT'S been a stellar year for Desiree Akhavan. The writer-director - who until now was best known for her 2014 feature film debut, Appropriate Behaviour - not only scooped the Grand Jury prize at Sundance for her retelling of gay re-education comedy-drama, The Miseducation Of Cameron Post, but more importantly started a frank and much-needed discussion about female sexuality.

She simply wanted to see people like herself on screen, she protested. To wrestle "queer female stories back from male film-makers". No agenda necessary.

Well, her next project - her first television directorial, no less - undoubtedly does just that.

The Bisexual - a London-based sitcom which has already drawn comparisons to groundbreaking label-mates such as Cucumber and Queer As Folk - explores the differences between dating men and women from the perspective of a person who finds herself doing both. It was an idea that Akhavan, who openly identifies as a bisexual woman, conceived when she was completing press for her first movie.

"During that period, every time that I did anything, it was like, 'Bisexual Iranian-American film-maker', 'Bisexual director', 'Bisexual Lena Dunham'," remembers the star, 34, who co-wrote the script alongside her long-term collaborator Cecilia Frugiuele. "It was always 'Bisexual'. And I remember feeling it was such a deeply embarrassing, shameful thing," she says. "And I wondered, 'Well, it's technically true, I am bisexual. So why is it such an embarrassing thing?'

"I think if they'd said, 'Lesbian Desiree Akhavan', I would have been like, 'F*** yeah'. But bisexual? So that was just the thesis statement: why does this make me so uncomfortable?"

The result: a rather brilliant six-part comedy series for Channel 4, directed by and starring Akhavan herself. The New York native plays Leila, who, feeling lost in London having just left a 10-year relationship with girlfriend and business partner Sadie (Maxine Peake), ends up renting a room from neurotic novelist Gabe (Brian Gleeson), an eventual wingman.

But don't expect any will they, won't they romantic vibes between the two unlikely housemates. "Men and women can be friends; I think it's absurd that every movie tells us otherwise," insists Akhavan. "Cecilia and I - and all these collaborators - are attracted to the stories you don't see. We love entertainment, we love pop, we love things that appeal to the lowest common denominator, but we also want to write something different," she maintains. "Something that you can't anticipate from the first frame."

But as Akhavan discovered, convincing others - in her case the big-name LA networks - to stray from the "norm" hasn't proved easy. In fact, when it came to pitching The Bisexual, she was swiftly rejected by all of the LA networks."I went to one network and they were like, 'Oh we have Transparent, we already have a gay show', and you're like, 'But this is for dudes, it's a buddy comedy'."

Akhavan eventually came to the UK, where she stayed on Frugiuele's couch, co-wrote The Miseducation Of Cameron Post, and set about having her sitcom realised.

When she eventually met producer Naomi de Pear, it was like "a stacking Jenga of excitement", she recalls. "Suddenly, anything was possible and it was exactly the conversation I wanted to be having."

How did she fare juggling writing, directing and acting duties?

"One thing that happens when you wear so many hats, is you get credited with a lot," she says with a smile. "But the truth is, the way I write, direct and star is that I half-ass all those jobs. My co-writer, my co-stars, they have to pull so much more weight than they have to on any other set because their director is also juggling 10 other jobs and the crew," reasons Akhavan, referencing her female-centric crew. "So that's how it gets done: people rise to the occasion and carry more plates."

The audience, she hopes, will be varied.

"Don't you want everybody to watch your show? I very much hope the audience is people like me. I very much hope women, queer audiences love it," she says. "I think we're hungry for anything that represents us. But at the same time, don't you wish that people who don't agree with you would watch your shit? It's to make people feel less alone."

n The Bisexual starts on Channel 4 on Wednesday, October 10.