It wasn’t easy breaking into the all-white American sitcom ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and controlling the ground like a true South Asian, but that’s Kunal Nayyar for you.
Being yourself is difficult, especially in a country and industry where everyone is already a celebrity in their own right. However, Kunal Nayyar, the Indian-born Hollywood sitcom actor who portrayed Rajesh Koothrapalli in the hugely popular ‘The Big Bang Theory’, went above and beyond!
- Kunal Nayyar on his journey to becoming an actor
- Kunal Nayyar is proud to be an Indian in Hollywood
Kunal Nayyar on his journey to becoming an actor
His life began in London, but he quickly moved to India, where he migrated with his family when he was four years old. Nayyar relocated to New Delhi, where he grew up. Nayyar moved to the United States after graduating from St Columba’s School to pursue a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance at the University of Portland, Oregon. The Delhi lad initially found the transition to a new nation difficult – Nayyar frequently found himself lonely and without companions. It was his loneliness that pulled him to the theatre; it was here that he felt at ease.
“You know, the theatre’s a place where people who sort of feel like misfits can have a family because theatre is accepting of all types … I felt at home”, he told CBS News.
He soon found himself enrolling in acting classes. What began as a hobby quickly evolved into a life-long obsession. He added, “I was on stage. I had a moment where I had completely, for the first time in my life, discovered what it means to be present, and it happened on stage. I finished the play and went home and told my parents, ‘This is what I want to do for the rest of my life’ and I am going to do it”.
His quest to get into the performing industry led him to Temple University in Philadelphia, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in acting. This led to him appearing in ads on American television and performing on the London stage. However, it was the 2006 play Huck & Holden that made people sit up and take note of this Indian youngster in the United States. His first major break came in 2007 when he appeared as an Iraqi terrorist on CBS’ hit drama NCIS.
Kunal Nayyar is proud to be an Indian in Hollywood
Nayyar wanted to break free from the clichés that Asians were subjected to on American television, so he auditioned for the role of a scientist in ‘The Big Bang Theory’, and the rest, as they say, is history. The successful series established Nayyar as a star in his own right, with perfect comic timing. Raj Koothrappali, his character, wore his Indianness on his sleeve and made people fall in love with him. Only a few people are aware that the producers originally intended to cast Nayyar as a first-generation American; however, they were so taken with Nayyar’s audition that they altered the role to reflect his own experience as an immigrant from India.
He said, “I’m lucky to be working in Hollywood. If I look back and watch some of the things that I’ve done in the past years, I see a long journey with ’The Big Bang Theory’ and hosting ‘The Late Night Show’ — under the lights of David Letterman and Craig Ferguson — it was quite unprecedented for an Indian”.
“Being an Indian, being a hardcore Delhiite, there is an inherent desire in me to do a movie in India, but I am waiting for a project that hits all the right spots”, Nayyar told PTI. However, the actor stated that his first and main love is being in front of the camera and performing and that he will always rush into any exciting production, whether in the United States or India.
“Bollywood or Hollywood, if the material, the story, the character and the writing all appeal to me then I will jump in and take on a project. I am an actor, I love acting, whether it is in India, America or anywhere in the world, put a camera on and I will be standing by the ready”, he said.
Nayyar, who does not play by the rules, has broken stereotypes in every manner conceivable and is an example to everybody who aspires to make it big in Hollywood.