3 questions with Kunal Nayyar
The Big Bang Theory star on cool Indians, comedian memoirs and Broadway dreams
Turns out The Big Bang Theory’s girl-fearing astrophysicist is not totally fictitious. In his new book Yes, My Accent Is Real, Kunal Nayyar traces his own girl ‘exploits’ (smiling from a distance, mostly) before he married a beauty queen. In between are ruminations on coming to America, making it in showbiz and what goes on inside Sheldon Cooper’s head. We caught up with the actor:
ELLE: You have a chapter in your book on Indian cool. What do you make of the explosion of Indian stars on American TV, especially in comedy? Are you all in a secret Indian illuminati club together?
Kunal Nayyar: “The dream is that we hang out at a local bar and talk about how cool it is to be Indian. I didn’t get this role and think, ‘Now all these Indians are going to make it’. All I was focusing on is ‘Be on time, don’t mess up your lines, and be professional’. Maybe it was responsible or maybe not, I’m not sure, but the demographics of America are changing – that’s the impetus for this. TV shows are trying to represent what they see in society. The Big Bang Theory really allows Raj to be a Delhiite – it’s not an American version of a Delhiite.”
ELLE: You’ve joined an illustrious group of TV comedians writing memoirs. Did you read any of them?
KN: “I read both Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling’s books. They have such incredible comic voices. They have a human and self-deprecating way of writing stories – that’s how I wanted to write my book. Jesse Eisenberg’s book [of short stories] is by my bedside, he’s an incredible writer and one of the most down to earth people in this industry. I try to read and watch as much as I can, to keep up, and because I enjoy it. I hope people read my book, and I hope they aren’t mean to me on the internet.”
ELLE: You discuss your brush with musicals in your book. What’s your dream role on Broadway?
KN: “I know people will say I’m the cheesiest guy in the world, but I’d love to play the Phantom in Phantom Of The Opera. The ultimate truth, though, is that I don’t have the voice for it. I can sing and pick up a guitar and serenade someone, but to really be on Broadway, that level of talent is out of my range. I’d love to do Romeo or Hamlet or Othello or one of the iconic roles for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Well, I’m a little old to play Romeo. Hopefully, once Big Bang is done, I’ll be able to make choices and do what I want to do – it has been a platform for me. My dream is to open a repertory theatre in Delhi. I’m also aggressively pursuing doing a movie in Hindi.”
Yes, My Accent is Real (Simon & Schuster) releases on September 15
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