It’s been 12 years of The Big Bang Theory, and the nerdy quartet (and their even funnier halves) have kept us in splits. But the American sitcom, now in its final season, has yet one more comedic card up its sleeve: Indian- American actress Rati Gupta, 35, who plays Raj Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar’s) very practical, very focused and amusingly unapologetic arranged bride-to-be. Seeing arranged marriage on Indian airwaves is one thing, but watching the concept play out on prime-time American TV and reading the op-eds it spurs is quite another. Here, Gupta talks to us about her new vocation and essaying the role of a non-stereotypical woman of colour.
ELLE: How did you start out?
Rati Gupta: After experiencing setbacks in my dance career, I decided to take an acting class and see where it would take me. My friends recommended a teacher, who, as it turns out, is the go-to instructor for sitcom comedy. She thought I was funny and threw me into advanced classes, and I fell in love with the art.
ELLE: What do you love about Anu?
RG: She knows exactly who she is and what she wants. But underneath that tough, take-it-or-leave-it exterior she’s a bit of a softy weirdo— and I love that.
ELLE: How do you feel about being part of an arranged marriage narrative on American prime-time TV?
RG: I was sceptical at first, but the script won me over. It was clear they were more interested in the irony of the hopeless romantic Raj pursuing the least romantic avenue towards marriage than they were atpoking fun at Indian culture.
ELLE: Most Indian parents aren’t thrilled about a career like acting. How did your folks take it?
RG: My mum has been a fan of the show from the start. So when I called her to tell her that I was going to be on it, she screamed. She had apparently been watching reruns the night before, and said to my dad, “All I want is for Rati to be on this show. That’s my dream for her”. So, I guess I made my mother’s wish come true?
ELLE: A piece of advice for fellow POC actors?
RG: If a producer or director asks you to do an unjustified accent, say no. You are helping them improve the character, and you are saving them from public criticism later down the line.
ELLE: If you could overhaul the cast of an iconic TV show and populate it with POC, which would you pick?
RG: Sex And The City! I’d be Samantha, and cast Ashley Nicole Black as Carrie, Greta Lee as Miranda and Sara Amini as Charlotte.
Photograph: Benjo Arwas