Kunal Nayyar says Penny is the smartest on 'Big Bang Theory'
Around women, Raj isn’t the chattiest kind of guy. But on “The Big Bang Theory,” with a couple drinks in him, Raj becomes a lothario of the highest caliber.
Raj is brought to life by actor Kunal Nayyar, and spoke at length to CTV.ca about who he thinks is the smartest character on the series, how success has changed his life, and if he’d ever work in India.
On the smartest character on the show:
“Sheldon is, I think, the most knowledgeable. To be honest, I really think Penny's the smartest. I know she's not one of the guys, but… these guys can't put an IKEA bed together. It would take some seven hours because they're trying to figure out the best way to do it, when Penny can! I just think Penny is very resourceful, whereas these guys are not. But I think Sheldon is the most knowledgeable. He's like a superhero. He can do everything. Seriously, every episode, he's doing something new.”
On Raj getting drunk:
“I love the aspect that that's his obstacle to talk to girls. I think that's just a really cool idea. But at the same time, I never look at the script and say, ‘Oh, man, I wish I was speaking in this scene’ or, ‘Because I'm not drinking, I can't do this.’ I always say, like, any championship team needs a really strong and deep bench, you know, or really good reserve players. I always say, ‘Listen, if I'm going to be the leading scorer or if I'm going to be the sixth man, I don't care. I'll do anything.’ I love these guys, and I love the show, so just bring it on.”
On how success has changed his life:
“The good thing is it's just nice to be recognized for your work. And I love our fans. They're so passionate and so respectful and kind and lovely and generous. But there are certain things you can't do as easily.”
“I have to be on Facebook under a fake name, you know. I can't just get onto an airplane and fly anywhere I want to now without considering certain things, like logistics, like security or -- you know, I can't just go to Comic-Con on my own, check out the comics.”
On why he thinks the show is popular:
“It's funny. To be completely blunt, it's the writing. I think the writing is so good -- the one reason I think it transcends cultures -- that's why it's so big in other cultures as well – is that people fall in love with these characters; right? A lot of things that have happened is people have fallen in love with these characters because, I think, these characters have no malice. There's no agenda with them. They're very innocent. Even when they lie to each other, they're such bad liars because they don't have a bad bone in their body. And I think that's very endearing to people who watch the show all over the world, you know. And the writing is just really good.”
Does India watch the show? Is he a star there?
“Yeah, they do. It runs five times a week, twice a day, actually, on the cable network. See, India is such a big subcontinent, and Bollywood is such a big part of the world that I think I have a very small place in that world. Also, it runs on cable on the Warner Bros. sitcom channel, so I think the people that watch that is a very small circle of people, you know, comparing to the mass of people in India. So in that circle, yes. In the circle that I run in, in India, yes. But, I mean, if you considered the mass of people, probably not.”
What kind of nerd he considers himself to be?
“A lot of things. I'd say I'm sort of obsessed with video games. That's pretty nerdy of me, although I'm not playing, like, Final Fantasy or anything. I'm playing, like, Madden and NBA basketball and FIFA Soccer. I think in my perfect world, I'd be an athlete. So I just take it out on the video games. Yesterday I played four hours. We were on holiday, and I played four hours because I was in the playoffs in a basketball game andI wanted to win. And I was obsessive. I was like -- I'm screaming at the television. I'm like, ‘What is happening to me?’ I think I'm going to turn in my Sony PS3 after the season ends because I have to get some stuff done this summer, and I wouldn't be able to.”
Other projects he’d like to do as an actor:
“You know, I think it will be fun – I think it will be fun to really do something that's gritty, that's not Raj. You know, as an actor, it's like, ‘Oh, you know, I want to win an Oscar, and I want to be known as a movie star for my work.’ And so, of course, I'm young, and I'm up and coming, so I want to play, like, a cop or a serial killer or something to show people that I can really -- because I think sitcom actors get a bad rap. They're like, ‘Uh.’ I went to grad school, got a master's in acting, went to the Royal Shakespeare Company in England at Stratford, and then came back and did ’Big Bang Theory.’ So I'm a theater guy. We're all theater geeks. So it would be fun to sort of do something gritty, but we'll see.”
Does he want to work in India someday?
“Oh, a hundred percent, yeah. I grew up in India. I'm Indian. I was born in London, but I'm Indian… I think in America, I think Hollywood is not there yet where I could believably play a lead character in a movie, like a love romance for Halle Berry or something. I don't think we're there. But in India I can -- when I'm in India, I don't have to answer the question why I'm Indian. I think in Hollywood if I was to play a lead role in a move, you always have to answer that question, I think. So in Bollywood I could be anything. I could be a cop, a serial killer. I don't have to worry about being too character-y. I can just play a leading man. So yeah, I think eventually. Eventually I'd like to work everywhere.”
Responding to online reaction to the show:
“In the beginning I would. And I had to stop because, you know, it's all well when everyone is loving it, but you might have one 14-year-old kid in the basement in some tiny place say something really mean. And no matter what it is -- like I think I read something about -- a thread, something like, you know, ‘I hate Raj.’ So out of a hundred and -- whatever, thousand comments that love the show, there was one thread that says, ‘I hate Raj.’ And there was, like, three or four people that said, ‘Yeah, yeah, he's so stupid. He only has one or two lines. They should cut him from the show.’ But it was, like, three or four people out of -- now it's, like, 16 and a half million… people will write stuff, and you want to stay away from that because it can ruin your day. Then you think, ‘Why are you being malicious towards me? You don't know me and all the hard work I had to put in to get on the show.’ You start wanting to fight these guys because they're attacking your morals or your values… so I just stopped.”
“I felt like I had to defend my character or something, and then I thought, ‘What if someone finds out this is me or something?’ That's just stupid, so I -- as I'm getting older, I can't be liked by everyone. I'm in the spotlight. People are not going to like me for various reasons. I don't even know. I think I'm adorable.”
His family’s reaction to his success:
“They always supported me. They never cared. When I decided – I have a bachelor's in business administration. I have a master's in acting. So when I told them, ‘Yeah, I'm getting my BA in marketing, but I think I'm going to become an actor,’ you know, they never -- they always just -- they said, ‘Listen, just be educated and focus on being a good person; and the rest, we don't care.’”