One On One With Parvesh Cheena (Gupta)
How does your South Asian heritage help you in your acting career and how does it hold you back?
It definitely helps when going out for specifically South Asian roles. It’s an added color (no pun intended) on parts that aren’t specific about ethnicity as well as it allows me to play roles from Europe and Asia as well. It’s not a hindrance really, as more and more casting directors and projects want a more diverse and multi-cultural view of how our world really is.
There is a lot of background noise about the show Outsourced being another program that just stereotypes Indians, how does that make you feel, and what would you say to those talking about it?
The fear of stereotypes at this stage is just noise as most people haven’t seen the pilot. These are fully rounded characters that have relationships, back stories, and do good AND bad things just like any person or human does. No one is perfect, no person is. Not every character is the smartest or coolest, there are some dorks and geeks of whom I’m proud to give a voice to. Gupta, for example, may come across as sometimes naive or annoying, but in his mind, he is just trying to be helpful and friendly. One has to play the truth in their role.
Do you feel that there is any truth to the “buzz” that Indian actors only get cast in stereotypical roles?
Not at all, acting has been a huge part of the South Asian culture from Bollywood to indie films from India to all of us American-born South Asians here. I play, if anything, more non-ethnic specific parts than roles marked as Indian specific. Be it doctors, slackers, assistants, comic book company owners, sons, lovers, best friends, or call center workers. People like Danny Pudi, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Kal Penn, Maulik Pancholy, Ajay Naidu, Iqbal Theba, Ajay Mehta, (the list goes on and on!) are constantly cast for being great, commanding actors who have a South Asian ethnic origin but at times has little to do with their role or part.