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.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.’”
While still doing his regular gig on as Howard Wolowitz on “The Big Bang Theory,” Helberg appeared in the Coen brothers’ Oscar nominated film “A Serious Man” as Rabbi Scott Ginzler.
When Helberg first got the call to audition for the role, he remembers “I almost had a heart attack. I was through the moon. They're my heroes.”
“So I auditioned for them, and nine months later I got the part. And three months after that, I shot the movie. So it was a year process, nine months of not knowing, then getting word that, you know, they liked me. They were editing ‘No Country for Old Men’ and they were in preproduction for ‘Burn After Reading.’ So they weren't even positive they were going to make it. So it was a nail-biting experience.”
According to Helberg, the Coen brothers had never seen any of “The Big Bang Theory.”
“They don't watch TV, and I think they are sincere about it. I don't think it's a pretentious thing. I won't name names, but I've heard stories about huge, huge TV stars going in for them and them kind of being like, ‘Oh, he was pretty good.’ And then the casting director is like, ‘Yeah, but you didn't want to use a name for that part.’ And they'll say, ‘Who was that?,’” says Helberg.
“At one point I was actually nervous that they might not want me because of this. But this was the second season of our show, the beginning of it. So it wasn't as big, I guess. They intentionally didn't want names or recognizable faces, although Richard Kind was in the movie, and he's been on a ton of sitcoms. But he's not at the moment. So I just thought, ‘Oh, God, what if they, you know, see an advertisement for our show and they think, 'Oh, he's on a show. We want someone who no one's ever seen'?’ But thank God they hadn't seen the show, and I got to play that part.”
Despite playing a Rabbi, Helberg says he’s not a religious person, and doesn’t really see Wolowitz that way either.
“I was raised Jewish and had a bar mitzvah, and I'm definitely more reformed and confused maybe. It's something that I would try not to even associate the character on the show being the Jewish guy because I think they've added so many wonderful layers to him. And of course, you are what you are. I think they've done a good job kind of shining a lot of light on sort of the humanity of these eccentric characters.”
When it comes to Wolowitz’s eccentric wardrobe, some of his fashion choices are inspired by Helberg’s own personal style.
“It's funny because I used to sort of like have shaggy, Beatlesy hair. And that was cool, I thought. And then I went into the audition, and they were like, ‘Oh, my God, and your hair, it was perfect. It was so nerdy. Like, keep it like that.’ That's happened quite a bit to me where I'll be playing a nerd, and they're like, ‘What about those pants you wore to the audition?’ When I would leave the studio and just look the same, I started to feel like… I didn't look quite as drastic. They flat-iron it, and it looks more like Moe Howard as opposed to John Lennon, hopefully. So I've embraced it. I enjoy looking kind of as bad as I possibly can,” says Helberg.
Helberg also credits his appearance on a successful sitcom like “The Big Bang Theory” as a dream come true. He remembers growing up and rushing through his homework in order to watch programs like “Family Ties,” “Growing Pains,” “Who’s the Boss,” “Golden Girls” and “Rosanne.”
The actors says because of his “Rosanne” fandom, it was intimidating first meeting his co-star, Johnny Galecki, who previously appeared on the sitcom.
“I always remember thinking he was really cool on ‘Roseanne.’ I related a lot to his character… I always thought he had such cool hair. It was always, like, curly, in his face. And I was like, ‘Man, I wish I had that curly, cool hair.’ I was a vain kid. But yeah, no, so that was -- it was really exciting. And I recently – like right after I met him, I found this thing from when I was, like, 11 that I had to list my five favorite shows. And
‘Roseanne’ was number one. So it is surreal,” says Helberg.
“The Big Bang Theory” also stars Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco, and Kunal Nayyar. The half-hour series airs Monday nights on CTV, with full episodes available online at CTV.ca.
Jim Parsons on Martha Stewart with his mother
JP in a Fed EX comercial:
JP in an Arby's ad:
JP in a Quiznos comercial
Simon Helberg in Sprite comercial
note to mods: lj cuts added