Categorized | A & E, Featured, Nation/World

Indian American Talent Flourishes on Fall TV

India West, By Lisa Tsering

Writer-actress-producer Mindy Kaling, best known till now as Kelly on the Emmy-winning FOX comedy “The Office” and the author of a New York Times best-selling memoir, will navigate the singles scene as the star of “The Mindy Project,” whichvpremiered Sept. 25 on FOX.

Kaling joins other Indian American actors and writers making a mark on American TV this season — with stars such as Aziz Ansari and Kunal Nayyar continuing their successful runs on hit shows and rising child actor Karan Brar in Disney’s tween series “Jessie.” Get ready to see Kal Penn and “Outsourced’s” Parvesh Cheena return to the small screen, as well as more appearances on the hit FOX show “Glee” by Pakistani American actor Iqbal Theba.

In “The Mindy Project,” Kaling plays Mindy Lahiri, a young OB/GYN in a big city hospital whose love life has nothing in common with the romantic comedies she loves to watch.

“It used to be that you had to make female TV characters perfect so no one would be offended by your ‘portrayal’ of women. Even when I started out on ‘The Office’ eight years ago, we could write our male characters funny and flawed, but not the women. And now, thankfully, it’s completely different,” Kaling told David Letterman on his talk show Sept. 17.

Kaling, 33, whose real name is Vera Chockalingam, is also the author of the bestselling comic memoir “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)” (Crown Archetype).

Her character is “snarky but sweet, clean but just a little dirty, quick without being rushed, meta without being niche, and centered on someone who seems familiar and yet comes across as a fresh find,” reads a review of the show in the Washington Post. (India-West’s repeated requests for an interview and review copy of the show went unanswered by FOX’s p.r. team).

Standup comic-turned-actor Aziz Ansari returns for a third season on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” Sept. 20 as Tom Haverford, a self-serving young man who will undergo a change of heart in the 2012 season.

“There’s an arc that starts around [Nov. 1] for Tom, where he’s trying to start a new business but he’s grown up a bit and has learned from his mistakes in the past — so it’s about him trying to turn over a new leaf and take what he thinks is actually a good idea for once and turn it into a legitimate business,” show co-creator Mike Schur told The Hollywood Reporter recently.

Kunal Nayyar has continued to grow his fan base as the nerdy Rajesh Koothrappali on CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” now entering its sixth season.

The British-born Nayyar says that Raj may finally find some romance. “I don’t know what is going to happen next season. I think it will be fun if Raj finds love, because his turn is up,” he told a British news site. “That would be fun, but at the same time, I’m fine with whatever the writers come up with. They’re so brilliant at what they do, so I would be a fool to try and pave my own way on the show. I trust them.”

“Harold & Kumar,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “House” star Kal Penn, between stints serving the Obama administration this past year and appearing at the Democratic National Convention, had taped a pilot for ABC called “Prairie Dogs,” in which he played an uncool office worker who learns to be hip, but a spokesperson for ABC told India-West Sept. 17 that the pilot had not been picked up.

Instead, Penn will start shooting an as-yet-untitled comedy for “How I Met Your Mother” producer Rob Greenberg this January, according to Deadline.com. This CBS comedy pilot centers on a callow young man (Chris Smith) who learns the facts of life from his streetwise neighbors in a short-term rental complex, including Gil (Kal Penn) and Frank (Tony Shalhoub). Penn’s character, Gil, was caught by his wife in an affair and now lives in the complex until he can convince his wife to take him back.

Royal Pains,” on the USA Network, features Reshma Shetty as a woman trying to reconcile two physician doctors as their lives entangle in the upscale Hamptons. Los Angeles-based character actor Ajay Mehta appears on the show as well.

Child star Karan Brar, 13, has a starring role as Ravi on the Disney tween hit “Jessie,” about a wealthy New York City family whose Texan nanny, Jessie (Debby Ryan), oversees their large, internationally adopted family. In an earlier interview with India-West, Brar said he is also working on an animated princess-related series for Disney for a future season (that show has not yet been officially announced).

Parvesh Cheena was one of the standout talents in the cancelled NBC comedy “Outsourced,” but he has found new fans on the Web-based police comedy “Squad 85” on Justin Lin’s Asian American-themed online channel YOMYOMF (You Offend Me You Offend My Family).

“My evil villain [character], Rickman, in ‘Squad 85,’ just happens to be of Indian American descent,” the Chicago native told India-West in a recent e-mail. “No accent — well, expect an odd, nasally psychotic one that is part 1930s gangster-meets-Midwestern suburbanite.”

Cheena, who dyed his hair blonde for the role on “Squad 85,” quickly dyed it back again to appear in a new comedy pilot called “Friend Me,” which coincidentally is written and co-created by an Indian American, Ajay Sehgal. “Friend Me” starts filming Sept. 24 in Los Angeles for a mid-season entry on CBS early next year, and stars Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Nicholas Braun as Indiana transplants in LA, where they start new lives working for Groupon.

Cheena’s fellow “Outsourced” alumni include Rizwan Manji, who will also appear on “Squad 85,” he said.

Danny Pudi continues his costarring role on NBC’s “Community” as Abed, a pop-culture junkie. “Community” starts its new season Oct. 19.

And Archie Panjabi reprises her Emmy-winning role as Kalinda Sharma on “The Good Wife,” returning for a fourth season on CBS Sept. 30. Kalinda’s estranged ex-husband re-enters her life this season, forcing Kalinda to make some desperate choices while trying to keep her mind on her work.

Janina Gavankar just wrapped up the fifth season of “True Blood” on HBO last month; but Maulik Pancholy is still lending his voice to the character of Baljeet on the Emmy-winning animated Disney series “Phineas and Ferb.”

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