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April 12, 2010

Geek Out!: Big Bang Theory actor is ‘beast’ inside Raj

Posted: 01:31 PM ET
Kunal Nayyar
Kunal Nayyar

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

Kunal Nayyar plays a shy astrophysicist from India named Raj Koothrappali on the CBS hit sitcom "The Big Bang Theory," which airs Monday nights. In real life, he is also Indian and a geek, but not so timid. CNN's Geek Out! caught up with him a few days after he wrapped up shooting the show's season finale.

Q: How did you get into acting?
A: I had done some stuff when I was in Delhi in high school, but nothing major. When I moved to America, I was studying in a small school in Portland, Oregon, called the University of Portland, and I didn’t really have any friends. So I thought I should audition for a play so I could meet girls. And I auditioned for this play and I got in and I was terrible…

I realized very quickly that I’m just really bad at this, but I want to get better. I started taking all the acting classes – I still ended up getting my degree in business - but I took all of the acting classes and hung out with all of the theater kids, and I was like the theater geek by the end of my undergrad.

Then I went and got my master’s in acting at Temple University in Philly, and then I bounced all over the place and I ended up on the Big Bang Theory.

Q: What about that show appealed to you?
A: It was a Chuck Lorre pilot, and it was a multi-camera show, which is very close to theater - the world that I knew - and it was really funny. I didn’t look at it and say, oh this is a perfect geek comedy, I just read it and said, Oh my God, this is brilliant writing, this is so funny.

Q: How would you describe your character, Raj?
A: Not only does he have trouble mingling with the outside world, he also has trouble mingling because he’s a foreigner… it’s a double-edged sword he’s fighting. He feels very comfortable with these guys because they’re everything to him, you know what I mean? He’s so dependent, especially on Howard, but these guys are his family and his life, because he feels completely at ease with them.

And of course, you know, he suffers from selective mutism, which comes from his pathological shyness, and he can only talk to women when he drinks.

Inside Raj lives a beast, like a rapper or like a player or like a mogul, because every time he drinks he becomes this smooth, suave, picking-up-girls kind of guy. So I think there’s a beast that lives inside him.

Q: To what extent do you think you’re like Raj?

A: I think if Raj could let the beast out, that would be Kunal. I think Kunal is the beast that’s living inside Raj. Not that I am a mogul or a player or anything, but in essence I have the freedoms that he doesn’t.

Kunal is very much like Raj because I also sometimes I have to fight that double-edged sword, fitting in socially as well as internationally. And I think Raj is kind of mischievous and I’m pretty mischievous. Things excite Raj very easily, he gets excited very easily when it comes to video games or women or anything, and I’m sort of like that too.

Q: Do you relate to the geek culture of the show?
A: Yes. 100 percent. I know what it feels like to be passionate about something, and I think what makes these characters so lovable and kind of sexy to people now is that people really respond to people who are passionate about something. And these guys are very passionate about their lifestyle. They’re very passionate about comic books, they’re very passionate about what they wear, they’re very passionate about their work.

So the term ‘geek’ or ‘nerd’ it really just transcends to someone who’s very passionate about a certain lifestyle. You see a lot of people living their lives in the middle. These guys don’t. They don’t live their life in the middle, they go for whatever they want. And of course, according to the regular society it’s really not the norm, but I think I guess we share that similarity: I’m very passionate about my craft and my acting, and these guys are very passionate about astrophysics.

Q: Do you consider yourself a geek in real life?
A: In many ways. You know, like I said, I love video games – I’m in the middle of God of War III and I can’t wait to finish it – and I love video games, but at the same time I love sports. I love playing ping pong – ping pong is my sport, badminton is my sport, which is really geeky in essence. But at the same time I love watching football.

I love Archie and Jughead comics. There’s a board game called Star Wars Epic Duals that’s out of print now, Hasbro used to make it, and I spent one day 36 hours with my friends playing that game. I went to theater school – I’m pretty geeky in certain ways. But not as extreme as the guys in the show.

Q: Did you have to learn any science for the show?
A: I didn’t have to learn it beforehand, but I do keep learning as we go along. We have a real-life scientist who’s a consultant on the show… he’s on set a lot and we have a lot of questions for him, and all the science is real.

Q: What’s an example?
A: If you mix cornstarch and water and you put on top of a bass speaker with cellophane, it like bounces up and down and creates these crazy ghost-like figures. Try it: cornstarch and water. It’ll blow your mind.

Q: Are you planning any other projects?
A: Right now I’m just in the process of sleeping, and when the time is right I will be diving into some stuff. But nothing is solid yet, so I’m not allowed to really say.

Q: Did you wrap up the show?
A: We just wrapped on Tuesday [April 6]. It’s great. It’s nice to have a little break. We’ll be back in August, and we’re going to rock it one more season, and hopefully many seasons beyond.

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Kunal Nayyar Talks Raj « The Big Bang Theory at www.imbatman.org   April 12th, 2010 2:00 pm ET

[...] 12,2010Kunal Nayyar Talks Raj CNN's SciTechBlog has a new interview with Kunal Nayyar, who plays Raj in The Big Bang Theory!  Here are a few excerpts, click the link [...]


Wally   April 12th, 2010 2:12 pm ET

I watch Big Bang Theory every Monday.

Is Big Bang Theory a Penny double conundrum? Do you conceive?

Get you head out of the gutter. Thats how this human comedy keeps perpetuating itself.


barry G   April 12th, 2010 2:13 pm ET

Love the Big Bang Theroy program. The writing is wonderful and the interaction between the characters makes the program enjoyable!
Hats off to Chuck Lorre and his staff!


Sam   April 12th, 2010 2:47 pm ET

I am by no means a geek or anywhere close to the intelligence level of the guys depicted in this show. My background is sports and theatre and I am way more of a jock than I am a geek.

But...Sheldon is one of my TV heroes.


JGS   April 12th, 2010 3:02 pm ET

I love love BBT.... Sheldon is my favorite character. :)


kathy   April 12th, 2010 3:05 pm ET

Big Bang Theory is good. and same director who make two and a half men . ROCKS


Jafinha   April 12th, 2010 3:10 pm ET

I love the show. But I really don't think Raj is funny at all. If they fired him, I wouldn't miss him for a second.


Avrailer(Jeremii)   April 12th, 2010 3:15 pm ET

Big Bang Theory... One of the most logical and fact-oriented thoery of mankinds evolution. When you think of evolutionism many start to think about god... but who amde god? i'm not a devil worshipper but you must think of these things in order to understand how life is and why?


km   April 12th, 2010 3:24 pm ET

I love the BBT, Shelton makes me laugh every week. He is hysterical! But Raj would by far have to be the cutest of all the characters. Keep up the great work you do at making us laugh at things we have NO IDEA about!!


Nicole   April 12th, 2010 3:34 pm ET

BBT=AWESOME
L/P=AWESOME
Raj=AWESOME

S/girlfriend=I'm thinking not awesome but I'll wait and see.


Jo   April 12th, 2010 3:38 pm ET

I love BBT. Everybody contributes to this successful show. Its awesome how Chuck so much geek humor to TV. Keep going BBT.


bridget   April 12th, 2010 4:08 pm ET

im 70+ and i love this show, everyone is so funny, and god know we need a laugh in these crazy times,,,


love bbt   April 12th, 2010 4:20 pm ET

My husband and I love BBT...
I think the "geeks" here are the heart of the show!
Sheldon is amazing!
Raj is so cute!!
Love it!
@Jafinha – looks like somebody is jealous!!!
Did you audition for the part and did not get it? Ha ha what a baby!!!


sam   April 12th, 2010 4:23 pm ET

BAZZINGA!!!


Pauline   April 12th, 2010 4:24 pm ET

I LOVE this show!! I swear to COW!!!


Monica   April 12th, 2010 4:30 pm ET

I love the show!!!!!


nenecats Houston   April 12th, 2010 4:31 pm ET

Best comedy on TV. Each cast member does a superb job. The
chemistry between Penny and Sheldon is awesome. They should
have waited & let them become best friends at least before pairing
her up. 3rd year DVD comes out Sept. 2010. Excellent show.


Camila Villanueva   April 12th, 2010 4:44 pm ET

Ohh I love TBBT.. Rajesh is my favorite character.! I love him
Welcome to the Raj-mahal lol

Great show.


thrash   April 12th, 2010 4:48 pm ET

raj isnt the funniest but to make such comedies work you have to have whats called The Straight Man, for the other cast members to play off, raj and penny seem to be the straight man, like burns was to allen.


Nicol   April 12th, 2010 4:53 pm ET

Raj makes me CRY laughing!! Plus he's pretty easy on the eyes!! I have DVR'ed every episode. I look forward to Monday nights! I'd ask him out for dinner, get him a little tipsy and then we'd have great conversation! **Big smooch Raj/Kunal**!!!


BBT Fan   April 12th, 2010 5:04 pm ET

I love the Big Bang Theory. I think all the cast is contributing to the success of the show. I love Raj,


Jan   April 12th, 2010 5:06 pm ET

My husband and I are in our 70's and we wouldn't miss this show. Monday nite it's 2 1/2 Men and TBBT. We really don't know how the guys learn their lines and talk the way they do, but however they do it please don't stop.

Love all the characters. Don't change any of them.


Joe pombo   April 12th, 2010 5:32 pm ET

By far the best show on tv since Frasier, many time I laugh so hard my neighbors call to come over wand watch. THen it becomes a standard of watching. I hate the summer because the show isnt on! lol I would love for the cast to come to the NY comic con and do a meet and great maybe even an episode while there! Any way like Fraiser there isnt a weak character and that is very rare for a comedy show. keep the great work up and i look forward to next season!


rosa   April 12th, 2010 5:51 pm ET

where do they get their clothes??i love the clothes they wear funny!!!


Sency   April 12th, 2010 5:52 pm ET

people either love this show or hate it

http://www.sency.com/big-bang-theory.htm


Ana   April 12th, 2010 6:48 pm ET

I'm 57 and I totally love the show this kids are soooo adorable and funny, if we are not home, we tivo the show. Keep going strong good luck in the future


Barb   April 12th, 2010 6:58 pm ET

@ Rony : You're an idiot!


David B.   April 12th, 2010 7:58 pm ET

TBBT has the right equation:
Superb writers + superb actors = a smart & funny, superb show.
I think Einstein would have loved it.


Wally   April 12th, 2010 9:47 pm ET

I must be a sidekick.


Rob   April 13th, 2010 10:33 am ET

Sam- People who say they are not nerds or geeks or usually the biggest dorks of all. Nobody cares if you are a jock. Go and get your pocket protector and black rimmed glasses and be proud.


Ivonne Cuadros Evangelista   April 13th, 2010 2:33 pm ET

I love TBBT, please Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady continue the excellent work; Jim, Simon, Jhonny, Kunal, Penny what a A-Team, love you all


bg   April 13th, 2010 2:45 pm ET

Great show, but please stop using words like 'science bithches' during the show.... my kids are frequently in our room during this show and now we no longer watch it.


laysomepipe   April 15th, 2010 12:43 am ET

What the F is a Raj?


EJ   April 16th, 2010 9:13 am ET

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koolkid   May 28th, 2010 3:38 pm ET

laysome pipe:
Raj is a character in TBBT, how do you not know that


TBBT   June 15th, 2010 4:38 pm ET

I just love this show, watching it with family is a lot of fun, its just hilarious!


Micky B   June 15th, 2010 4:40 pm ET

TBBT is LOVABLE! Watching it with family is definitely something that I can't miss! Can't wait for the fourth season! :)


JG   July 6th, 2010 8:24 am ET

The show is awesome BECAUSE the science is real! I hate it when they're wrong or pretend to know and blabber things.

Yeah i'm a little bit of a sheldon. And i'm proud of that as well. Though i'm an analist-programmer ofcourse.


Luke Turner   September 29th, 2010 5:02 am ET

penny is just so adorable in the big bang theory`-`


Morgan Parker   October 6th, 2010 4:30 pm ET

oh i just have a big crush on Penny, she is so damn hot~:`


Caramoan    October 14th, 2010 6:50 am ET

i just thought that Lenard is the funniest guy in Big Bang Theory;~*


Bed Guard    October 20th, 2010 7:11 pm ET

would it be nice if you also have a girlfriend like Penny of The Big Bang Theory`,.


A Freudian slip on 'The Big Bang Theory' – The Marquee Blog - CNN.com Blogs   May 13th, 2011 3:51 pm ET

[...] by the way, to Kunal Nayyar for subtly portraying Raj's hopeful reaction to Howard and Bernadette having a little trouble. [...]


A Freudian slip on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ « marioprice1127   May 15th, 2011 7:14 am ET

[...] by the way, to Kunal Nayyar for subtly portraying Raj's hopeful reaction to Howard and Bernadette having a little [...]


A Freudian slip on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ | Mass Information   May 17th, 2011 10:31 am ET

[...] by a way, to Kunal Nayyar for subtly portraying Raj's carefree greeting to Howard and Bernadette carrying a small [...]


A Freudian slip on ‘The Big Bang Theory’ | Minute 14 of 15!   June 10th, 2011 9:28 am ET

[...] by the way, to Kunal Nayyar for subtly portraying Raj's hopeful reaction to Howard and Bernadette having a little [...]


Entrevista do Kunal (Raj) a CNN | Big Bang Theory Brasil   November 23rd, 2011 11:35 am ET

[...] ler a matéria original, clique aqui. Publicado em Artigos por Luiz H. Marque Link [...]


Entrevista do Kunal (Raj) a CNN | The Big Bang Theory   November 23rd, 2011 12:47 pm ET

[...] ler a matéria original, clique aqui. Publicado em Artigos por Ablankzin. Marque Link [...]


Latisha Vermilya   April 14th, 2013 8:50 am ET

Yes, Sheldon Cooper of the sitcom Big Bang Theory. Lots of us know about this character played by Jim Parsons. You could say that Sheldon is a classic example of a weird friend. Initially, I thought Sheldon was an alien from outer space. The way he behaves, his figurative mode of speech was unusual and seriously discrete. If you take a character analysis of Sheldon ways of living, mannerism, it could sometimes flabbergast you. Why? Because you have a person like his friends Leonard, Howard, and Rajesh have an extensive collection of superhero toys in which Flash is his favorite. Man! You will split into laughter, when you see in an episode where he dresses up as the Flash after drinking five cups of coffee. He gets so energized and intoxicated that he just speeds out of the apartment into the street in the Flash costume. .

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Personal training Long Island   January 11th, 2014 11:21 pm ET

I love this guy! I also love hearing success stories and he has a great one. Imagine getting on a hit show like the Big Bang Theory, What a great success.


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