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Kunal Nayyah (Raj) Of The Big Bang Theory Just Wants To Be Cool

Kunal Nayyar plays Raj Koothrapalli on the hit CBS show, "The Big Bang Theory" (TBBT).   Kunal has appeared on The Bonnie Hunt Show in 2009 and recently in 2010 around the time of his birthday. Bonnie showed a photo of Kunal's birthday cake which was had multi-colored frosting, lots of decorations and the word Bazinga on top.

Bazinga Is Jim Parsonese

Kunal explained he wasn't responsible for the creation of the cake but that Bazinga was is "Jim Parsonese" from the Big Bang Theory show.  Jim in the role of Sheldon is famous for using the Bazinga phrase.

Defining Flavor Of Red Velvet Cake

Bonnie and Kunal also discussed the concept of red velvet cake, which was the flavor of Kunal's Bazinga cake.  Kunal told Bonnie he "never understood the concept" of red velvet cake.  Even more importantly he wondered "what makes it red?"

When Kunal discovered, from Bonnie's audience, that it's chocolate cake with red food coloring he sarcastically said "oh that's healthy."

Bonnie asked Kunal well why don't you just eat chocolate (cake) and Kunal said "because it's red velvet, it sounds...you know..."  Shrugging about the controversial flavor Kunal said "Hallmark made the cake.  I don't know."

The Kentucky Derby

Moving on from the birthday cake Bonnie asked Kunal about his visit with his friends to the famous Kentucky Derby for his birth celebration.  Kunal confirmed that he did celebrate at The Derby and it was "quite a week."  A photo was shown of Kunal wearing a blue blazar and hold a "non-alcoholic drink, a mint julep."

Kunal Appearing In The Pegasus Parade

Kunal explained he was in The Pegasus Parade sitting on top of the back of an open convertible and waving to people.  He said "250,000 people were there and he was waving to them" and he said the people were screaming 'oh my God it's Raj."  He said "they were crying.  I'm not making this up.  I'm not trying to look cool, cause I'm not cool."

The reaction of all the people to Kunal caused him to get "overwhelmed emotionally".

He told Bonnie his feelings during the parade "you know I thought it would be like 'awww, look at me I'm...' and "this is going to sound, I'm very manly in many ways" but "I began to tear up because you spend so much time on set and in the studio and we live in LA and you know, you never really see the effect you're having on people and making them laugh and to touch.  And there was such a plethora of diversity.  It was really lovely. It was really wonderful."

India To US Culture Shock - Bread And Milk

Bonnie asked Nayyar what type of culture shock he experienced coming to the United States from India.  He said "Yeah, I mean, I came when I was 18 and it's not like I came off the boat and I was like - he assumed a funny voice - 'ohhhdee, what's happening here.'

He said "it wasn't like the 7-11 thing.  But no.  7-11.  I mean, hey, all 7-11s are owned by Indians.  I mean this is the truth.  OK.  So I came over.  And I'm amazing.  The biggest thing was I went to the superstore to get...the market store..the supermarket, to get like some bread and some milk and things.  And the amount of breads you have in America.  You have multi-grain, wheat, white, sourdough, three-grain - no that's not a thing, right?"

He said he had the same issues with milk.  Kunal said "the biggest culture shock was how do I just buy some white bread and some white milk?"

Unlike several US-born Indian-origin actors, Nayyar  lived his whole life in New Delhi and studied at St Columba’s School. before arriving in Hollywood.  Ironically Kunal originally had aspirations of being a rockstar.  He played the guitar so he could look cool in front of girls and wanted to be Aamir Khan when he grew up.

Although Kunal plays the brainiac scientist Raj on The Big Bang Theory when he was in school he hated studying.  He only wanted to play sports and like any normal Delhi boy chase girls.  Luckily his parents were cool and just wanted him to work hard, at whatever occupation he chose.  He did have to study in high school so he could graduate and go to school in the US, but it wasn't something he loved to do.

Kunal has told the media he didn't really plan on being an actor in the USA even though he did take acting classes while studying business.  He studied business to have a backup career if acting didn't work out.  He did a play and then wound up at a regional competition in Idaho.

Ultimately his first time out he got fired for being incompetent which he couldn't believe because he thought he was good.  He decided that it was good it happened early on his career because he went home, decided to work on the feedback from the judges and then return to win.  Which he did four years later while he was enrolled to study acting at the University of Philadelphia.  He won the regional and the national rounds.

Instead of returning to India after graduation he decided to become the first from India to make it in Hollywood.  He said he didn't want to prove anything to anyone but he did want to challenge himself.  He figured if he was well trained he would have a good chance at succeeding as an actor even though there wasn't many roles written for Indian actors.

He didn't let anything stand in his way when he auditioned for roles even if the part was not specifically for an Indian.  He just tried to do his very best as an actor and just bank on that as his road to success.  He decided you get stereotyped only if you want to.

The Original Raj Was Asian

In fact, the role of Raj on TBBT was designed for an Asian, but because he did a good audition, he won the role.  Along the way he collaborated with the writers and producers to shape Raj so that he would be believable and not a caricature.  He said they wanted to call his character Ramayan David Koothrapalli instead of Raj.  He told the producers that Rajesh was much more realistic because it's a common name.

Of course now that Kunal is famous and on the #1 show on TV, he feels like the luckiest person on the planet.  He feels very blessed that he has achieved what he set out to do when he was growing up in India.  He doesn't feel any different as a person although he does feel very proud to be the first kid from India in Hollywood.

One of the most popular storylines for Kunal is his connection with Howard and their bromance.  Although Howard had a storyline with a girlfriend last season, Kunal promises that the connection between Raj and Howard will continue into the next season.

Being A Big Nerd

Kunal confirms the characters on the show are all big nerds with a primal sense of humor but without malice towards anyone.  He said all of TBBT characters are very similar in real life to the characters that they portray.

In real life the currently single Kunal has some level of nerdiness but unlike Raj he's not shy in any way around girls.  He has said in interviews the girls who don’t know him can’t believe he's such a different person in real life.   Now that he's rich and famous and on TV he gets attention from everyone, not just girls.  He said that while womanizers get more attention, impressing a woman in Hollywood only has to do with your pockets!

Although he's not like his character Raj, he has admitted to have a bit of geek in him.  He loves Stars Wars and Lord of the Rings.  He also has confessed to being a huge video game nerd.  Kunal has said in interviews "being a geek isn’t a myth – everyone’s a geek about something."

His favorite Hollywood moment to date was when he went to the Emmys and met Kelsey Grammar (Frasier).  He and the other Big Bang castmates challenged Kelsey to a game of table-tennis.  Kunal said over beers he discovered that Kelsey earns $1.8 million dollars a week and has more money than God.  However, Kunal said in spite of his wealth he is the sweetest and most humble man.


And he said to me, ‘You are doing really well in life right now, so enjoy it. There’ll be a point when you may not do well, no matter how much money you have. So just enjoy your life, but don’t take it all for granted.’ And it’s true - the only way to go far in life is by being humble, the rest of it smoke and mirrors. In Hollywood, everyone’s predominantly humble.

Going Home To India

Although Raj lives in LA, he likes to go back home for visits.  Because TBBT is the No.1 comedy show in the US, he is becoming more recognized out in public.  Back home in India only a few people ever recognize him and they are generally very polite.  He finds it a nice change because I hang out with my family in India. I don’t have aspirations of having a huge profile in India.

What The Future Holds For Kunal

Kunal is honest about his future acting goals.  He told the media he doesn't know where he'll be in five years but he hopes for now TBBT continues and gets bigger which can provide new opportunities.  He would like to do movies of course but when you're acting on a network show it limits the amount of life left to do anything else.

He doesn't want to limit himself to acting.  In the future he would like to try writing, teaching, directing and producing.  Of course he also wants to be cool.

But he seems to have that gig already nailed down.


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