You were born in India but grew up in Queens. What was your upbringing like?
I came to America when I was 8 years old. And growing up in Queens was really hard. When I first came to the States, I didn’t know any English at all. It was a very confusing time because there were no other Indians around me. As I was growing up I wasn’t Indian enough to be Indian, then not American enough to be American. There was this whole HipHop influence happening in Queens and New York. At that time, I didn’t know who to be or how to be. It was a trip. [laughs]
Biggest influences? Who were you looking up to?
Right now? Let’s see, Ryan Reynolds, Idris Elba he’s dope. Chadwick Boseman, my God. The dude is so nice, so talented. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts, Off Camera with Sam Jones. I listened to Kumail Nanjiani, Riz Ahmed, Mindy Kaling. Hearing about their experiences and being able to relate to that, it’s been eye-opening.
When did you realize you wanted to act or fell in love with it?
Right after I graduated from college with my undergrad. I did a whole Bachelor’s in Engineering and said “I really don’t want to do this anymore.” [laughs] I wanted to be a Formula 1 racer.
No way! Is that like NASCAR?
No. There’s Formula 1, then there’s NASCAR. But Formula 1 is the cars that go really fast, so that’s what I wanted to do. That’s what my life ambition was, and I realized how so far away from that I can possibly be. I studied Automotive Engineering.
What was your first big break you would say?
My first big break was Grey’s Anatomy. Having the caliber of experience on that show and being able to be on it for more than one season, that was my biggest break.
How did it feel to be on such a critically-acclaimed show?
It was really cool. I think I was one of the first Indian Americans to have a character that was long-term on the show. Learning from all the OG’s who’d been there: Ellen, Chandra, James, Justin, and how humble they all are. Even after that many seasons of being on the show, they’re so very open and accepting. It taught me a lot, they took me under their wing.
What did you learn from Harvard?
I got my Master’s in Fine Arts in Acting. I did a 2.5 year program there. [Laughs] We did our residency at the MXAT-Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia, I learned Russian for about 9 months. I didn’t know much about acting when I got to my Master’s Program so I was a total open book. A sponge, I absorbed everything that they taught.
What’re you most excited for with Season 2 of Never Have I Ever?
So Season 2 is out, it came out in July. Again it was a global phenomenon on Netflix, just blew everything off the charts. To have another season of a show be so successful and tell these really authentic stories of people of color, especially in America, and have it be so relatable to everyone and everyone’s experience is a really nice feeling to have. The show got picked up for Season 3, which is huge. Hopefully I still have a job waiting for me. [laughs]
I’m pretty sure you’ll be good right? [laughs]
Yeah that’s what I’m hoping for.