Theatre alumnus lands role in NBC sitcom Outsourced
Guru Singh might not have the biggest role on the NBC sitcom "Outsourced," but his mere presence on the show has proven culturally groundbreaking.
Singh, a 2004 graduate of the School of Theatre & Dance, is the first Sikh to be cast as a regular in an American sitcom.
On "Outsourced," he stars as Ajeet, one of the call center employees in India tasked with selling American novelties.
Born in Houston and raised in India, Singh eventually returned to the Bayou City and attended Klein Forest High School. After graduating, he enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin, but later transferred to UH.
Although the show's shooting schedule keeps Singh busy, he still found time to chat with Creative Pride.
Emery: Congratulations. I read that "Outsourced" was picked up for a full season. How has the TV experience been so far?
Singh: It's been crazy all around. It's my first gig, and it's been great in terms of providing me with valuable experience. I am very lucky to get this kind of role.
Emery: How did UH's School of Theatre & Dance prepare you for working in TV?
Singh: It prepared me in a lot of ways. The classes and teachers were amazing. The talented teachers there are known throughout the country for their unique skills. So, being able to be a part of the school and learn from Sidney Berger, Carolyn Boone and Brian Byrnes was incredible. Learning from these people really helped me prepare for opportunities like this.
Emery: Your acting began when you attended Klein Forest High School, correct?
Singh: Yes. I played Chief in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." The drama teacher needed to fill that role and asked my friend to ask me. I auditioned and got the part. That was the beginning of my acting career.
Emery: What was the auditioning process for "Outsourced" like?
Singh: I had one audition and one callback, and that was it.
Emery: What kind of advice do you have for student actors seeking to break into film or TV?
Singh: My only advice is to dig into whatever they want to do. That might mean generating their own productions with little to no support from others. It's a way to exercise their craft effectively and get themselves out there.
Emery: How did you end up in Los Angeles? Did you just head out there with the goal of working in TV or film?
Singh: I have a business degree, as well as a theater degree. I had been working in computer science for a few years, and found a business opportunity in L.A. I've always had Los Angeles in my mind because I wanted to do film and TV. In New York, the industry is more theatrical or focused on commercials. All actors have to choose which way to go. There weren't a whole lot of stage roles written for tall guys with turbans, so it was more logical for me to head to L.A.
Emery: What's your shooting schedule like?
Singh: Sometimes, you're on the set at 6 or 9 a.m. and don't leave until around 9 p.m. or even 1 a.m. It's long hours that can seem grueling, but that's the way it is. The shoots involve prepping a scene, shooting it, resetting then keep shooting until it's done. Then, you move on to the next scene or angle and keep going. It's a process.
Emery: Most of your cast mates also are new to the business, correct?
Singh: For the most part. Rizwan Manji, who plays Rajiv, has an extended resume. And Diedrich Bader has been in many movies and TV shows. He's pretty much like a big kid on the set, though. He gives us a lot of advice but always is joking around and fun to be around. There's a lot of camaraderie on the set. It's a great environment with great people. We're all very lucky.
Read more about the School of Theatre and Dance.
This interview first appeared in UH Media Relations Fine Arts Writer Mike Emery's blog, "Creative Pride," which appears on the Houston Chronicle's chron.com webstie.