Born in India, Roger began his acting here when he was just a lad. From being a naughty hyperactive child who used to imitate teachers to playing Peter Pan in the Kindergarten play following it up with roles of Rama in Ramayan and Alibaba, he took to acting as fish takes to water. He had found his calling. Without much ado, let us delve into what makes Roger Narayan the actor add up to more than the sum of all his talents.
Having done theater at a very young age, was movies and television a natural progression for you?
Theater was a strong basis because it helped me find my voice and my self as a performer. But there are some differences between those mediums that you have to adjust for, in theater the performance is larger than life usually and you have to project to the last row of the audience, whereas in movies and television, the camera is right there, and you can bring in the performance a little bit, and just let the camera pick up the nuances in your performance and carriage. But in terms of working with a wider range of stories, characters and also to reach a larger audience, yes, movies and TV was the next step in the process.
Commercials, Television shows, movies, radio shows, Fashion shows, name it and you have done it all. Which of these do you enjoy doing the most? And Why?
Really they all fire and satisfy different synapses for me and are all satisfying in their own way. Each platform gives me an opportunity to explore different parts of myself as a performer and explore and push my artistic range. If I had to pick, it would be Feature Films and Television because I have the chance to immerse myself for a longer period of time in the "character" and the telling of the story, than say in a Commercial, where it is usually a fleeting indulgence in the character, but Commercials are fun in a different way, they are very efficient and tell stories in such a short time. I love to look for those magical moments and that silence in the character's truth.
Have you tried your hand at a career besides acting?
Yes. Technology is a passion of mine. I used to be a Rocket Scientist :-) (Aerospace Engineer) and Mechanical Engineer before I came back to Acting full-time. I’ve done work in Indian Defence and also on US Defense projects for the US Air Force and US Navy. I also worked for many years as an Executive in Silicon Valley in California in Technology Marketing. Now, I indulge my passion in Technology, as a Pilot flying single-engine airplanes, and riding bikes.
From an extensive list of shows that you have been part of, which is your favourite role you have essayed so far?
Well, I loved them all, or I wouldn’t have done them :-) I have had the opportunity to work with so many great people and actors - In How I Met your Mother, I got to work with Neil Patrick Harris, in Bold and the Beautiful I got to work with the amazing Betty White, in Castle I got to play a Surgeon.
I’ve also played roles ranging from a Spiritual Guide to a Hindu Priest on House M.D, a bad ass biker in Flawless, to an Indian Penguin in Happy Feet 2 to a burnt chef (3 hours of taking on and off the prosthetic SFX makeup with an Oscar winning makeup artist!) on the Jerry Bruckheimer CBS Show Miami Medical. So each role is special in its own way, and helped me explore the depth and range of that character, genre, and medium.
How difficult or easy is it for actors of Indian origin to find a firm footing in Hollywood? How has the journey been for you so far?
I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it in terms of difficult or easy. I think to excel in any profession, one has to be passionate, hard working and committed. But I agree that there are some special constraints for an ethnic actor due to stereotyping. Things are moving away from South Asians and Indians being portrayed only as the Doctors or Cabbies and it is an exciting time.
Also the delivery platforms are changing with a lot of content moving online, which means there is a larger international audience to cater to, so the content has to be more balanced and not parochial. My journey has been exciting and I am having a lot of fun and am having a blast in my journey.
Have you been a victim of stereotyping wherein actors from ethnic backgrounds are typecast in specific roles in Hollywood? What do you feel is the rationale behind it?
Well I think of stereotyping not necessarily as a bad thing, because it does allow a performer to work and earn a living at it and hone their craft. But I agree that it does portray minorities in very narrow roles. Indians are still a minority in the US, and the TV audience being predominantly mid-western, the only “roles” they see Indians in, are what they see in real life - as their Doctors, Engineers, Cabbies and 7-11 store workers.
But I think that is slowly and steadily changing since there is this opening up of the viewing demographic and shows and films are being watched all over the world, so content is being made for a worldwide audience and that content is changing to reflect that. I see more mainstream roles using Indian actors that are not stereotypical. So that is very heartening.
Castle is a much-loved show in India and we are eagerly awaiting its fourth season to be telecast here on March 7th. Fans are anxious to know if Beckett survived the bullet. You play a Surgeon who operates on her in the season opener ‘Rise’. Have you ensured she survives? :- )
It’s great to know that the show Castle is so loved. Yes, the show ended Season 3 with Beckett being shot. I don’t want to spoil the suspense for your viewers, all I would say, is, don’t miss it, watch it!
Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion have a loyal fan base in India. How was it working with Stana? Did you get a chance to interact with Nathan Fillion on shoot?
It was great working with Stana, she is a thorough professional and a great gal. We had some wonderful conversations between takes and shots, even though she had to stay strapped flat to the gurney. Yes, I did get to talk to Nathan Fillion, he is a great guy.
Which is your favorite television series that you wish you were a part of?
I would love to work on Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland to name a few, and among old US shows, I would have loved to work on the original Star Trek with William Shatner. Among old Indian shows, I would have loved to work on Fauji or the Tamil Show “Rail Sneham”.
The shows you have acted in range from comedy, medical dramas, to crime. Which genre suits your personality and comfort zone the best?
As an actor, I am constantly stretching myself to the limits of the characters and roles I can play and the stories I can tell. I love all these genres you mentioned, comedy, drama, crime, thriller, spiritual, cerebral, they all fulfill different needs and interests and curiosities in me as an actor. But I am personally drawn to Cerebral Dramas, Thrillers and Spiritual stories and characters. The essential element is a solid script with great characters and story.
Roger Narayan Contact Information:
Website - www.Roger-Narayan.com
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview, which will be posted tomorrow 4th March, where Roger Narayan talks about his upcoming projects, experience of walking the ramp for Indian fashion designers Rohit Bal and Satya Paul, and his short film Unshackled.