story BY John Di Carlo, SCT '98, '06
DEGREE: MA, acting, School of Communications and Theater, 2006
OCCUPATION: Sitcom star
LOCATION: Los Angeles
Los Angeles is about 2,800 miles away from North Philadelphia, but Kunal Nayyar, SCT '06, a cast member on the Emmy Award-winning CBS comedy The Big Bang Theory, sees a lot of similarities between his old and new homes.
"The same feeling I have on the show now is the feeling I had at Temple," Nayyar says."The brotherhood and the camaraderie I found at Temple were great. It was a community of people that wanted everyone to do well, as opposed to a community of people that competed against each other."
Nayyar--who was born in London, raised in India and went to Oregon to study at University of Portland in 1999--did some television ads in the U.S. and then found theater work in London before landing a guest role in the CBS drama NCIS. When he got the chance to audition for the role of an astrophysicist on The Big Bang Theory, he nailed it and has been with the cast through the show's first five seasons.
Kunal Nayyar (far left) on set with co-stars Jim Parsons (middle) and Simon Helberg. Photo credit: Monty Brinton/©2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Kunal Nayar, SCT '06, plays Raj Koothrappali on The Big Bang Theory.
"I think I was just sort of young and confident and I had just gotten back from the Royal Shakespeare Company in England," Nayyar says. "I came into a very good situation. I screen-tested for Warner Brothers and the following week, I was called back for a screen test and got the show."
It was during his first few days on the set that Nayyar found the feeling he had at Temple.
"We got very, very lucky, in that even though we're all different people, our personalities fit like a puzzle," he says of the cast. "Working with Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco, who are sort of veterans in the television world, is great. Watching them and the way they interact with the producers, cast and crew, and just how humble they are, is amazing. They come to work and work hard every day, and you pick up on those signs very early."
Nayyar, who will appear in the feature film Ice Age: Continental Drift in July, returned to Temple in October and spoke to a class of about 300 theater students. It was both a homecoming and a new experience all at once. "Even though the spirit of Temple hasn't changed, it has changed physically," Nayyar says. "It really has this new feeling to it."
For more alumni profiles, check out the latest issue of Temple.
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