2010 Interview – Elle India
reposted from original text.
On the hit show Heroes, Sendhil Ramamurthy plays Mohinder Suresh, a geneticist from Chennai who seeks out humans with super powers. In real life, Ramamurthy appears to have a superpower of his own: everywhere he goes, he makes people stop and stare. It might be the tall, five-foot-ten frame, or that lanky male model build or that smooth, dark brown skin. Or that chiseled face. Or the mass of black curls that almost floats on his head, like a cloud, or perhaps, a halo. Because Ramamurthy, while he looks like a bad boy – he’s sporting a two-day stubble, he curses every so often, he’s wearing a cap indoors, the buttons on his white T-shirt are left open to reveal part of his chest, and yes, ladies, there are abs – he is really one of the good guys.
After all, he’s been married since he was 24, to Olga Sosnovska, whom he met at acting school in London. They were in the same class; he played Orlando and she played Rosalind in Shakespeare’s As You Like It; they fell madly in love. Sendhil wanted to propose, but he was broke, living off his parents. He brought home a Tiffany catalogue to pick out a “really, really tiny, miniscule” diamond ring. (To show just how tiny, he breaks the corner edge off of a cheeseling.) But Olga spotted the catalogue, and, in secret, went out, bought herself an antique Victorian ring, and popped the question to him. Sort of.
“She opened the box up, and said, ‘Do you have something to ask me?’ Then she gave me the bill so I could pay her back,” Sendhil laughs. “My wife must be the only woman in the world for whom the idea of a Tiffany engagement ring is a nightmare.” (Sendhil and Olga now live in LA with their two children and his jaguar XKR, which, he says; he “loves as a third child.”)
It’s funny how things work out. Sendhil was more than halfway through his pre-med programme at Tufts University in Boston when, “a very pretty girl, whom I was only slightly after, was taking Introduction to Acting. So I followed her into the class. It was only later that I discovered she was lesbian.”
The reluctant actor ended up winning the starring role in a college production. “I loved every second,” he says, longingly. “I loved the camaraderie, the fraternity of the cast.” He dropped organic chemistry and physics, but he didn’t tell his parents (both doctors) until much later, when he pleaded with them to allow him to attend drama school in London. (“It was like a UN negotiation.”) They relented. Ever since, they haven’t missed a single opening night.
“I knew that being an actor, I was going to have real issues,” Sendhil recalls. “I’m Indian—I’d never seen anyone on screen that looked like me. I had a face for radio. I would only ever be the sidekick, never the main character. Casting-wise, I shat the bed. I got it,” he smiles. “I knew I’d be poor, I’d struggle. But I wanted to do it.”
In another stroke of chance, the part of Mohinder Suresh on Heroes was designed for a 55-year-old man, but Sendhil’s audition so impressed the producers, they rewrote the role. The rest, as they say, is history. “My best friends in LA are from the show,” says Sendhil, “Santiago Cabrera, Jack Coleman, Adrian Pasdar and I run and sail together. It’s taken awhile for me to get comfortable in LA. There’s not very much culture, you’re always in your car…” he trails off. “Although, travelling from Versova to Calaba in Mumbai today, I don’t think I can complain about LA traffic anymore!”
Sendhil is in Mumbia for Shor, a film by Balaji Telefilms that also stars Tuddhar Kapoor. It’s the opportunity he’d been awaiting for a long time, he says. “I grew up in Texas, surrounded by a small but vibrant Indian community. We celebrated Diwali and Ganesh festivals. But it wasn’t until I was older that I realized how much I wanted to spend time in India, find my roots” he laughs. “I became wistful for a place I’d never been. I can only compare it to the feeling a woman has when she starts longing for a baby.”
“Ideally,” he says, “I’d have one leg here and one leg in Hollywood. (He straddles the table with ultra-long legs to demonstrate) “I mean, India is bankrolling Hollywood, reliance is taking over the world. But more than anything, it’s this kind of work that I’m excited about. It’s not your standard song-and-dance movie. It’s really special. My agents couldn’t believe it when I told them I finally found a script I loved and wanted to be a part of.”
Sendhil pauses. “Don’t get me wrong, making money is great. I have expensive tastes- I like to travel, buy cool things, and I’m a clothes whore.” He flashes a smile, no doubt thinking of his Jaguar, his bespoke suits, his six pairs of Prada shoes, his Patek Philippe, IWC and Baume & Mercier watches. “And financially, Heroes has been fantastic. But I’ve banked that away. I’ve got my fingers crossed, you know? It’s a rollercoaster ride, being can actor. You never know when it’s all going to go tits-up.”
For now, tits-up is hardly an option. Even if Heroes doesn’t get picked up for another season, Sendhil has Gurinder Chadha’s It’s a Wonderful Afterlife out now, where he showcases his comic skills. And Shor is bound to make Bollywood take notice. He has other projects in the pipeline too, which he can’t talk about yet, but leading man in Hollywood isn’t far away. The night before our meeting, he was mobbed by photographers at a Louis Vuitton event where he chatted with Freida Pinto. A tennis fanatic, he recently took his family to the French Open, stayed at the Ritz and rubbed shoulders with Antonio Banderas. Yes, face-for-radio Sendhil Ramamurthy might just prove that you don’t need superpowers to get to the top after all.