2013 Interview – Sendhil Ramamurthy talks to Telegraph India

 In Interviews, Press

Original Link: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1130412/jsp/entertainment/story_16775895.jsp#.UWdz-b_U5SU

The phrase “tall, dark and handsome” was coined for him. After Heroes and Covert Affairs, Indian-origin actor Sendhil Ramamurthy returns to our TV screens as Gabriel Lowen in the thriller Beauty and the Beast (Monday to Thursday, 10pm, on BIG CBS Love). A t2 chat.

You were not keen on playing district attorney Gabriel Lowen in Beauty and the Beast. Why?
It’s just that it wasn’t meant to be a regular role. Also, I had never seen the show. They sent me a bunch of episodes so that I could watch them. What I saw I liked… I just wasn’t sure where my character could fit in. Then, they kind of filled me in on what this character does and his backstory and how Gabriel Lowen was much more than what you see on the surface. They managed to sell it to me with that (laughs).

Is there anything in Gabriel that provides a peek into Sendhil?
In any character that I play, I look for similarities with myself and for references that will make it a tad bit easier to play the character. But Gabriel is actually very, very different from what I am as a person. He’s had a very rough childhood and that hasn’t been easy on him. His past weighs heavily on his present and gives a lot of answers to why he is doing what he’s doing.

Did you do any research to play him?
He’s a district attorney and I hadn’t really played a lawyer-type before. So I read up a little bit on that. I had to use a lot of imagination and the writers of the show were really open to suggestions from me.

You’ve played some memorable characters on TV and in films. Where would you place Gabriel Lowen?
There were many guys I played who were meant to be morally great but didn’t end up being so (laughs), but Gabriel is a guy with so many shades. He will do one thing and you would think: ‘Oh, he’s a bad guy’, but then he does something completely opposite after that. So you are never really sure where he’s coming from. I am currently enjoying the cat-and-mouse game the writers have scripted. It’s always fun when you know something that the audience doesn’t.

TV or films — what do you enjoy more?
The one thing that I like in films as opposed to television is that there is a beginning, a middle and an end. For an actor, that’s really great because you know where you are going. But on TV, you have no idea where the story is going. What I like on TV is that you have a much longer time to tell a story… you can live with the character much longer.

In Hollywood and on American TV, Asian actors have been largely relegated to playing the Indian doctor or the Chinese scientist. Are things improving?
It’s getting easier. I really think that this character of Gabriel Lowen has nothing to do with me being Indian at all. He could be anybody. It’s becoming easier… certainly on TV. In films, I still think it’s a little harder but in the US, the kind of roles that are available to Indian actors and those from other ethnic backgrounds is getting more in number. Now, there’s even Amitabh Bachchan doing Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Studios and producers are realising that there is a huge market in India and that actors of Indian origin can make it to the mainstream.

For most of us, you are still Mohinder Suresh from Heroes. Do you enjoy that or does it bother you because you have done a lot more after that?
I still enjoy it because it’s a show I am very proud to have been a part of. That’s the way it is… people will invariably always remember the first thing you have done. Luckily for me, Heroes did well all over the world. That’s been my map and I have tried to build on it as best as I can…. Doing Shor in the City (Sendhil’s 2011 Bolly debut) was one of those… that was a lot of fun and so is Beauty and the Beast. I just did a film (Brahmin Bulls) with Roshan Seth which was a very different thing for me. I am glad that I have the recognisability from Heroes to help me try out different things.

Coming to Bollywood, was Shor in the City a one-off thing?
I truly hope not! (Laughs) Raj and D.K. (the directors of Shor in the City) told me that they are writing a film for me, though I haven’t seen it yet! I hope they get on to it fast after reading your paper. I know that they have been working with Saif Ali Khan on a zombie comedy (Go Goa Gone) and I am looking forward to seeing that. I really enjoyed working with those guys.

You were apparently uncomfortable shooting in the Bolly set-up…
The part that was harrowing was that we were shooting on the streets in Mumbai and that’s a very different experience from shooting on the streets in the US. Here they close off the street and there are policemen all around and you just go out there and shoot. But you just can’t shut down a street in the middle of Mumbai! Not having control over the elements was very difficult, but it also made it really exciting. It made it spontaneous and that’s always good for an actor.

Wasn’t language a problem?
I only had to speak a little bit of Hindi in that film. They provided me with a coach and I had the Hindi lines on my iPod. But yes, language will be an issue in terms of a Bolly career for me. But then, there are so many crossover films being made now and that’s something I would like to be a part of.

You were a keen tennis player who toyed with the idea of turning pro. Should we count it as tennis’s loss or was acting always your calling?
Well, it would mostly be my loss because I was never good at it! (Laughs) I think tennis is doing just fine without me! I am a good recreational player and I am really looking forward to playing the US Open National Playoffs. I want to give it one last shot before they wheel me off in a wheelchair!

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