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Outsourced Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is an interview with Parvesh Cheena (Gupta) and Rizwan Manji (Rajiiv) on March 15, 2011 about the show Outsourced.

Parvesh Cheena and Rizwan Manji

Question:
Parvesh, I understand that you're the one in the cast most likely to be found clowning around with the novelty toys that are props in the show. Is it true that you are playing pranks with them on the set? What are some of your favorites?

Parvesh Cheena:
Rizwan tends to fall asleep during filming because we generally have 14 hour days. And we're in the call center all of us all day. So when you're with people five days a week for that long of time you can start to get a little silly. And so Rizwan falls asleep and our favorite past time is to see how many people we can get behind him and take photos and videos of him.

Rizwan Manji:
The most fun you could ever have. And taking videos of up my nostril which I think it's really great, it's up on Hulu so that's always wonderful to see.

Parvesh Cheena:
We have a good time we're a family. You have to tease your family, you tease the ones that you're closest too.

Question:
What were you expectations when you signed on with this show? What did you hope it would amount to? And has it met or surpassed your expectations?

Rizwan Manji:
It's been over a year now since I first read the pilot. And honestly when I read it I thought it was the funniest. We read a lot of pilots during pilot season. And it was by far the funniest pilot that I had read in a really long time. And I had called my agent right away and was like please, this is the one that we've got to get. I was just so happy to get on the show.

And then you know, it was quite an amazing thing. We just didn't know if the show was going to get picked up. There has never been a show like this on TV before where you have five foundation actors as series regulars on a TV show. We didn't know was NBC going to pick this up. And you know, if they do pick it up are people going to watch it?

And so you know, for meI'm so proud of this show and it's all been a really big blessing. Like the people have been so supportive of this show. And people are watching it every week and you know, finding it funny and every week we celebrate the Indian culture. Like in the upcoming episode on Thursday night the whole episode revolves around this holiday called Holi where you know, color is thrown around all over it's a religious celebration.

And you know, on no other show are we celebrating Indian culture as much as we do on this show. So to answer your question in a short answer I think it by far exceeds any expectation I had of what the show could be.

Parvesh Cheena:
Rizwan and I literally auditioned against each other. And the fact that they're so many of us that we get to be all apart of this family. And Holi is one of those holidays where it's just about fun. And the fact that it is accessible you know, our show, our writers you know, we've got a good third of them are of South Asian decent.

They bridge the gap, they really do make it you know, with respect to the culture and tradition. As well as making it so accessible and understanding for an American audience. You know, actually for a global audience you know, we're getting a lot of fan mail from Singapore and Malaysia even.

Question:
You guys seem to get along very well. Was it instant chemistry with the cast when you guys began working together?

Parvesh Cheena:
A lot of us had worked together before. And then Riz and I have known each other for years. Primarily because like you become audition friends. Riz you've come to a couple of my improv and sketch shows.

Rizwan Manji:
Mm-hm, yes. I've known Parvesh and some of the other actors I've known of them but hadn't worked with them before. But you know, we had a couple of weeks once we had gotten cast in the show to when we actually starting shooting with rehearsals and sort of everybody getting together. And one of our Executive Producers Ken Kwapis sent us out on a karaoke day where we spent the whole day at like a karaoke place. I think we just we hit it off right away. And you kind of compete on the show I feel that we're really good friends and we hang out on the weekends as well.

Parvesh Cheena:
Not just on the weekends.

Rizwan Manji:
It kind of disruptive to my real life.

Parvesh Cheena:
Love it, who else is going to out for late night food when you're wife's asleep?

Rizwan Manji:
I know that's right.

Parvesh Cheena:
We literally have watched every episode including even some of the encore episodes. We watch them together as a cast. And you know a lot of our friends, family whenever they come to town they come and join us. So even like this Thursday we're going over to one of our Director Victor Nelli one of our producers too. Victor has directed the upcoming Todd's Holi War episode which is the one that's airing this Thursday.

And so it's Victor's baby. So we're going to be over at his house as a cast kind of potlucking it and watching. And we've done that every week. So you know, I think friends we might be helping Anisha move tomorrow and we just always go out to eat have a drink everything.

Question:
Why do you think people keep tuning in to watch Outsourced?

Parvesh Cheena:
Because Indians are hot. I can only speak for Riz and myself about the attractiveness of Indians. I was going to leave you out of it.

Rizwan Manji:
Because moustaches are in.

Parvesh Cheena:
That's it.

Rizwan Manji:
You know what, as I said before I think that there is a unique quality about this show where it's kind of endearing. There is something you know, it's hard to talk about it because I'm in the show. But watching it as a audience member and you know, the feedback that we get there is something about this show where the characters are happy to be there and there is something very sort of endearing about the show. And I think that's why people keep tuning in. There is these characters that you're sort of like you know, falling in love with minus Gupta that you just tune into every week.

Parvesh Cheena:
There is a very sweet quality you know, we could have the comedy without the snark and that's just so nice. You know, I like a good sarcastic joke every so often like anyone. But it's just nice to see someone really trying and making the effort. And to be fair Riz even Rajiv has a little bit of a sweet side in this upcoming episode as well.

Rizwan Manji:
Once again about the upcoming episode, there is something really at the end of this episode something really a big special moment for Rajiv that you know, that we've been waiting to happen. And it's definitely tune in to see what happens because Rajiv gets something that he's been looking forward to for a really long time. So I mean I'll throw that in there.

Parvesh Cheena:
Well I'm going to tell them. He shaves his moustache. It's a very sweet moment for everyone.

Question:
Parvesh, what is your favorite part about playing Gupta?

Parvesh Cheena:
Well you know, especially even that with our A Star is Born episode I think it shows how even in the states we all have this idea like you know, everyone who wants to be you know, the next best singer, next best dancer that's those same wants and desires are in India too. So the great thing about that episode for me, let alone getting to make my whole family proud and you know, cry and squeal with delight the fact that I did do a full Bollywood dance number was the fact that we can show that you know, the same wants and you know, dreams are universal.

The fun that Gupta kind of taps into where I get a lot of like messages of Facebook and Twitter from like kids. And I think it's because he is kind of a man child. He's a little socially awkward maybe not the most developed.

Rizwan Manji:
Sort of like you as a person.

Parvesh Cheena:
As a person, thank you Riz.

Rizwan Manji:
I was going to throw that in there, but I'd better stop.

Parvesh Cheena:
But you know, like equally like Riz what I'll say for you like Rajiv gets those like great one liner and zingers. I get a lot of physical humor, and I get a lot of just kind of like site gags. And kind of like that victim humor that just makes people go aww, we're laughing at you. We feel bad, but we're still laughing at you.

Question:
What do you see similarities and differences between your character and yourself?

Rizwan Manji:
There is his ambition and his drive, he's so badly wanting to get married to the love of his life. And the fact of that ambition and the fact that he'll do anything. I might not go about it the same way that he does, but I feel like I definitely connect to that drive and that ambition of what he really wants. I feel like that's where I go at it with Rajiv is I think totally understand where he's coming from. It's like it lets him take all that. And then go into the - you know, the way that he goes about doing it.

Question:
Rizwan, since you're from Canada is there a big difference between call centers in the US and Canada? Do you think the comedy will be the same?

Rizwan Manji:
Oh my God, I have a feeling that it would be exactly the same. I've been living in the United States for a really long time. However, I go to Canada like you know, twice a year. And I've definitely been on calls to call centers. And I feel like they're getting routed to the same place. So I think what you expect they do the same thing. I feel like every time I call I get the exact same human being. Just the same, different call.

So my answer would be it's very similar. Recently there was a documentary that I was a part of, it was on call centers. And it was a Canadian documentary. But you know, they went around the globe talking about different call centers and how they work. And what they found out was that everybody is going through a similar global experience.

Question:
Parvesh can you give us more insight into your character for Gupta's hit and many misses?

Parvesh Cheena:
Yes we dove into a little bit of a HR nightmare in that episode. Let's just say that a certain person gets slapped by another person who one of those parties might be on this conference call right now.

Rizwan Manji:
It's actually funny how this story, the plot of this episode actually came about. Me and Parvesh were doing a scene from Home Sick to My Stomach which was an episode that aired a couple of months ago. And in one of the scenes that me and Parvesh were acting, I was like Parvesh, do you mind if I slap you, I think it would be kind of funny? And I think you know, in no other show could your boss slap you. I think Rajiv has gotten to that point where this would just be funny.

Parvesh Cheena:
And he was on the brink. I mean like your character was stressed out.

Rizwan Manji:
Yes that episode I was sick, and I was the manager, and so we did it. And then thanks to them they let me slap him seven times in that episode. And after that that they were going to cut all of it, but I was so happy that I got to slap him seven times. It was like the most fun I've ever had on that set. And they cut everything.

Parvesh Cheena:
And they've decided to bring it into a new episode which is coming up.

Rizwan Manji:
And so he said you know what, we like that so now we're going to bring in this story line into there. So that's how this story line came about.

Parvesh Cheena:
Riz let's not forget to toot our own horns. We are theatre actors and we had a lot of stage combat training.

Rizwan Manji:
That's right.

Parvesh Cheena:
No Guptas were harmed in the making of that episode.

Rizwan Manji:
I tried to harm some Guptas.

Parvesh Cheena:
It's a really Guptas hits and misses. It's a fun episode because it's also one of our first big guest star cameos by The Great Khali from the WWE. So it was really fun to act with someone who when you are standing you are almost the same height as him when he is sitting down.

Question:
Can you talk about some of the things we can look forward to in the upcoming episodes?

Rizwan Manji:
This Thursday's night episode, as we mentioned, there is this celebration of Holi that Todd's character knows nothing about, he actually just walks in. He comes in he's you know, in our alley outside the call center and he doesn't understand what's going on. He's getting you know, pelted with color and it's definitely the whole episode he's figuring out what this is.

And he's actually ends up using it you know, using the Holi experience to his advantage. And that's why we have the title called Holi War. It's one of the experiences that's I feel like you're referring to that comes up right away in our next episode.

Parvesh Cheena:
Well you know the fun thing about it like he's kind of like the cultural learning's on both ends. For me. I was raised Sikh which is you know, one of the Indian religions. And I also didn't know about some of the Hindu aspects the religious aspects of some holidays. Like Holi I didn't know about you know, the religious significance. I just knew like I was a kid it was the holiday where you got to pelt everyone with color you know, with powder. I'm learning a lot myself. It's been really an educational experience for me to be on Outsourced.

Question:
Is Todd going to get an idea to expand his career and maybe start marketing the Alcazar for law enforcement in the catalogue and like try to educate Americans? Do you think that they'll go there with that kind of branching out and commercializing some of the Hindu Gods?

Rizwan Manji:
Actually I think they do that, that's made in China catalogue though.

Question:
What has been the most surprising thing in scene for either one of you as actors filming this comedy?

Rizwan Manji:
Well like when we've gone out to like lunch and dinners quite often. It's enough when adults come up to us, but when kids have come up to us it really touches your heart. Because like wow, like when I was a kid and watching like the Cosby Show and Friends thinking about like those actors. And when kids like you know, you see them kind of like hiding behind their parent, or like their parents dragging them and they come up to us and tell them that they love the show, they love our character what is Madhuri really like, you know.

That's been one of the moments where like wow, we are really like giving some humor and levity to people's lives. And you know, India - kids of Indian decent kids of any you know, ethnic origin it's just been really fun that we've got a show that they can tap into and kind of look up to us in a sense.

Question:
Will we see the call center somehow brought to America for training?

Rizwan Manji:
I'd love that. I would love to go to Disneyland. Outsource in Disneyland.

Parvesh Cheena:
Call center goes to Disneyland.

Rizwan Manji:
Except the only thing is that is there am India Village in Epcot Center?

Parvesh Cheena:
I don't think so. That's going to be the new thing.

Rizwan Manji:
Wait, why are you plugging Disneyland when we're Universal?

Parvesh Cheena:
That's right. Universal Studios.

Rizwan Manji:
Outsource cast does to Universal Studios.

Parvesh Cheena:
The new Island of Adventure Outsource World, Gupta's Grotto, Rizwan's River of Terror.

Rizwan Manji:
I bet.

Question:
Who were some of your comedic influences growing up

Parvesh Cheena:
Rizwan is very influenced by Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin, you know, things that he grew up with.

Rizwan Manji:
Thank you. Thank you.

Parvesh Cheena:
You're welcome.

Rizwan Manji:
I grew up watching my favorite show Three's Company. And John Ritter is somebody that I just loved that kind of like physical humor and dthat is what I wanted to do. You know people like I want to be in movies. And that was I wanted to be on a sitcom and it was because of Three's Company.

Parvesh Cheena:
I honestly really liked Danny DeVito.

Question:
Oh he's hilarious he is a really a funny man.

Parvesh Cheena:
Yes. I watched Taxi and I remember thinking well, he's short and he's funny looking. I'm the same guy. And then I did have a special place for Bill Cosby because I just really assumed that I would one day be one of the Cosby Kid.

Question:
Do either of you have any films playing, any thing else coming up?

Parvesh Cheena:
I've got a lot of independents in the can and we'll just see what happens with them. One is a movie about a karaoke guy that has my friend Ryan Detson from NCIS. He and I are in that movie coming out.

Rizwan Manji:
Well we just recently wrapped up some commercials running and you know, and then now we need to get our second season. So that's going to be the next step.

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