, premieres Friday, this time with an even bigger cast of stars.TIME talked to the actor about Indian representation in Hollywood, meeting Die Antwoord and getting starstruck over Richard Gere.
For someone as young as myself to be surrounded by a cast that legendary in one film is really special.And it’s mainly because there’s not really a large amount of roles for us, so it’s kind of fiercely competitive. Not only did it provide me with a career but I think it opened a lot of doors to an alternative film. I try to strike a balance between being selective but also continuing to work and be relevant. You can look at that and go, “Oh, that’s the Indian IT guy right there.” And initially, you could say he was in a way just that.So sometimes that means breaking the mold within the mold. But as the seasons progressed, we started to break the mold. He was the cool dude that wore the cool clothes, and got to date all the girls on the show and was quite the Casanova. I passed on this film called Million Dollar Arm, for reasons which I won’t talk about. Maybe that’s because it’s part of my ethnic heritage, but I feel there’s just a great level of storytelling that can come from there.It seems like Slumdog Millionaire created this appetite for a hybrid between Bollywood and Hollywood. But I want to be very selective in the story I go to India to tell. What we do as actors and storytellers is explore humanity and there’s no place where you’re going to find more humanity than in India. And it has opened up a market for these crossover, diasporic films. With accent is more lowkey than the one that I’ve just done. It depends on the genre in a way, and the energy that the character requires. I find that, to explore my heritage, I’m not ashamed of it at all.The boiling heat and exhausting desert of India can be quite tiring, but they were all so supportive and patient. They’re a walking contradiction in every way and they’re so interesting. These movies are two really different examples of evolving Asian representation in movies.How do you feel about the way that’s developing right now?
I feel like in cinema particularly, the African-American struggle is far more evolved.
You have all these amazing groundbreakers, from Sidney Poitier to Will Smith to Denzel [Washington], Cuba Gooding, Morgan Freeman. In terms of someone of my ethnic origin, there’s not many people out there representing.
We knew we had more of a story to tell with these guys, so we came back. My character is spewing off a thousand lines super fast and then she’ll roll in at the end of the scene and say one line and completely steal it. We’re the oddest of on-screen couples, but a really fun, unlikely duo. I play this young genius who works at this weapons manufacturer under Sigourney Weaver, and he creates this robot that is hired by the police force, the scout model that kind of polices over Johannesburg.
What is it like working with all these legendary actors? It was far more relaxed than the first time for me, we got to come back and really play because we were so confident in the characters we’d established. I play this character that is ever the optimist but spreads himself very very thin because he’s so ambitious. But as the film progresses, she becomes a mother figure to my character, and it gets very emotional. This isn’t the only movie you’ve got coming out this week. But his interests don’t lie in that — he wants to create companions and friends and robots that can think and feel.
There were some new ones this time, too, like Richard Gere. And obviously to have Richard Gere among us brought out the inner fanboy in me. He decides to steal one and create his own artificially intelligent robot.
They’re so gracious and so lovely and everyone has a wonderful sense of humor. But at that point he’s hijacked by these gangsters played by this bonkers rap group called Die Antwoord. Was Die Antwoord they every bit as strange as you might expect? They’re the strangest, most gangster vegans I’ve come across. They came and really brought their own unique flavor to the film, to the point where they got to paint their own set — not the whole set, obviously, but their own den in their own style.