Interview with Rizwan Manji

Rizwan Manji plays the scheming assistant manager, Rajiv Gidwani, on NBC’s new show “Outsourced”. Movie Mikes’ Adam Lawton had a chance to speak with Rijwan about the show and also some of his other film and TV roles.

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Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about the show “Outsourced” and the character you play on the show Rajiv Gidwani?
Rizwan Manji:“Outsourced” is a fish out of water comedy about a character named Todd Dempsy who is played by Ben Rappaport. Ben’s character comes back from management training and finds out the call center he has been chosen to run has been outsourced to India. So he has to make the choice of either being let go or move to India and train his replacement. This is where he meets me and the rest of the cast. My character Rajiv Gidwani is the assistant manager. He’s what you call your lovable nemesis. He wants the top job and to become the manager of the call center. So he’s going to do anything in his power to get that job. Rajiv will sometimes attempt to make Todd look really horrible and get him fired.

AL : How did your role on the show come about?
RM: Well the show is actually based on a movie that came out in 2006 which also is titled “Outsourced”. However during the shooting of the pilot we were instructed to not watch that film so I haven’t. But I do know there is an assistant manager character in that movie and that’s where the idea for the show’s character came from. However the character in the TV show as compared to the character in the movie is quite different. The movie character was a bit more helpful to the Todd character. Where my character Rajiv is more of the schemer and more opportunistic than the character in the film. Since the pilot, the character Rajiv has evolved a little. In a recent episode you find out Rajiv is engaged to a woman he found via a love match and not the traditional arranged marriage. So in order for him to get married, he needs to have a higher status and income. So this is really why he’s doing the things he is doing. He’s not just doing them because he’s insane. He has noble motives for the things he does.

AL: How did you get involved in acting?
RM: I definitely knew very early on. In JR high school back in Calgary, there was a one act played I auditioned for and I got one of the main roles. It was a comedy. I think after I got that first laugh in the theater production, I thought this is what I want to do. Why would anyone want to do anything else? For a short Indian guy with a big nose I couldn’t be the basketball player. That was my way to make people laugh. I have been perusing acting right out of high school. I went to University of Alberta for a year and majored in drama. I then decided I wanted to go to a conservatory. So I moved to New York to go to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.

AL: Are comedies your main interest or do you want to bridge into more serious roles?
RM: I have always thought comedy was my forte. I grew up watching mutely camera sitcoms like “Three’s Company” and “The Cosby Show”. I always just felt that that is what I wanted to do and I felt that was my forte. However because of the political climate once I moved to LA there was a lot of stuff that I got approached to do that was more drama based such as “Charlie Wilson’s War”, “24” and “Without a Trace”. A lot of the stuff that was coming my way, due to my looks, was dramatic based. I enjoyed doing that but I feel that I have the most fun and I contribute the most is when I do comedy.

AL: You played Akram in the blockbuster “Transformers” can you tell us about that?
RM: I shot for a week in New Mexico at an air force base and it was a kind of crazy experience. This was the first time I had to deal with big budget movie stuff going on like explosions and people getting shot and I was in one of those major scenes where all this stuff was going on. It was definitely an interesting experience. I had a blast and I think it really was the first time I got to work in a blockbuster.

AL: There are rumors that Michael Bay can be tough to work with at times. Did you experience any of this?
RM: I was there for a very small portion of the shoot and he was very nice to me. When I went to the initial audition with the casting directors, I guess he had already watched my audition tape. So when I went to the call back to audition again, Michael Bay said “I have seen your tape and I think you’re great you got the job”. He was very nice to me and from my personal experience he was very cordial to me.

AL : Your character has a pretty impressive mustache on the show. Did they make you grow that or do they apply it prior to filming?
RM: (laughs) unfortunately it’s very real. I’m with it everywhere I go. I’m not allowed to shave it or trim it. Everything is all done on set. My wife hates it. She doesn’t like to stand next to me when we are out, but my daughter loves it. I think when I shave it off, my daughter who has only seen me with the mustache, won’t recognize who I am (laughs).

AL: Do you have any other projects coming out in the near future?
RM: I have a small part as a producer in the upcoming film “Morning Glory” which stars Harrison Ford Rachel McAdams and Diane Keaton. It’s definitely something in a different light. I don’t have an accent (laughs) so it a little something different than “Outsourced”. Right now it’s hard for me to do auditions while we are filming the show but I am looking forward to doing stuff during the hiatus. Possibly some theater or screen work will come my way.

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