A chat with Adhir Kalyan, Adhir Kalyan interview, Rules of Engagement, Aliens in America
Adhir Kalyan

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If you haven’t checked out CBS’s “Rules of Engagement” over the course of the past few seasons, then you’ve missed out on seeing the sitcom really hit its stride, an occurrence aided in no small part by the addition of Adhir Kalyan to the cast. As David Spade’s assistant, Timmy, Kalyan never fails to score laughs via his dry British-accented delivery, and his presence has also helped expand the opportunities to utilize Spade’s character beyond just being the show’s resident “single guy.” Bullz-Eye had a chance to chat with Kalyan at the Sony party during the summer TCA tour, and although it was packed to the rafters, we still managed to converse for a few minutes about his experiences on “Rules,” the lasting impact of his previous series, “Aliens in America,” and some of the other projects he has on his plate

Adhir Kalyan: Hello, Will, how are you? Nice to meet you.

Bullz-Eye: Nice to meet you, too. I’m going to apologize up front for having to keep my recorder so close to you, but, man, it’s so loud in here!

AK: (Laughs) That’s okay. If you need me to speak louder, just let me know!

BE: Well, I’ve been a fan of “Rules of Engagement” since the beginning, but you’ve added a nice new dynamic to the series.

"I think we were very fortunate in that, from the onset, (David Spade and I) seemed to have an intuitive understanding of the other. Very little had to be spoken about or assessed. We seemed to play off of each other very well, and I think that, as we’ve gotten to know each other better and have become friends off the set, our love/hate relationship on the screen has been served better by that. It’s been really terrific."

AK: Oh, thank you so very much! Yeah, I mean, it all came about really unexpectedly, truth be told. The television show that brought me out to the States, “Aliens in America,” had been canceled, and I was busy in 2008 working on some film projects, and Tom Hertz, the creator, and Doug Robinson, the producer from Happy Madison, they called just to have a meeting, because they were looking to bring in a character for perhaps an episode or two. So I went and had a meeting with them, and that was it. There was no audition, there was nothing like that. They asked me, “Would you like to come onboard?” I said, “Yes, that would be terrific.” And one episode led to about half of the third season. At the end of the third season, they said, “Look, we really think the dynamic between you and David is something that works on screen. We’d love to have you onboard full time.” So that’s been my story of great privilege on this show thus far. (Laughs)

BE: They used the term “dynamic” to describe the relationship between you and David. That’s certainly more appropriate than “chemistry,” since your characters work best together when they don’t mesh well together.

AK: (Laughs) I think we were very fortunate in that, from the onset, we seemed to have an intuitive understanding of the other. Very little had to be spoken about or assessed. We seemed to play off of each other very well, and I think that, as we’ve gotten to know each other better and have become friends off the set, our love/hate relationship on the screen has been served better by that. So, yeah, it’s been really terrific, and I think…the thing was that they’d really been looking to bring in a character for David, and it just so happens to have been me. I think that they’d begun to feel that they were running out of things to do with him. He was either dipping into the other two storylines or he was running off with a succession of women episode after episode, and they felt that they needed something different for him. And, fortunately for everyone involved, it’s worked out well that this dynamic between us plays well. It’s been healthy for his character and for the show.

BE: I have to say that I didn’t expect the arranged-marriage subplot, with Russell falling for Timmy’s fiancée. I mean, it’s very much in character for Russell, but I still didn’t see it coming.

Adhir KalyanAK: Uh, you weren’t the only one who didn’t see it coming, I assure you. (Laughs) But it was well drawn, and I think that, if we can get back to the writers for a moment, the addition of the new character really opened it up for them, because they’ve got the married couple, the engaged couple, and now this odd couple. (Laughs) They’re able to focus on each dynamic and kind of layer the stories somewhat, and I think they’ve taken great care in this relationship between Spade’s character and myself and have really drawn it out well. I’ve already been given a idea of what we can expect from the new season, for the first couple of episodes, and if that’s anything to go by, I think the 4th season, which was up to this point its strongest, will pale in comparison.

BE: I talked to Megyn Price a few months back, and she pointedly praised the writers. She was, like, “They’ve figured out our voices, they know where all of the relationships are at their best, and they’ve really nailed down what works and what doesn’t work.”

AK: I agree. We’ve got a new season of 22 episodes, we’re thrilled that we’re premiering in the fall, and…I think they’ve finished 11 of the 22 scripts thus far, and we still don’t even start ‘til next week! So, I mean, inspiration has been a’flowing, and we’re all desperately excited to get back and see what they’ve written for us.

BE: By the way, speaking of Megyn, she really praised the episode from last season where you and she spent a lot of time in close quarters. (Laughs)

AK: Yeah, and that’s the one episode in particular where we shared a storyline, where she tried to coax me from David’s employment to hers. We had such a fantastic time on that. It would be terrific to share a little more screen time with her, but I’m sure this will be taken care of in the upcoming season. When you only have 13 episodes in which to work, it forces your hand in terms of making certain decisions as to which characters will interact with which other characters, but when you have 22 episodes…? It’s like going from a school playground into a stadium, to a degree, in terms of what you have to play with.

BE: To talk about “Aliens in America” for a moment, you and Dan Byrd have both landed on your feet nicely.

"No matter what project comes my way in my life, I don’t know that any project from here on in will affect me in quite the same way that 'Aliens in America' did. It was a show that truly changed my life. I went from living an existence of barely being able to make the week’s rent – it was very much a hand-to-mouth existence – to this television show that really struck a chord with a lot of people, even though it was not hugely watched, and it was a show that afforded me the opportunity to start this American journey."

AK: Oh, it’s been really lovely for us, actually, in a post-“Aliens” climate. I’m so pleased for him, and he remains to this day one of my dearest friends. I actually saw him last evening, in fact, and we were reminiscing how we met for the first time on August 8, 2006, when we started rehearsals for “Aliens in America,” and it’s been almost four years to the day since then. So that was something for us to reflect on. But I’m thrilled for his success on “Cougar Town,” and I know that he’s very pleased that “Rules of Engagement” has kind of gone forward and they’ve included me as a regular in the cast now. But I think honestly that, no matter what project comes my way in my life, I don’t know that any project from here on in will affect me in quite the same way that “Aliens in America” did, because it was a show that truly changed my life. I went from living an existence of barely being able to make the week’s rent – it was very much a hand-to-mouth existence – to this television show that really struck a chord with a lot of people, even though it was not hugely watched, and it was a show that afforded me the opportunity to start this American journey. At the end of the show…when I was down at Sundance this year with this film called “High School,” with Marni (Rosenzweig, Kalyan’s agent), I did this thing called The Creative Coalition, where they were, like, “Write us a story about the importance of the arts in education.” And I told them the story where I came back from Vancouver shooting “Aliens in America,” I went to a Muslim conference where I was asked to speak, and a mother came up to me and said, “In this post-9/11 climate, my child is a first-generation Muslim here in America, and since then, his life has been very hard…and then your show came onto television. His friends, who ostracized him and made his life difficult, realized that they in fact weren’t that different from Raja, that he wasn’t that different from Raja, and that perhaps after all they weren’t all that different from him. And now his life is not so hard anymore.” And by virtue of the fact that even one person’s life was affected and changed by that show, in addition to mine, that show will always hold a very special place in my heart.

BE: I wish it would come out on DVD.

Adhir KalyanAK: I really hope it will as well! As Lindsey and Dan and myself continue to work, our careers unfold, and hopefully contribute to this industry in a significant way, perhaps at some point they’ll think, “Hey, remember those three actors and the show they did back when they were in their early 20s? Maybe it’s time to release it on DVD!” We can only hope.

BE: Plus, don’t forget, Scott Patterson is on “The Event.”

AK: Oh, is he? In truth, Scott is the only member of the cast that I haven’t really spoken to since we came back from Vancouver…and that’s for no reason beyond the fact that, as I’m sure you can identify with, in this industry, sometimes your paths take you in different directions.

BE: I have to say that I’m probably about as disappointed as you are that the show didn’t last longer. I was a huge fan of “Everybody Hates Chris,” too, and I thought, “Wow, at least, The CW finally has a perfect show to pair with it: another series that actually shows real teenagers.”

AK: Yeah, I thought the writers drew the characters wonderfully well, and the degree of insight…I think so often today we see comedies aimed at the young market in which I feel like the people who are penning the scripts don’t really have an idea what it is to be young. They either end up casting actors who are playing 16, or they’re patronizing the audience instead of challenging them to a degree. I think that’s what “Aliens in America” did, and I certainly thought “Everybody Hates Chris” was an engaging piece and, like yourself, thought it was a perfect companion. But even though “Aliens” came to an end after a season, it really opened up an entire world for me here in the States, both in television and in film, and I’m grateful for all it did. Perhaps it was only meant to last for that time and for that purpose.

BE: So what else do you have coming up?

AK: Well, there’s “High School,” which premiered at Sundance and will hopefully be released in theaters by the end of the year. It also stars Adrien Brody, Michael Chiklis, and Colin Hanks. I’m hopeful that that will make it to the screen. There are talks with Sony and Fox to do a distribution deal, or the Russian financiers might just go it alone. Over the summer, I had the good fortune to work on Ivan Reitman’s “No Strings.” It’s the new Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher film, and to have a chance to work on that with my dear friend Olivia Thirlby was terrific.

BE: Well, thank you, Adhir. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

AK: You as well, Will. Thank you so much!

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