A chat with Rizwan Manji and Parvesh Cheena, Outsourced
Outsourced

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Although the pilot for NBC’s sitcom, “Outsourced,” about an American businessman tasked with the job of running a call center in India that’s selling wacky novelty items, has met with a great deal of criticism from some parties, I for one thought it was a highly entertaining look at the culture clashes that would be inherent in such a situation. Yeah, I know, that probably sounds like I’m taking the whole thing too seriously, especially given that it’s a comedy, but since that’s exactly what the people who don’t like it are doing, I feel like I’m on safe ground. During the course of NBC’s all-star party at the summer TCA tour, I caught up with two of the show’s stars – Rizwan Manji and Parvesh Cheena – and asked them about their experiences working on the series so far. Hey, what do you know? Turns out they think “Outsourced” is funny, too!

OutsourcedBullz-Eye: I’m a big fan of the pilot. I really enjoyed it.

Rizwan Manji: Oh, thank you very much!

BE: How did you come aboard the show in the first place? Did you just audition?

RM: I did. A funny story: I auditioned for the role of Gupta.

BE: Oh, really?

RM: Yes, I tested for that role and I didn’t get it. I then got called a couple days later and they were, like, “We thought you might be right for the role of Rajiv.” And then I auditioned again.

BE: I know you guys talked about it during the panel, but what were your thoughts about the concept of the show when you first heard about it?

RM: When I first got the script…there’s pilot season starting from January all the way to April, you get a bunch of scripts, and even before they had sent out casting, my agent had sent me the script of “Outsourced.” And I have to tell you, it was one of the funniest scripts I have ever read. I laughed out loud, and I think it was because I was able to relate to it. You know what I mean?

BE: Sure.

RM: It was probably even funnier to me…you said you enjoyed the pilot, but I think it’s even funnier to me because it’s something that I relate to and, I don’t know, I think it’s very accurate and very funny.

BE: Are you surprised that some people are offended by it?

RM: You know, I am surprised. I feel like a lot of people have just seen the trailer or have just read a synopsis of what it is, so they are hitting on one thing.

BE: It strikes me as just a culture clash comedy.

RM: That’s right. At the end of the day, it’s there to make you laugh. That’s what the final goal is, and I think it succeeds in doing that.

BE: How well scripted was the character of Rajiv when you first got the role?

RM: Rajiv has some of the funniest lines, I think. I don’t know, I’ve been a big fan of Robert Borden, with “The Drew Carey Show” and “The George Lopez Show,” and he’s tremendous. Even on the set, they would come in and they would be, like, “We want to change this,” and you would get a whole new page of dialogue and it was funnier. Do you know what I mean? They are on the ball, the writers are great.

BE: Do you have the option to adlib, or do you even want to exercise that option?

RM: Ken (Kwapis) is very happy with a lot of improv, so we got to do a lot of improv as well. But the majority of it is the genius of Robert Borden, who wrote a lot of funny lines.

BE: You’ve only filmed the pilot thus far, right?

RM: We’ve only filmed the pilot, and we start on August 10th shooting the show.

Rizwan Manji: "There’s pilot season starting from January all the way to April, where you get a bunch of scripts, and even before they had sent out casting, my agent had sent me the script of 'Outsourced.' And I have to tell you, it was one of the funniest scripts I have ever read. I laughed out loud, and I think it was because I was able to relate to it. At the end of the day, it’s there to make you laugh. That’s what the final goal is, and I think it succeeds in doing that..."

BE: Are they giving you any idea where the show is going to go?

RM: The second episode, the episode that we’ll run when we come back, is going to be about sexual harassment and how we might not see…the Indian characters might not see it the same way as the American managers on sexual harassment. So it should be an interesting little…another culture clash situation.

BE: And last thing, do you have a favorite novelty?

RM: I definitely like…that’s the one I ended up picking up and that’s why it ended up in my hand…was the toilet bowl mug. I ended up picking it up because I was, like, “This is so cool!” I also like the dog. I think it’s like a funny thing to like have. What was yours?

BE: I’ve got to say the singing deer.

RM: That one’s actually great. I don’t know if that was…they might have rigged that to do that.

BE: Probably. But now it will be a product on NBC.com.

RM: (Laughs) Now everybody is like going to create it and it’s going to be like, “Look, it’s the singing deer!”

BE: Last question. What are your expectations or hopes for the show?

RM: I hope people give it a chance, watch it, and enjoy it as much as I do making it. You know what I mean? So that’s my hopes, that people will laugh…and see that it’s okay to laugh at it.

OutsourcedBullz-Eye: Hey, how are you doing? Will Harris.

Parvesh Cheena: Hello! I’m Pervesh Cheena from “Outsourced.”

BE: Absolutely you are. I love the pilot, man. How did you find your way into the show? Was it something that was pitched to you, or did you audition?

PC: You know working actors: we just go out and audition. I remember I had just tested for…there was another network that had a different Indian-American pilot, so I tested for that, but I didn’t get it. A week later, this one had the first auditions. And they had me audition for a few of the roles, like Gupta, which I got, and then also Manmeet. And I’m, like, “I’m not Manmeet, I’m not going to get that role, but let me read for Gupta!” And the big thing about it is that Sacha (Dwahan’s) role, Manmeet, was closer to my age, but they were looking for all types of characters who can play quirky to sad and needy, and I’m, like, “That’s my role!” (Laughs) So that was it, auditions, and then I went through the whole process. First pre-read audition, and then all the way through to the tests.

BE: How developed was the character when you first got the script? And how far has it come since then?

PC: I don’t want to toot my own horn…but I will. (Laughs) Robert and Ken, of all people, are going to be the kind who let you add a little, especially without changing anything that was already established. And the great thing for my role, like, in the script was, “Gupta trails off following Madhuri or Asha’s character and talking.” I just kept talking and talking, and I would add more stuff, and some of it did make it into the pilot. So I’m very happy about that, you know. And it was just very collaborative. Like, they gave me that one line, “The beer makes my throat swell up.” I was, like, “Everyone else has like a phone call, why don’t I have one?” They’re, like “It’s in the pocket, we have it for you.” And then I added the “you’re a liar” part. And then the story about my auntie Melou, the hermaphrodite, which is maybe a true story. (Laughs) No, it’s not. But they let me play and it was, like, “Take that away, don’t do that, too much, that’s good.” So it was very collaborative. I don’t know if it’s always going to be like that, but it’s nice to know that there’s that ability to play a bit.

BE: Do you know that one of your lines in the show, about the t-shirt that says, “Beer Makes My Clothes Fall Off,” is already a t-shirt?

PC: I’ve heard. I was at Comic-Con and I saw one.

BE: They have it here today, too.

PC: Yeah, and I kind of freaked out a bit. I’m, like, “Are you serious? A line that I say on television is a t-shirt? One that I did not make myself and give my friends to wear?” (Laughs) I know. We were down there and we saw it before we met any of the NBC people. I’m, like, “Somebody just put that on!” It was crazy.

BE: I know this was kind of discussed on the panel already, but what were your thoughts when you first read the script?

Parvesh Cheena: "I was at Comic-Con and I saw (an 'Outsourced' shirt). I kind of freaked out a bit. I’m, like, 'Are you serious? A line that I say on television is a t-shirt? One that I did not make myself and give my friends to wear?' We saw it before we met any of the NBC people. I’m, like, 'Somebody just put that on!"

PC: Hilarious. But you know all comedy: you’re never going to please everybody. And you shouldn’t. If you try to please all of the people all of the time you’re not going to please anyone. And it’s not that it goes out, setting to be offensive, you know. Italian-Americans had some issues with “The Sopranos,” one of the best television shows ever. You’re not going to please everybody. However, I think that our characters are fully developed, especially for a 22-minute pilot, and now that’s just a jumping point of where we can take these. Why is Gupta so weird? Why is Madhuri so quiet, you know? And let’s see Sacha’s character on a date. We are getting that freedom and ability to do so, and…you’ve never seen a primarily Indian cast. Especially in Asia now, there’s a broader sense to, like, Margaret Cho’s “All American Girl,” which we all watched because it was, “Alright, the Korean American market gets big! Maybe Indian is two or three ethnic groups later!” And to be on the network and the night where like “Cosby Show”, “Cheers”, “Friends”, “Will and Grace” was on…? Yeah, that’s pretty cool.

BE: Have they given you an idea of what your character is going to be doing in the near future?

PC: Anger management.

BE: (Laughs) Really?

PC: He has some anger management issues.

BE: I find that hard to believe.

PC: I don’t. (Laughs)

BE: And lastly, do you have a favorite novelty?

PC: Yeah, I like the humping dog.

BE: (Laughs) Well, who doesn’t? Thanks for talking to me. Looking forward to the show!

PC: Thank you!

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