Exclusive Q&A with Kapil Talwalkar of "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist (NBC) "
NBC has a new hit series on their hands with the musical comedy, "Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist" and we were happy to see our brown brother Kapil Talwalkar in the cast! The series follows, Zoey (Jane Levy) , a whip-smart computer coder who begins to hear her innermost wants and desires of the people around her through songs. Talwalkar's acting and musical background was a perfect combination for his character Tobin! We had the opportunity to chat with Talwalkar about his journey with acting, desi culture and his character! Check out our exclusive Q&A below!
What inspired your journey into acting?
I took theatre classes in high school with my first drama teacher Arcadia Conrad. She cast me in several stage roles, like John Proctor (The Crucible) or Charlie Brown (Peanuts), which at the time I didn’t see myself necessarily ”fitting into” based on societal norms. Once I saw that I could challenge that outlook, I embraced being whoever wanted to be on stage. The rush of being connected to the audience on stage was another big draw. I still remember my first play – Lysistrata - where my character comes back from war and his wife is withholding sex from him until he withdraws from battle. I enter the bedroom carrying an oversized sword on my belt (symbolizing a giant erection) and the subsequent husband-wife teasing scene had the audience in splits— I felt so connected to all of them at once that I didn’t want that feeling to end. From there acting and theatre became a place for me to disappear into when I needed an outlet. I was hooked.
How did your family feel about you pursuing a non-traditional career path (i.e. doctor, lawyer, engineer)?
They were conflicted at first. My dad’s own father was an Indian actor and my dad witnessed the severe ups and downs of my grandpa’s career. Convincing my dad was an uphill battle and often times I had to lean on my mom to persuade him. I had to reassure them it was temporary and that it was just an outlet, but at the back of my mind i knew this was what I wanted to do. I studied international business at USC while still performing in college theatre plays (that was the deal I made with my parents so they could sleep better at night). They started to warm up to it following some plays I did in LA, but, up until some of my recent bigger bookings couple years ago my parents would still tell their friends that he’s “figuring out what he wants to do” or that “he’s a very accomplished tutor (one of my side hustles).” Classic log kya kahenge model! But, once I booked a few pilots and then Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, they have been relieved, super proud, and completely on board. Looking back on it, it hasn’t been easy being for them either— I’ve been relentlessly stubborn and outspoken.
As an actor of South Asian heritage, what has been the biggest challenge you've faced in the industry?
The biggest challenge has been avoiding being pigeonholed as a “South Asian only” type, and subsequently standing up for myself against that. I recently just passed on a pilot audition that I had to do an accent for and I didn’t see why the character needed to. Also, I’m all about portraying South Asians in a positive light. I think for years Hollywood has depicted South Asians as the outsiders and to play a role like I do on Zoey’s, which is just an American bro-y dude with an abrasive sense of humor, is so refreshing.
What is your favorite part about playing Tobin on Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist?
My favorite part of Tobin is exploring the duality of what is going on inside him vs what he portrays to the world. On the outside he seems like a troublemaker, very provocative, and he loves being the workplace clown. But I think he is dying for validation from his peers and he is actually insecure about the things that mean most to him, such as his real friendships. So, playing the version of Tobin he wants others to see while protecting/showing glimpses of his inner vulnerability is so fun.
You're having a traditional Desi dinner party — What dishes are a must for a perfect meal?
The appetizer would be Pav Bhaji, a staple of Mumbai chaat, or street card food. For those who don’t know it, it’s a spicy vegetable mash served with toasted buns. I like it extra spicy and with all the cilantro, onions, lime, and chutneys— just like my mom makes it. Another dish is definitely Goan Shrimp Curry, served with brown rice. Again, this is a classic of my mom’s and it’s always one of the first things she makes for me when I come home to visit. It’s delicious and has a bits of Thai cuisine flavors mixed with Indian flavors. My mom taught me how to make it before I went to college and my non-Indian roommates at USC used to love it when I made it. Funny enough I just invited the Zoey’s cast over to my place for dinner and made them some chaat!
Who were your favorite music artists growing up and who are you listening to now?
After I went to a Def Leppard and Styx concert at the San Fran Cow Palace (yes that’s actual what it’s called) with my dad when I was 8 years old, I was hooked on rock. That’s when I learned piano, guitar, and how to sing. Going into my teenage years I wanted to play the music myself (I even recruited my little sis Mira into it). I took a dive into everything from Billy Joel, Elton, Queen, The Doors, to Green Day, The Ramones, The Romantics. Most recently, the last three artists I just binged were Norah Jones, Fleetwood Mac, and The Fratellis.
What advice would you give to the next generation of Desi youth who want to pursue acting?
I would say that some are still hung up on their parents saying no. To those I urge you to have that difficult conversation with your mom or dad and tell them how much this means to you and that you are willing to support yourself (after all what can they say if you’re not taking their money). It’s not an easy path at all but it’s an incredibly rewarding one and the lessons you will learn from falling down and picking yourself up will speed up your maturity and when you finally get to do what you love you will cherish every second of it. Just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons — not fame or money because that is far from guaranteed in this business. But if you are willing to hustle and willing to take the Ls, the first W, whether it’s a meaningful black box play, your own webseries, or a role on a big tv show, will be one of the most fulfilling of your life.
Behind-the-Scenes SPRQPOINT Set Tour -
Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist