The Maulik Pancholy Interview

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"I Think Selling Pot Becomes a Way For Him to Have Something to Do"
About five years ago, I was in graduate school with actor Maulik Pancholy. He was a third-year when I was a first-year, and by the time I graduated, he was becoming a big deal. Now he's got recurring roles on two (two!) hit series. He plays drug-dealing college student Sanjay on Showtime's Weeds, and he's assistant to Alec Baldwin's network executive Jack Donaghy on NBC's 30 Rock. A few weeks ago, I joined him for brunch in Brooklyn, and he kindly answered all my questions. Even the geeky ones about Tina Fey. Mark Blankenship: Let's start with Weeds, since the third season is almost upon us. How did you end up with the role of Sanjay? Maulik Pancholy: Rolin Jones [a Weeds writer and former classmate at Yale School of Drama] called me and said, "We're about to write this character, and we don't cast out of New York very often, but it's perfect for you and you need to get yourself on tape for it." So I sent in an audition tape, and it was actually really complicated, because it was moving very quickly. They had to do some kind of network approval with Showtime, but I wasn't in L.A. because I was doing a very low-budget indie film in New York. I was able to get out of the film to do my first episode, but it was hard, because I was letting people down. It all worked out, but it was against all odds, being in the wrong city and having to get approval on tape and having another job. MB: Once you got the job, were you expected to play a recurring character? MP: After I shot my first episode, the part just kind of grew from there. I don't even think they necessarily knew where it was going to go. MB: Do you think they developed the role based on what you were bringing to it? MP: I don't know, actually. I'm not super-privy to how they write. I do think the writers are super-smart and write to what they see as people's skills. MB: You've said in another interview that Sanjay upends Indian stereotypes. Can you talk about how that's true? MP: Yeah. You know, I feel like some of the stereotypes of Indian characters you see on television are that they're a little bit nerdy and super-intelligent, and I think Sanjay has that. MB: Because he's a tutor, right? MP: Right. But he also says in his very first episode that he's a complete underachiever with no direction, and he needs some cash. I think that's pretty unusual. He doesn't want to be a doctor or a scientist, so he's a drug dealer.

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