I should start off by saying I loved the movie Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. While some of the dumb comedies of recent years have stunk pretty badly, Harold and Kumar and Eurotrip were two that I can watch again and again and always laugh. For awhile now I had heard rumors that they were going to make a sequel to Harold and Kumar and I’m happy to report they have begun filming in
So why am I talking about Harold and Kumar?
In the film Kal plays Gogol, who is a first generation American from an Indian family. The film opens with his parents, the Ganguli’s, meeting in
And unlike most Kal Penn movies, this one shows his acting range. During the interview that is something he kept going back tohis desire to show his range and depth as a performer. He says that his ideal world would be where he could make both serious films as well as comedies, to not be pigeonholed into one genre over another.
At the end of the interview he said he is going to be doing a pilot for ABC that will be about two EMT’s in
Have you seen the film?
Yeah. Heartfelt is a good way to describe it. I’m wonder about your sense of it because in many ways your life story parallels the character.
Not really. There are some parallels like obviously being first generation of Indian parents but that’s not really to me what the story is about at all. I think the identify portion of the story is Ashima’s character. She’s the one who really goes through the real identity arch and fitting in with the American society. Gogol on the other hand is born and raised in
This is kind of like a change from what we’re used to seeing you….
I hope so.
It’s good and I was wondering the reason why you took the role and not just because of that but to show that for you this is an important thing to show.
Like the spiritual and your cultures.
No not at all. Again I don’t think it’s about culture. I think it’s a very universal American story if anything else about family. I don’t think it’s about culture at least that’s not what I focused on because again I think that’s Ashima’s character not Gogol’s character. I wanted to do the film because I loved the book and I loved the book because it reminded me of A Catcher in the Rye which I know is a completely different book from this one but for some reason I was really drawn to The Catcher in the Rye and Holden Caulfield for some reason. I’m not a rich white kid who went to boarding school in NE but for some reason I loved Holden Caulfield. The thing that got me into drama school was dong a monologue adapted from…I took the first 3 pages of the beginning of chapter 3 of that book and that was my monologue and nobody had ever done that as a monologue and they were impressed by that. You don’t look like a vision of HC at all so similarly for some intangible reason I really felt attached to Gogol and The Namesake and it wasn’t because of the ethnicity thing, it was for something that I really haven’t figured out.
Picking up on
Yes, very much so. Van Wilder–The Rise of Taj and Epic Movie are not particularly challenging acting wise at least. I say that particularly in comparison to having the opportunity to work on a novel, a film adaptation of a novel written by a Pulitzer winning author. That’s insane. You literally have a manuscript to base your character off of that you don’t have with some of the broader comedies and I think there’s a ….I’m not trying to say there’s no intransient values to those comedies. I think that there is and I think that people forget about the day to day pattern, they go and they laugh and they eat popcorn and make out with their girlfriend and then they go home. But this is very much a different type of film and I welcome that also.
Is this sort of like a signal that this is sort of the direction you’d like to go with your career more or like to leave the possibility open for more of those slapstick comedy type films?
I like to do both. I’m working on the 2nd Harold and Kumar right now. I think up until the past couple of months…the assumption is any actor can be picky about the roles that you take. I don’t think that’s true. I think that it’s just now that I hope the Namesake will let me be a lot more picky with the things I take. I would love to do films like Harold and Kumar and I’d love to do more Namesake. I was able to choose the role in 24 and an episode of Law and Order that I did and I really am thankful for that. I really like telling stories and I like doing the outrageous comedy things and I like doing something like The Namesake and I hope to continue doing both of those but maybe on my terms more.
Going back to
Sure. Well one of the LA Times articles says that I don’t say anything that isn’t…..
A lot of people haven’t……
Ok. The story starts out with us intending to go to
Are you …are there any other celebrity appearances because we’ve heard some rumblings?
Who have you heard because I’ve…..
Last week there were like 12 different people who they mentioned and off the top of head ….
I keep hearing that Snoop Dogg may be in it which I’m very excited about but I haven’t heard if that’s confirmed or not. I heard a couple of names back and forth but a lot is based on scheduling and whether or not people can make it in and whether or not they will do it. I don’t know. The ones I mentioned are definite. Danielle Harris who’s on One Tree Hill is playing Kumar’s ex-girlfriend. Let me brainstorm while we talk about other stuff. I’m trying to think about who else is in it.
Is it still called Go To Amsterdam?
I don’t know. Right now it’s called the Untitled Harold and Kumar Sequel.
I thought it might be Go To Louisiana?
It’s definitely not Go To
Your costars in this film are really terrific and they are people that American audiences don’t get to see too much at all. What was it like working with them? Is it different than working on a
Yeah. Well, it’s different stylistically also. Harold and Kumar is a broad comedy with really subversive political elements that half the audience gets and other half doesn’t and that’s ok if you get it or don’t because that’s what the movie is for, whereas the Namesake is a very different type of film.
Is there a different feel with these actors?
Well, I think especially Irfan and Tabu who play my parents are huge actors in Bollywood and so for them to come over I think this was a very different medium for them. And for me I’d done mostly broad comedies, broad teen comedies so it was a very different medium for me also. So the 3 of us sort of met in the middle and had this amazing opportunity to work with Mira Nair on this dream project.
In the press packet, it said that you were actually inspired to start acting after watching Mississippi Masala? So how was that for you? Did it come full circle to actually be directed by her?
It did. I saw
One of her signatures I think is her use of music and I found it very interesting that the wedding night scene turns out to be a musical number. How did that help in terms of getting the rhythms of the world that’s being created, having that musical element?
That particular scene or just in general?
That particular scene but also in general because I think music is something that’s very important to her.
Music is always the last thing added to a film. I know Nitin Sawhney did the score for the movie and a lot of the songs are not decided until late in the editing stages. For me as an actor music actually plays a huge part in preparing for the character. I always call the writer or email the writer and ask for a list of ….what are the top 10 CD’s this character would have? If I don’t have them in real life, I got out and buy them and put the on my IPod and listen to them constantly looped when I’m driving to work or at the gym whatever. I think music plays a huge part in our personalities and what defines us, especially if this character is listening to something completely different from me. I think it’s really important to listen to that sort of music constantly.
Do you play air guitar on your own?
I don’t but I’m glad that that
Have you met him yet?
No, I really want to. I’m a huge fan.
I was going to say that was definitely had to be…..
Yeah, I’m a huge, huge
You described it as a universal American story. I see it part of the immigrant saga but it’s repeated I mean we’ve seen the story of the Irish, the Jewish, and the Italians although more mobsters in some groups than others maybe. I wonder about the sense of re-discovering your culture. I think that’s one of the things that Gogol goes through. That’s interesting, that does echo throughout that. That people especially the 2nd the 3rd gens have pushed it aside and then they discover there’s something about the culture they want to return to or at least preserve.
Major spoilers in the next paragraph – do not read until you see the movie. It is in white so highlight to read
I didn’t find that actually. I think it depends on how you read the characters. I actually found what Gogol returns to is his sense of family. I think that sense of family is very universal. I don’t think that he returns to any sense of ethnicity because I don’t think he’s ever lost his sense of identity throughout the course of the film. I think what he has lost is what’s equally universal. You go off to college or you move to a different city from where you grew up, you talk to your parents less. You slowly talk to your friends less who you’ve grown up with. In Gogol’s case, he gets caught up in living with Maxine. He’s living with her family, he’s living in the upper East Side in this beautiful multimillion dollar brownstone and it’s not until his father passes away that he realizes he’s been ignoring his own family and that he’s felt a little bit burdened by his own family. He remembers when his dad lost a parent he shaved his head. Gogol remembers that and he’s like well, I loved my father so I’m going to shave my head when I go home. There’s even a little bit of dialogue with the mom who says you know you didn’t have to do that. Well I wanted to do that because that’s who I am and that’s how I mourn the loss of my father because that’s just what you do. I don’t think he ever really lost any sense of cultural identity I think what he lost was a very universal element of family that I think everyone goes through in some point or another.
What are you doing after Harold and Kumar?
A pilot for ABC called The Call. We’ll see after that.
Can you tell us about it real quick?
Yeah, sure. The Call is the same producers who do 24. It’s a single camera 1/2 hour comedy about 2 EMT’s in
Who’s the other EMT?
I don’t know yet. I’m not sure.