The charming and fun indie comedy An Awkward Sexual Adventure (which has already screened to rave reviews at the Toronto Film Festival and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival) tells the story of uptight accountant Jordan Abrams (Jonas Chernick), who proposes marriage to his life-long soul mate Rachel (Sarah Manninen), only to have her dump him because he’s terrible in bed. Frustrated and deeply unsatisfied, Jordan embarks on a desperate mission to seek some much-needed sexual experience and acquire some basic requisite skills under the guidance of Julia (Emily Hampshire), a sexually liberated but emotionally guarded exotic dancer, which ultimately has him questioning who the right woman for him really is.
During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, actor Vik Sahay (who plays Dandak, Jordan’s best friend and something of a self-proclaimed expert on women) talked about how he got involved with the film, always looking for a character with dimension and depth, getting the instant reaction and feedback from film festival audiences, how fun it was to play a ladies’ man after playing the unlucky Lester on Chuck for five seasons, and what it was like to work with one of his best friends. He also talked about his recent guest appearances on Bones and NCIS, doing the half-hour Canadian comedy series Satisfaction, filming the horror movie Wer in Romania, and how he’d also love to return to the stage. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
VIK SAHAY: This project is actually very close to my heart. The writer/star/producer Jonas Chernick has been one of my best friends for years, and we made our way up through the ranks of this crazy business together, always glancing over and seeing where the other one was at, and celebrating each other. We had always wanted to do something together, and actually came close to getting a series going in Canada, a couple of years ago. And then, he wrote me this part out of nowhere and we went to his hometown to shoot it. It was an honor.
This is not really a particularly unfamiliar story for people, but it’s handled in a really honest and intelligent way with characters that take the unexpected route with their actions. When you first read this script, was that all there? Were you able to see how this film was set apart from others of its type?
SAHAY: Yeah! For me, what I’m always looking for is a character with dimension and depth and surprise. Though the title suggestions one thing, and maybe the loglines out there suggest something, I think the reason the movie is going to be successful, or has been successful, is because it surprises the audience with its heart and its depth. That comes from the writing being so truthfully human, despite the mania of the circumstances. It’s very routed in real life, and that is certainly what drew me in.
As an actor, unless you’re doing theater, you don’t get much interaction with your audience, so was it fun to screen this film at film festivals and get that instant reaction and feedback?
SAHAY: To be startlingly honest with you, I am not the most comfortable in those circumstances. My inherent nature is a little bit more shy and more of a hermit. The Santa Barbara Film Festival, in particular, is so classy and relaxed. I got to go to the Daniel Day-Lewis tribute, which is the gold standard for acting. I’ve been watching him my entire life, and it’s like something very private is now public. That kind of thing is something that you get to do at these film festivals, as well as getting that immediate reaction and feedback from a crowd, which is not as common in film as it is on the stage.
SAHAY: It was not that conscious. I don’t think I was like, “I have to do something that’s not that.” I didn’t, at all, take on the role in An Awkward Sexual Adventure because it’s so different from Lester. For me, I’m just always looking for something that I can bite down hard to get to the bone of. Lester was simply another role in that mandate. It was a great role. It was a role that I wanted to play and loved playing, and it just happens to be the one that connected, on that kind of a level. But, I’d done several roles before that, that I was equally as invested in, and now a few roles, post that. Each role is completely different. Even if, to others or on the surface, they seem similar, I’ve started from absolute zero, building each guy.
After playing someone like Lester, who was so unlucky in love, for so many seasons, was it fun to play a character a little smoother with the ladies?
SAHAY: Yeah! He’s a daring Casanova type who fancies himself an expert on sex and dating, and I guess he is. While Jonas’ character, Jordan, has been in love with the same woman for as long as they’ve known each other, and who Dandak would say he’s slavishly hung up on, he’s been sampling every bed in that garden. But, he has holes in his game, too, as you find out very quickly into the film. He is also missing something that Reshma (Melissa Marie Elias) fills the void of immediately, when she comes along.
How challenging was it to make sure this character didn’t turn off audiences?
SAHAY: I never want to be winking at the audience and saying, “This character is really a nice guy.” Even with Lester, I never wanted to be in a situation where, even when he was doing the most horrifying things, like poisoning his best friend, I never wanted to be peeking around from behind him saying, “Hey, I’m actually a nice guy! Isn’t Lester sweet?” I try not to think about the audience’s reaction, and just try to play the character as purely as possible. I never saw Dandak as an obnoxious guy. I actually built the character less so from his high profile with women than through his actual love and friendship with Jordan. That’s what I based it on. If Jordan sees Dandak as a great guy and someone who he considers his best friend, then there’s obviously some value there. I went off of that, and then kept building from there, rather than avoiding making him obnoxious. You can fall into a trap, worrying too much about what the audience might think, rather than going from the inside out.
SAHAY: Well, he’s not that way and neither is the director, Sean Garrity. It was one of the most surprisingly calm, open, fluid sets I’ve been on, maybe because I’m such good friends with Jonas. But, I certainly needed to let go of the idea that he was the writer. The advantage was that, if I had a question, I could just ask him. I get nervous when I’m working, no matter what. But, despite what other people may say, think, believe or have proof of, the part of the character that is most like me is simply found in the banter between me and Jonas. Other people may say that it’s the other part of Dandak that is like me, but I really feel that the part that’s most connected to who I am is in the rhythms of the exchanges between Jonas and I. Though a lot of that was improved and created on the spot, it was also written. It was comfortable to just sit in that and let that river take us.
After having spent so much time on Chuck and forming a family with you co-stars there, was it weird to go do an episode of Bones as the new guy, with their well-established family?
SAHAY: Yeah, it was scary. It’s a very strange experience to be guest starring on another show, and I have to remember that when I’m on a series again and guest stars come in. You’re so dependent on them to make you feel comfortable. And all my scenes were with the other two brilliant stars (David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel), which was great, but it was day after day of them being great friends with the crew and knowing what was going to happen. The expectation or pressure, perhaps self-induced, is put on me, or the newcomer, to see how he does, so it was very nerve-wracking. The first scene I shot was a very emotional scene, so it was scary, but they were so accommodating and open and complimentary, and did all the right things that you need. They really strike a special tone on that show, being so within an irreverent spirit. It was infectious. So, it was okay in the end, but your question is valid because it was strange. I miss that feeling of family, amongst the cast and crew. And I know that I can potentially be cranky with people that I see everyday, as everyone can, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t miss them, now that we’re on different tracks.
SAHAY: On NCIS, I really had a brilliant time. If I’m going to go to work, I want to work hard. I’m not so much into just hanging around, doing a line here and there. We worked long, intense days with lots of text, and I actually couldn’t have been happier. Michael Weatherly is the funniest, nicest guy. Mark Harmon, Cote de Pablo and the rest of the cast are just such warm, engaged and professional people. I just have a ton of respect for the way they run their show, and I’m really grateful that they invited me along. Ten seasons in, that is a show that is really invested in making their show great still. That atmosphere is even more accommodating for me. It’s about just getting down to the nitty and gritty of the work. Not that Bones didn’t, but the role on NCIS required a concentration level, in that way, and they were all down for the work.
What drew you to and made you want to do a half-hour comedy series, with Satisfaction?
SAHAY: It was the writing of it. On a very simple level, I found it to be one of the funniest scripts I’d read. There were no plans for me to head back to Toronto to do a show, but when something comes along that is head-and-shoulders above the other things that you’re potentially up for, you’ve gotta lock in. So, on a very simple level, it just made me laugh out loud more than the other scripts.
Who are you playing on the show?
SAHAY: He’s a character named Dan, who’s a dentist. He’s married above himself, in terms of beauty and confidence, or so he believes. So, he’s grappling with his manhood, trying to find his footing as a young husband to this creature. It’s an ensemble comedy about dating and young marriages, and stuff like that.
SAHAY: It was gorgeous. Working on location on a film that the location serves, in every way, is the dream type of work that I want to be doing. You just get to isolate yourself and fall into another life, completely, so it was an incredible experience. William Brent Bell, who’s the director, is a real talent. So, I’m really curious to see how that film turns out.
Who did you play in the film?
SAHAY: I play a guy who’s on the investigating team of a law firm. I don’t want to say too much, but he certainly has his own demons that he’s wrestling with, and he gets involved in this case that puts him on a certain path that is very dark and very dangerous.
Is there a dream role that you’d love to do, if given the opportunity?
SAHAY: I don’t know. I dream of getting back to the stage, all the time. I love the long-form rehearsal process with theater, brick by brick, to build another life. And I’d love to do another juicy film role on location, just slowly drinking in the atmosphere and doing many takes in different ways. Those are the things that I ultimately would next like to fold into. But, I’ve been very fortunate. The next thing that I get to bite into is Satisfaction, the half-hour show in Canada, and that building process is in play right now.