but it is a busy set.
How would you describe Jonathan’s
relationship with Jack?
Pure obsession. I think he would love to be Jack Donaghy
and probably spends a good amount of time worshipping
him on the sidelines.
What’s Alec Baldwin
He’s great. When I first met him I was definitely
a little intimidated by him because he’s Alec
Baldwin and he’s had this amazing career….
But over the years I’ve come to know him as
this good guy. I think he’s looked out for me.
He’s like, “Let’s get Jonathan in
this scene.” He’s a good guy and an incredible
actor. Being around him is a little like being in
an acting class.
Do you laugh backstage as
much as we laugh while watching the show?
There’s always really funny stuff happening.
But people aren’t performing all the time. They’re
relaxed. It’s kind of like a family….
I think it’s a gift to be on a show that you
really, really like and is not just a job.
What’s it like working
with Tina Fey?
It’s so great. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.
She’s also one of the nicest, most generous
people I’ve worked with. She writes and executive
produces for the show, apart from being a mom and
having a family. She never seems stressed…she
Is Liz Lemon like her?
I think everybody has a little bit of themselves in
their characters, which is partly why it works so
brilliantly. The writers write to the strength of
the people who are playing the part. She’s obviously
brilliant and talented and obviously able to make
fun of herself.
If Jonathan went 10 rounds
in the boxing ring with Kenneth, who would win?
No matter what the outcome was, Jonathan would think
he has won. He could go home bloody and with his shirt
ripped and think he has won.
Any favorite moments from
When I’m singing to Jack Donaghy.
Did you practice the singing?
Oh, I practiced.
What else are you working
I do a voice on the Disney cartoon Phineas and
Ferb… I play a little Indian kid who speaks
in a high voice. Not only do I go in and record it
in a high voice, but then they pitch it up….
It’s really fun. It’s a completely different
way of working. Most of the time you go in and it’s
just you…no other actors are there. It goes
against the actor instinct of playing off your partner.
But there’s a great freedom in it, a real sense
of play with it.
Where were you born?
Ohio, but my family moved around…. Junior high
and high school was in Tampa…. then Indiana,
Texas, college in Chicago, grad school in Connecticut,
L.A. for a while.
Where is your family from?
Gujarat. We used to go [to India] when I was younger.
I went the Christmas before last. It had been about
ten years since I had gone…. It was nice. I
have second cousins over there. People have such great
spirit in India…. The people I know there—their
hearts are huge. You haven’t seen them in ten
years, and they’re waiting at the airport ready
to take your bags and take you out.
What languages do you speak?
I speak Gujarati and Spanish. I’m pretty proficient
with learning Hindi.
Do you approach characters
differently if they are South Asian or not?
I have a twofold thought process. If the character
has a specific background, it obviously comes into
play. For 30 Rock, when I was brought to the part,
his name is Jonathan but he had no last name. It was
up to me to bring what I wanted to that. I chose to
keep him closely to me…. I’m Indian-American
and I consider myself Americanized. I don’t
deny my heritage. You look at me and you know I’m
from somewhere else. Those things play out subtly….
When the character is written more generally, it’s
up to you.
What other projects do you
have in the works?
Lots of independent films in the past few months.
A small part in a film called Love N’ Dancing,
which is about West Coast swing dancing. That’s
releasing in May. And a film called Love Ranch,
where I have a scene with Helen Mirren. We just wrapped
on 30 Rock. We’re coming up on the
next season of Weeds. We start that in July
With all these projects,
what’s your schedule like?
There’s a lot of hurry up and wait. It’s
really unpredictable. I’m kind of okay with
that. I just took a vacation to Utah and they called
me and said we need you in L.A.
When did you know you wanted
to be an actor?
I told my parents when I was five, according to them.
I don’t know why at the time. As a kid, it was
definitely an outlet for me on some level. I was always
drawn to the arts. I started playing the piano at
a young age. My parents are not artists, but they
were active in the community in arts. My dad was a
huge fan of Hindi films. We would sit down and watch
old Raj Kapoor movies.
Have you ever thought about
being in a Hindi film?
I’ve considered it. A few opportunities have
come up, but scheduling has always been an issue.
I think that market’s going to grow in such
a huge way. It already is.
Catch Maulik Pancholy on 30 Rock on Thursday
nights on NBC and watch him on Weeds on Showtime on
Priyanka Dayal is a journalist in Massachusetts, who appreciates good acting and absurd comedy.