When I first heard that I would be going to LA for the premiere for Million Dollar Arm and getting a chance to interview cast members, I immediately skimmed over the list of actors. I was super excited when I saw Aasif Mandvi on the list. Sure, Jon Hamm is cute and all, but Aasif Mandvi is HILARIOUS!!! I have loved him on The Daily Show for years and enjoy his quick-witted humor.
We had a chance to see that quick wit in action during our interview. Of all the interviews I have done, it definitely offered the most laughs. In Million Dollar Arm, Aasif plays Aash, the business partner of JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm). Aash is the harried father of twins and stressed-out business partner trying to help pull together a near-impossible feat.
Question: I read that you were a performer at Walt Disney World. Did you think you would get to play in Million Dollar Arm and what has that experience been like going into this?
Aasif: Well, I was a street performer at Disney/MGM Studios and now I was in a Disney movie, so it's a very, very different experience. There's less Catering involved. You don't get a trailer. No make-up, hair, nothing. No, it was great. Disney/MGM Studios was my first job out of college so it was kind of an amazing experience as a firs professional acting job and it was really fun.
We sort of opened the MGM Studios back in '89 and did these street performing characters. It was a great place to learn comedy and learn improv, so it was amazing. It was funny when I started. I hope this is not where I end, but it's where i started. It came full circle, right?
Question: After starting at MGM, were you a stand-up comedian?
Aasif: I was never really a stand-up comedian. I did some stand-up because I thought maybe I'd like to be a stand-up comedian, but I ended up doing more theatre and I created a one-man Show. Then I cam back to the stand-up world since The Daily Show, mostly because people want me to do stand-up and so and they pay me to do stand-up. So, I was like “All right. I can put it together.” But I don't consider myself a stand-up in the way that John (Stewart) or somebody like that is. I came more from the theatre track.
Question: What was your favorite scene to film in the Film and why?
Aasif: It was really actually fun going to India and shooting. Having been born there and having family there and having visited India many times, it's a whole different experience when you go with an American film crew to India. Actually the best way to see India is to be in the bubble of a big Hollywood Production. You don't have to deal with any riff raff going around in an air conditioned car and stuff. [LAUGHTER] It was just an amazing experience to go to India and I got to visit family. I got to see the Taj Mahal, which I've always wanted to and never had. And now I got to do it on Disney's dime so it was kind of great.
Question: I liked the way your Character was the funny man next to Jon Hamm's straight man. Was that what attracted you to the Character or what was it that made you want to do this Film?
Aasif: I think he's funny but he's also the grounding character. He's the one that is the counter point to Jon Hamm's sort of playboy lothario character. I like that aspect of it. I also feel like it was an interesting character to see a South Asian sports agent because I don't know any. I'm sure there are some, but it was sort of an interesting character to play somebody I never played before. I felt that was kind of fun. And then I got to work with Jon Hamm every day who is dreamy. [LAUGHTER]
Question: What was it like working with the babies?
Aasif: Oh the twins. Well they had two sets of twins. So it wasn't the same, but you can't tell because they're Indian and probably look alike. [LAUGHTER] But if you watch closely, you see that they're actually two sets of different twins. The twins that I'm feeding in the kitchen are not the same as the twins that I'm holding on the Porch.
So we've got two sets of Indian parents who have these two sets of twins and the poor things are sort of hiding off in the corner. The kids would just cry. They would just cry. And the scene was not about these kids crying, and Craig Gillespie the Director was like, you know, kids cry. So let them just cry because there's no way we could stop them from crying. So we just used it. Craig's theory was that every time we see Aash and his children, his children are just screaming. And that's just the reality of his life. So in the bed, they're crying. They weren't supposed to be crying. In the Kitchen, they're crying.
And then, the piece de resistance is that on the Porch, the kids were again crying and I'm supposed to be holding them, and the kid is literally screaming for his mother. He's just like, “I don't care about your stupid movie. I want to be with my Mom.” And he's like “Moooooooooom”. I finally said to Craig, “Listen, I can't do this anymore.” This kid has snot coming out of him and he's crying. He's just a mess. Craig said, “Listen we have, we've got to get this shot, OK? We need this shot. I don't care how much, just let the kid cry. I don't care. Just grab him, walk out onto the porch, we get the shot, we're done. We're out of here.” So I'm like “Fine, OK.” So they roll Action, I grab this kid andit's like pulling cheese off a pizza. It's literally like I grab this kid. He's holding on to his mom, the hair, the thing, and I grab him like “Come on, Come on Sweetie, come on.” And we go running on to the porch and I'm standing there getting the shot. I'm shaking him and then suddenly he looks at me and just puked. [LAUGHTER] And it's just all over my clothes. And twice, he did it twice. And it's in the mMovie. And you can see it. So like it's totally real.
Question: Are you working on any new projects right now?
I'm actually doing an HBO Series called “The Brink” with Jack Black and Tim Robbins that's going to come out next year. It's good. It's a comedy about the end of the world and the world is on the brink of Armageddon. It's a geo-political comedy. It's sort of like seen through the eyes of 3 departments of the US Government – the State Department, Foreign Service, and the Military, but it's a comedy. It's nice because, like the stuff I have done on The Daily Show for years, it's sort of in that vein of clearly, satirical political. This is in keeping with that, but it's from a narrative standpoint
I also have a book coming out at the end of the year. It's called “No Land's Man” and it's basically stories of my life growing up as a kid in England, to moving to Florida and being a high school student in Florida and then coming to New York, and my career. So it's sort of humorous essays that are kind of Sedaris-esque stories. That's coming out in November
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