NBC’s new Thursday night comedy “Outsourced” is about an American sent to Mumbai to run a call center. We’ve all been on the phone with those guys. It’s not really funny when you’re trying to explain why your DVR is recording the wrong shows, but they’re making it funny on TV. There premiere on September 23 will basically just set up the characters. What we really want to know is how is this going to be funny week after week.
The cast of the show came to the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills last night to premiere the pilot for fans. We got a spot on the red carpet for some exclusive interviews and the actors promised some edgy comedy involving sexual harassment and Halloween costumes. Visit the Paley Centers in New York and L.A. this week and next for more fall TV previews.
Ben Rappaport – Todd
Todd in the American sent to manage the call center for a novelty product catalog. His first job is to explain to the operators why Americans buy fake poop and cheese hats. He also meets other Americans working outsourced jobs.
SJ: What funny stuff happens after the pilot?
BR: Well, coming up, one of my favorite episodes so far is the sexual harassment episode. That’s a good one. It’s a really good one. Todd kind of puts his foot in his mouth a little bit. He’s not used to some of the traditional and conservative values over there. He offends some people. He has to kind of figure out what he did.
SJ: What other funny misunderstandings happen?
BR: We’re shooting the Halloween episode right now. The beginning of that episode, Todd pulls some pranks. He doesn’t realize that Halloween isn’t something that they do over there in India. They don’t quite understand that scaring someone could be a funny thing and some people misunderstand him.
SJ: At the end of these episodes, do they end up learning something about Americans?
BR: I think so because the show is very universal. It’s about these people in an office that’s just like any other office in America. It just happens to take place in India. It’s really the same kind of relationships, the same kind of problems so I think it’s all relatable.
Rebecca Hazlewood – Asha
The lovely Rebecca Hazlewood stands out in the Mumbai call center. Sitting in the front, she explains a lot of their problems to Todd. She finds herself at the center of the big sexual harassment fiasco.
SJ: What funny stuff happens after the pilot?
RH: Well, the next episode is about sexual harassment so you can imagine what’s going to happen and sort of the difference between the western take on sexual harassment and India’s take on sexual harassment. You see a real cultural difference but it is done in a very sweet way.
SJ: Who gets sexually harassed?
RH: Well, you’re going to have to watch and find out but a lot of hilarity, there’s a lot of confusion between what Todd considers sexual harassment in the western sense and how culturally that’s very different.
SJ: What other sort of misunderstandings or American phrases don’t translate over there?
RH: Yeah, sexual harassment’s definitely something that doesn’t translate. I think a lot of the Indians haven’t even heard of sexual harassment and no one even thought about it happening in the workplace. We get sent a sexual harassment video which shows some kissing. I have to explain to Todd that in Bollywood movies, which are kind of the most risqué of movies in Bollywood, we don’t even show kissing in those movies. So he’s wondering why everyone’s getting up and leaving. I have to explain to him what the whole deal is.
Diedrich Bader – Charlie
You know Diedrich Bader from “The Drew Carey Show” or maybe from Office Space as the neighbor. In “Outsourced” he plays Charlie, an American who Todd meets in the cafeteria. Charlie’s a veteran of the Mumbai office so he explains who the A Team top salesmen are in the caste and advises him to bring a bagged lunch.
SJ: Is Charlie involved in the sexual harassment episode?
DB: Yeah, he is. He gives him some really terrible advice. That’s one of the great things about Charlie is he’s an endless font of terrible advice.
SJ: What other funny stuff is coming up?
DB: We actually saw something pretty funny just about an hour ago with Rebecca where it’s Halloween and they don’t have that in India. My character dresses as Frankenstein and comes out of the closet to scare her thinking she’s going to laugh. Instead she picks up one of those little metal sweeper things and beats the crap out of him.
SJ: What’s the Frankenstein costume made out of?
DB: They got some sort of Frankenstein mask but then they cut out my face and painted it green. The rest is just Charlie. That’s what’s funny. He’s still wearing his coat and his tie and short sleeved shirt. He looks a little ridiculous but still terrifies her.
SJ: What have you learned about Charlie since the pilot?
DB: I’ve learned just how incredibly in love he is with Pippa’s character, Tonya. There’s a little more depth to him now so that’s kind of fun. There’s a sweetness about him that I didn’t really catch before, or maybe it wasn’t even in the pilot. So it’s developing. It’s really interesting. I mean, it’s really fun to be on a series and see how a personality changes and a character changes and how their voice kind of alters as the writers see what you’re doing and come back. So it’s really fun to do.
Q: Will that be a will they/won’t they scenario?
DB: Will they or won’t they is really mostly with Ben’s character, Todd, so we’ll see. I think this’ll be one sided, more of an infatuation, sort of stalker sort of thing.
Parvesh Cheena – Gupta
Gupta is the guy in the office everyone tries to avoid. He’ll talk to you for too long about things you don’t care about, and make you feel kind of weird. You’ll probably end up loving him though. He’ll grow on audiences with all his quirks.
SJ: What funny stuff happens after the pilot?
PC: So much. Sacha [Dhawan], Anisha [Nagarajan] and I, so Manmeet, Madhuri and I really have some fun where the A Team guys start harassing us and it’s tota high school standoff. ‘We are going to keep this cafeteria table.’ So we have a whole episode of that where Diedrich’s character kind of schools us in the way of the American prank because we don’t know. We’re like should we just poke them and prod them and smile? He teaches us a really good prank that ends the episode. Other good stuff is we obviously have the Halloween episode coming up. We’re shooting that right now where Todd wants to celebrate Halloween in India. It’s just so fun to see how everyone kind of confuses what we would think would be basic Halloween costumes. Someone says that they’re going to be in spirits so I figure they’re going to be a ghost.
SJ: What does Gupta go as?
PC: Gupta’s costume, I’ll give you the long version first. What he thinks is a wealthy American businessman. So that includes a big huge hat, velour possibly a leopard print jacket, platform shoes, big cane walking stick and gold tooth. So he thinks that’s a wealthy American businessman, but we all know that to be a pimp. It’s just funny how no, it’s a wealthy American businessman. Of course, if you saw someone with a lot of jewelry and cars and women, from afar you might think that guy was the richest guy on the planet.
SJ: How is Gupta involved in the sexual harassment episode?
PC: It’s a fine border because Gupta, a lot of stuff that circles my character is food. He likes his food and break so let’s just say the sexual harassment seminar circles around us getting a lot of the naughty kind of bachelor and bachelorette items. I’ll just say that some are edible. So I have plenty of snacks throughout the episode because of it. Some gummi bra and panties. They taste great.
Pippa Black – Tonya
Tonya is another non-Indian character, but not American. Tonya is Australian and Black is Australian. She makes a good impression on Todd when they first meet in the cafeteria, but seems less impressed by Charlie.
SJ: How does Tonya deal with sexual harassment?
PB: Tonya doesn’t have a big involvement in that because she doesn’t actually work in the call center with these guys. She does however hear about it and she’s quite shocked. America and Australia are quite similar compared to somewhere like India so she knows that it would have been a rather innocent mistake that Todd makes.
SJ: What is Tonya’s Halloween costume?
PB: It’s hilarious. It’s not something I myself would pick but it’s very typical of Tonya. Tonya decides to go as a spice rack. So I’m wearing a bikini on television.
Q: With strategically placed spices?
PB: Well, a spice rack, obviously she’s wearing a lot of spices on her, ahem, bikini top.
Rizwan Manji – Rajiv
Rajiv is Todd’s assistant manager. He’s very helpful in the ways of Indian office politics, but he really wants Todd’s job. How he gets it doesn’t matter, so that could be helping Todd get promoted so Rajiv can fill in, or getting Todd fired so he can take over.
SJ: Are most of your scenes with Ben?
RM: Actually, we just shot episode five where you are introduced to Rajiv’s fiancé, father, father-in-law so there are a lot of scenes my fiancé, scenes with my father-in-law and my father. So there definitely are a lot of scenes with Ben but you’re now meeting the Indian characters’ family and friends so we are branching out.
SJ: How is he in the Halloween episode?
RM: In the Halloween episode he actually kind of orchestrates where Todd is living for this episode and where he ends up throwing the party. He comes dressed as Mr. Todd Dempsey himself. I guess he wants it so badly that he feels like if he dresses like him, maybe that’ll be the key.
Sacha Dhawan – Manmeet
Okay, this is kind of a cheap laugh. His name is Manmeet, and when Todd says it, it sounds like Man Meat. Of course Manmeet is the ladies man of the call center.
SJ: How does Manmeet deal with sexual harassment?
SD: Yeah, that was our second episode. It was fantastic to do that. Todd teaches us about sexual harassment but the video he shows us, he ends up sexually harassing us with the video he’s actually showing us.
SJ: Isn’t the way they pronounce Manmeet already sexual harassment?
SD: Yeah, a lot of people are asking is that going to be a recurring thing throughout the whole season. I think we’ve done it in the pilot and I think there’ll be time to move onto different things and other things about Manmeet as well.
SJ: What’s his Halloween costume?
SD: Okay, I’m going to put it out there and see if you can guess what it is. He’s wearing a huge magnet with rubber chickens attached to it. What do you think?
SJ: I should know this.
SD: Should I tell you? It’s a big magnet with rubber chickens.
SJ: I give up.
SD: Chick magnet. So he’s going as a chick magnet.
SJ: Does it work?
SD: You have to wait and see. Something happens. I won’t reveal it all.
“Outsourced” airs Thursdays at 9:30 on NBC starting September 23.