Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg Interview – THE BIG BANG THEORY

     August 18, 2008

Written by Matt Goldberg

Part of me wishes that Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg were the most pompous, arrogant, over-confident jerks on the planet because it would be such a shock (and a juicy interview!) But they’re as friendly and unassuming as the characters they play on The Big Bang Theory. While perhaps not as geeky as Rajnesh Koothrappali and Howard Wolowitz, respectively, they do have some geek in them and the geek community at Comic-Con certainly loved them back. We sat down with just Nayyar and then we were later joined by Helberg.

So is it just you? I don’t mean that in a bad way!

Kunal Nayyar: It’s okay. I’m more than you can handle.

So what’s the best thing about being on this show?

Nayyar: Well it’s awesome to be on a prime-time TV show, but I think the best thing is the cast who I love and the producers, our directors, and we’re having such a good time because we love each other and that speaks to the amount of fun we’re having.

You ever take any costumes?

Nayyar: Yeah, there’s a little cardigan that I asked if I could have because it was really cool and it fit me well and I did.

You seem to have a lot of fun with Kuthrapali gets drunk. What’s it like shifting gears with the character from a reserved, painfully shy guy to a party animal?

Nayyar: I think that’s the beauty of it. That’s the most fun when he does get to release all this stuff. To actually have the opportunity to get drunk and relax, it really is a bodily thing. Now that I’m drunk, I’m going to drop my shoulders and smile a lot. And it works! So it’s more a physical thing than an emotional thing.

How much of this character is you? What is the geekiest thing about you?

Nayyar: There are some similarities. I think his innocence and my innocence and intertwined with each other. I mean I love playing videogames and he loves playing videogames and I think Raj, when he’s alone, loses his mind in the TV screen. We have those similarities. There are a few things about geek culture that I love. I love retro sneakers and stuff like that. I think I do dress up a little differently. But we definitely do have some similarities.

What about that crowd today? Were you expecting that size?

Nayyar: I thought thirty people would show up. I am so out of touch with reality! You’re on the set and you watch the show and you see in the magazines that nine million people watch the show and you think, “Oh, that’s cool.” But you don’t ever have an experience like this where you’re this close to people that love the show. It’s truly a blessed feeling.

What are your first impressions of Comic-Con?

Nayyar: Comic-Con has been an amazing experience. It’s overwhelming, I have to admit, because of the lines and the crowds.

At this point, we’re joined by Simon Helberg.

Simon, all of these characters have sort of an innocence to them but your character, Wolowitz, is so sexually forward. How do you balance that so that we find you endearing instead of creepy?

Simon Helberg: Yeah, it’s a fine line. I can’t imagine an audience being repulsed by my sexuality. I guess it could happen. There’s a harmlessness I think he has. When someone is over-stating it so much, you’re almost able to see him not able to have enough courage to make it into the bedroom. It’s “Methinks thou dost protest too much.” It’s like “We get it. You’re a sexual creature.” But the innocence is the challenge for me. I guess just being as genuine as I can and not being seductive to the point of people wanting to throw up in their mouth.

Do you guys find you get more attention from the ladies now?

Helberg: Well, I’m married so I can’t. But yes. [laughter] From my wife. She likes me a little more I think.

Nayyar: Of course. You’re on a TV show.

Anything you guys see at Comic-Con that you can use as motivation or character tips?

Helberg: We haven’t seen that much. We’ve just been driving by them but even then I’m sure there’s stuff we can pull.

Nayyar: Actors are always looking so this is a perfect place to see these kind of people that we portray on the show.

Do you think you could walk around and not get noticed?

Helberg: It feels like we’d get noticed, just after today’s panel. If any of those people were there, they were pretty die-hard. I do want to see what it’s like.

Nayyar: I think if Simon or I were on our own, it would be a little harder to recognize, but if the two of us are together or Jim [Parsons], me and Simon are together, then I think people would recognize us a lot more. I think Jim is a lot more recognizable.

What were some of your favorite moments from season one?

Nayyar: I just loved when we were all wearing The Flash costume from the Halloween episode. I just couldn’t get over all of us wearing the same thing.

Helberg: I liked the swelling up from eating the peanuts.

Nayyar: I loved when the drugs wore off and I was talking to Missy and the drugs wore off and my voice got really high pitched. I loved that whole episode. His thing with the magic trick.

We talked about the amount of people lining up for you guys. Who would you line up for?

Helberg: Probably Elvis Costello. The Beatles. I think anyone would line up for The Beatles. There’s only two left. If The Beatles re-unite, I’ll line up. If they find out a way to make that happen.

Nayyar: I would definitely line up for “The Lord of the Rings”. I’m a huge “Lord of the Rings” geek.

Simon, what was it like working with Joss Whedon?

Helberg: It was great. I sort of happened into that thing. I had no idea what I was getting into. I just asked to be a part of [“Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”] and I just think it’s terrific. I’m just such a huge fan of his and it’s weird to be in it and the music is wonderful. And Joss is such a sweet, unassuming guy. He’s so humble. You’d never know he’s such an auteur and so influential because when he talks he’s just like a guy with a t-shirt hanging out and I think that what makes him so influential to people.

Any projects coming up for you guys?

Helberg: I’m going to be in the new Coen Brothers movie which I found out about recently.

Nayyar: Nothing right now. When you’re in the season, it’s hard to find things. It’s a full-time job.

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