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Interview: ‘Nurse Jackie’s’ Arjun Gupta On The Life Of A Young, Minority Actor

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Interview   Nurse Jackie s  Arjun Gupta On The Life Of A Young  Minority Actor arjun jpgTake a look around network television today and you’ll see lots actors of Indian descent playing roles like sidekick or comic foil. Just look at Aziz Ansari on Parks and Recreation, Danny Pudi on Community or the whole cast of Outsourced (which also has roles for Indian actors such as straight man, love interest and antagonist). But there isn’t an Indian on TV playing a character like Arjun Gupta‘s Sam on Nurse Jackie, an alcoholic male nurse struggling with his addiction. As a foil for Jackie (Edie Falco) in earlier seasons, Sam was still learning the ropes at All Saints Hospital as the Showtime drama started its third season last month.

Tall and lanky, with shaggy hair and a disarming boyish grin, 24-year-old Arjun is not what casting directors are looking for when they create Indian characters, so he’s made his living by being cast in parts originally dreamed up as white or Latino. Like Sam. “I’m very Americanized,” Arjun told us about his look. “I don’t look that much like a nerd, and I think that’s a big problem for [casting directors]. I walk into a room and honestly sometimes they’re looking for the goofy-looking Big Bang Theory or Rules of Engagement Indian. But that’s changing slowly. As we counteract what it means to be an Indian, people will write new roles.”

Being a minority isn’t the only challenge Arjun’s faced. He’s also young and inexperienced, but learning the ropes one audition, one movie and one role at a time. He spoke to us about his experience working for three seasons on Nurse Jackie, his relationship with his castmates — including Edie — and the side projects that keep him motivated, like volunteering with children in Uganda.

Crushable: What kind of research did you have to do for your role as a nurse and an addict on Nurse Jackie?

Arjun: For the second season, I spent five hours at an ER in New York City, shadowing a nurse. And I did it again before we started filming the third season. But it was different because some of the nurses and some of the EMTs started recognizing me, and it kind of started to feel a little weird, like I was distracting them from their job, which is kind of important, you know?

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