Outsourced: Cast of NBC’s New Comedy at PaleyFest

By Fred Topel

HollywoodNews.com: Whenever NBC launches a new comedy on Thursday night it’s a big deal. This is the night where The Cosby Show, Cheers, Seinfeld and Friends ruled. Outsourced is the new show joining The Office, 30 Rock and Community until Parks and Recreation comes back. Can it be the new NBC classic?

The stars of Outsourced premiered their show at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, CA. as part of PaleyFest Fall TV Preview Parties. PaleyFest continues this week with Fox, ABC and The CW.

On Outsourced, Ben Rappaport plays an American transferred to a Mumbai call center where he has to manage an office full of Indian phone operators. Of course there are cultural misunderstandings, but also just an office full of kooky characters.

“I’ve had a lot of scenes with Rizwan [Manji] who plays Rajiv,” Rappaport said. “He’s trying to steal my job. It’s kind of a weird relationship because his whole theory is keep your friends close but your enemies closer. So he keeps me pretty close but beneath it all he’s really trying to steal my job. You see some pretty crazy stuff that he does. Once he sees that I get a threatening phone call from my boss, he keeps trying to pack up my stuff. He’s like oh, he’s on his way out, start packing up his stuff.”

The new boss has some allies in the office. Rebecca Hazlewood plays Asha, who tries to teach him the ways of India. “Basically she’s like a translator between the west and the east,” Hazlewood said. “She’s very much the person that Todd goes to and depends upon to translate for him what’s going on all the time. It’s very interesting.”

The call center handles orders for a novelty catalog. Cheese hats and fake poo seem harmless enough, but some of the American gag gifts cause trouble in India. “We have a sexual harassment seminar because we get sent a lot of bachelorette ideas from the west which no one in India can possibly put into context whatsoever,” Hazlewood said. “They’re totally shocked.”

Every office has a ladies man and Mumbai is no exception. Sacha Dhawan plays Manmeet, and it’s no coincidence that his name sounds like Man Meat. “We finished a lovely episode I’ve done which is called ‘Measure of a Manmeet,’” Dhawan said. “I’ve got some really nice stuff to do in it. You learn a lot more about my character. I’ll tell you a little bit about him. He’s great on the phones, Manmeet, and Todd (Rappaport) finds out that his sales are really low. He’s like, ‘How can this be? That’s impossible.’ He listens into his calls and finds out that Manmeet has been setting up phone relationships with different women all across America. So Todd’s very close to Manmeet and his job’s now on the line. You learn a lot more about the relationship between me and Todd.”

There may be plenty of jokes about Manmeet but the show will also make you care about him. “I think the main thing as well is a lot of the characters are quite comical but they’ve got a real heart to them,” Dhawan said. “You’re going to learn a lot more about my relationship with Todd. We’re both roughly the same age. We give each other advice. I teach him about my culture, he teaches me about his.”

They’re also getting a chance to promote some authentic Indian culture in a comedy. “You learn a little bit about American tradition, also some of our traditions, some of our festivities for instance. There’s a Diwali episode coming up. We teach Ben[‘s character about] Diwali. Also some of our other traditions, I won’t reveal too much but that’s coming up.”

Some characters are just annoying, like in any office you may have to work. Parvesh Cheena plays Gupta, the weirdo who everyone wants to avoid. Cheena’s starting to take it personally.

“I learned how similar we are,” Cheena said. “Why can I tap into creeping my friends out easily? Oh, that’s right. Because I’m like him. I’ve always been a close talker and I think a loud talker. When you see everyone else in the cast get wired for a microphone and then you don’t get a microphone, it’s because your character is yelling. That’s why you know.”

Ben has some other allies, including his fellow American lunch buddy Charlie (Diedrich Bader) and a potential love interest, Tonya (Pippa Black.) “Tonya is a lot of fun,” Black said. “A lot of Australians, we love to travel. We’re very adventurous so Tonya is very at home living and working in India. She’s a free spirited girl so she’s one of the boys. She’s not afraid of her sexuality which is quite a contrast to the girls in India who are very conservative. It’s a lot of cultural differences that complement and sometimes clash. She’s a lot of fun.”

If the show makes it, it’s going to be a while before Todd understands his coworkers. “I think he has a long way to go,” Rappaport said. “I think he thinks he knows but I think we have a long way to go before he fully understands it.”

Outsourced premieres September 23 on NBC.

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