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It's A Wonderful Afterlife - Sendhil Ramamurthy interview

It's A Wonderful Afterlife

Interview by Rob Carnevale

SENDHIL Ramamurthy talks about appearing in Gurinder Chadha’s new comedy It’s A Wonderful Afterlife, handling some of the film’s themes and what lies in store for him now that he’s left Heroes.

Q. Being Chicago born and sporting quite a thick accent, how was playing an English character for you?
Sendhil Ramamurthy: It was challenging. I went to drama school here, so I had kind of a beat on it. But I worked with a dialect coach and went through the script a lot with her. I also stayed in the accent on-set, which really helped me as well. That was my contribution to the accent.

Q. Was the accent much different to your Heroes accent?
Sendhil Ramamurthy: I softened it a little bit and didn’t make him as proper. But doing Heroes obviously helped me do this.

Q. How did you get involved with the film?
Sendhil Ramamurthy: Gurinder [Chadha, director] called me and asked me to do it. So, I came over here, we met and had lunch for three hours. We talked about the film and what her idea was for the film and for this role. She wanted to know what I was looking to do. But our sensibilities really worked together, so we decided right then to go for it and do it.

Q. There are a lot of scenes where you have to keep a straight face while knowing there are a group of people in the background you’re not supposed to be able to see. How difficult was that? Were there times you broke into laughter?
Sendhil Ramamurthy: I found it very difficult because I had very few scenes with the ghosts, whereas Goldy had them around all the time and got used to it. I struggled to get through my two scenes – we burned a lot of film!

Q. You’re constantly being discussed in terms of what you look like in the film. Does that rub off on you at the end of the day?
Sendhil Ramamurthy: Yeah, you do… but you try and think of it as how it services the film. And Goldy [Notay, co-star] did a great job of keeping my ego in check by letting me know that I wasn’t allowed to ignore a box of biscuits. But it’s part of what the film’s about: it’s not the outer appearance that matters, it’s what’s inside. So, if there’s going to be a moral to this film I would say that’s it. But that means appearances are going to be discussed in the film in order to get that message across. I think that’s how we both approached the film and I tried not to walk around thinking I was some kind of ‘himbo’ being discussed. We tried to do it in service of the film.

Q. Does the arranged marriage theme have any personal resonance for you? Do you know people who have been put in that position, whether it be family or friends?
Sendhil Ramamurthy: I think my parents are just excited I settled down at all! So, they were totally cool with it and they really didn’t say much. They were just happy I was getting married, I guess. It really never came up. I just said: “I’m getting married.” And they were like: “Great!” And that was it. But they knew from the way I was growing up that [putting forward candidates] would never fly. So, they never bothered. They literally just left me alone to do my thing.

Q. How much did being a part of Heroes change your life? And how hard is it to find roles in between your Heroes commitments?
Sendhil Ramamurthy: It’s really difficult to find roles because you shoot for 10 months of the year, so you have to find something that you want to do and that shoots in your two months off. So, that was one of the major reasons to do this; they were willing to shift the dates a little bit to fit me in. Heroes wrapped me out a week early so I could start on the film. Both sides really worked together to allow me to do the film, so I was very grateful to both NBC and to Universal Studios and to Gurinder [Chadha].

Obviously, the profile from Heroes is what got me this job in the first place. It’s why Gurinder approached me. So, it’s been a real blessing. It’s opened up so many doors and I’m moving onto other things now. I’m just really excited and grateful for the opportunities that Heroes has given me, and that Gurinder’s film have given me, because Gurinder is very well liked in Hollywood. I’ve been going into meetings recently when all the press is coming out about It’s A Wonderful Afterlife and she’s got a lot of fans at all the studios in Hollywood.

Q. So, 10 months of Heroes and several weeks of this… that leaves you with one week off! Are you a workaholic?
Sendhil Ramamurthy: I am actually [blushes]. But I just think make hay while the sun shines really when you’re an actor. When the opportunities present themselves you just better take them, otherwise you just don’t know. If it involves being away from my family for too long, then I would think. But they were with me for the whole shoot. But my wife is British, so it was a no-brainer for me. We used to live here… we lived here for six years. So, it was literally the perfect opportunity. It fit in my eight weeks off, my family came with me and it was with people I wanted to work with. So, it was a very easy decision.

Q. Where do you feel more at home?
Sendhil Ramamurthy: I feel more at home in London than in Los Angeles, definitely. If I could have my choice, I certainly would live in London as opposed to LA. I just prefer it here. But I love the work and in LA there’s just so much more of it, and as an actor you kind of have to go where the work is. Luckily, I’ve been able to get the work out there. If work brings me back here, and a project is here and I can do it, I’ll jump at the chance.

Q. What’s next for you?
Sendhil Ramamurthy: I’m leaving tomorrow, actually, to go to Toronto and do a new TV series. I’ve left Heroes and I’m starting a new show called Covert Affairs. It’s about the CIA and I play an American CIA agent. It’s being executive produced by Doug Liman who did the Bourne movies and Mr & Mrs Smith and Swingers. I’m really excited to start. It’s a very different role to what I do on Heroes… it’s kind of a kick-ass spy. You get to run around, shoot guns and jump around a bit. So, it should be a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to it.

Q. Does that mean you’ve tied yourself into another seven years of possible series?
Sendhil Ramamurthy: Six years… yeah.

Read our interview with Goldy Notay