Plain and simple…the lines can get blurry…
In Evil we meet David Acosta; a priest-in-training (Mike Colter) who recruits Kristen Bouchard, a forensic psychologist (Katja Herbers) and Ben, a carpenter (Aasif Mandvi) to help him evaluate if the phenomena reported to the church has scientific explanations or are actually supernatural in this series from Robert and Michelle King.
This isn’t the kind of show that you’d expect to see someone like Aasif Mandvi in…but that’s also why it works.
Evil: Season One is available on DVD now and we got the chance to talk with Aasif as we asked him about the unique nature of Evil, finding a balance between creative satisfaction and getting paid, the importance of some unique New York jobs and the importance of just being able to breathe.
Dave Voigt: Obviously congratulations on the show, I absolutely love it, but while the show does have the obvious procedural elements to it, it’s also reinventing it a little bit as its reversing roles a bit and even trying to get more personal with the characters. Even if you look specifically at your character you’d be played by a white guy or a quirky nerdy girl and it gives the show an extra layer. I’m curious, from your perspective, what was it about the initial material that made you say that you wanted to be a part of this show.
Aasif Mandvi: Well you know…I had been reading a lot of scripts and especially during pilot season you can pick out the money jobs pretty easily because they just aren’t that good but then I read this one and I just thought it was really good, it’s as simple as that. Plus that fact that I’m a big fan of both Robert and Michelle King and I was excited to potentially be a part of it and I was lucky enough that they also wanted to cast me as well.
It’s funny too because the character was initially written as a white guy but with me they saw an opportunity to go into a different area with it as well. Robert King asked me straight off what my background was and I told him Indian so straight away he decided that we’d make my character Ben, exactly that which would give us the freedom to explore that as well, which I don’t think they had initially intended on initially but it ended up being something that really added to the show.
As you said previously, those “money jobs” are going to be out there but how important is it to you as a motivator to really find those kinds of projects that end up being not only creatively satisfying but financially as well?
(Laughs) Luckily this turned out to be both! But really I always try to find stuff that speaks to me and satisfies me creatively because let’s be honest; as an actor you will always do the occasional money job but it’s the great material that gets you motivated and keeps you going. If you’re going to spend years of your life at something like acting and making a long term commitment it’s always better if you are just creatively in line with it as well, it makes the work that much more enjoyable and this really getting Evil was just the best of both worlds.
How much do you as an actor get to “read ahead” because on a procedural like this I can imagine it can make for some slightly awkward moments with fans when you are out of that production bubble?
Yeah, I mean you always try to keep a tight lip and not giveaway any stuff that you know is going to come. I know there are a lot of theories floating around about stuff on the show and especially with social media now people are talking about it all the time. Ultimately for me I just think it’s a lot of fun and I love it because it means people are truly engaged with what we are doing. I always try to not giveaway any spoilers but seeing people engage with the material is just so much fun and really rewarding.
And it’s not really a show that hammers any specific ideology on the audience as it gets down to the brass tacks of “good vs. evil”. It’s a simple idea but really so much more compelling then we often give it credit for.
Yeah, you know I think a show like this would never work if it was coming down hard on one side or another because then it loses its edge. Rather the writers keep asking more questions in the material which allows the audience to stay invested throughout the shows run. I think as the show goes on, it will not only raise more interesting questions but take great care in trying to give a compelling answer to them as well…which will only create more questions which is really how you keep a story like this alive. It’s a show that’s so much more about the questions it asks rather than the answers it gives us.
Now this is something I have to ask, because you do have some Broadway experience and any time I talk to anyone with Broadway background they always seem to have some Law & Order credits to their name as well. I’m dying to know the “Dick Wolf” experience trains you for the entertainment industry on a whole because SO many people have come through there?
(Laughs) I really think that when you are coming up in New York and especially in the 90’s; Law & Order for actors to pay the bills because there just wasn’t that many shows being shot at the time. To be honest I think I’ve done them all! I think there is a website that tracks all the repeat offenders and I did all the iterations of the show I think 6 times? (Editor’s note: It was actually 8 times, across 4 different versions). Obviously it was just one of those TV credits that looked great on my resume and really helped me (and so many others) just grow as actors. If you were a New York actor back in the day it really was a staple of your resume and almost a badge of honor in many ways.
Could you say the same thing about The Daily Show? Because actors who do come of out the New York system which has these high profile potential jobs out there always seem to have an extra step up when it comes to navigating the business on a whole?
The Daily Show was a regular gig for me for almost nine years and that’s a rare thing to come along to have a genuinely steady gig like that for that many years and it really was one of the greatest training grounds for me not just as a comedian, but as a writer and all around performer. I got to work with some of the funniest, smartest people in the business. It was such a pivotal moment for me in my career to just be there as it was so key in helping me to hone my overall craft. Plus I was never really a political artist before The Daily Show but when I got there it really helped me to find that political satire voice while working on the show. I can’t stress how important of a job it really was because it took me from general obscurity to place where people actually knew my name and that’s such huge currency to have in this business. It allows you the freedom to go off and do other things when you get to establish the value of your name, which so many people just don’t get a chance to do.
If you could talk to the young Aasif who played a doorman on Miami Vice in his very first on screen credit, what would you say?
Oh wow, you know honestly just the things you learn with age, not to sweat the small stuff and that things are going to be OK. Just breathe and keep going forward, it’s never as bad as you think.
Evil: Season One is on DVD now.
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