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Interview with The Last Airbender’s Aasif Mandvi: Part II

Interview with The Last Airbender’s Aasif Mandvi: Part II

By toksala
July 1, 2010

When we left off yesterday, The Daily Show’s Aasif Mandvi was talking about his role as Admiral Zhao in M. Night Shyamalan’s remake of the cult classic, The Last Airbender, which released today. Today, Mandvi reveals his favorite Indian dish of all time, what he’s looking for in a relationship and his picks for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

What are you thoughts about the controversy over the casting in The Last Airbender. Critics say that the cast is largely Caucasian in the movie but Asian and Inuit in the original cartoon on which it is based.

I see people’s point. But while I can see the relevance of the point, I think that this film attempts to represent the entire human race — all of the different cultures and all of the different ethnicities across the spectrum of humanity. So in terms of what Shyamalan tried to do, which is having the different elements representing different cultures and ethnicities, the movie couldn’t just be set in an Asian-centric world. It had be to be broader than that. Some of the things that were in the cartoon, they couldn’t be done in the movie because it was on a much broader spectrum.

Okay, now back to Indian cooking, which is the prominent focus of your upcoming film, Today’s Special. What is your favorite Indian dish?

Easy, anything my mom makes.

Alright then, what is your favorite dish that your mother makes?

Well, my family is Bohra Muslim  and there’s this dish in our culture called ghakhar, which is basically the most unhealthy thing you could ever possibly eat. But I love it. It’s like a doughball crusted over, but soft inside. It’s fried in oil and then you eat it covered in daal [lentils].

You’ve been acting for the last 20 years. What’s your advice to other young South Asian wannabe actors hoping to break into the entertainment industry?

Well, the world is very different now than when it was when I was starting out.  There are a lot more opportunities for South Asian actors than there were 15 years ago. I would say it’s a good time to be a South Asian actor in the U.S. There are more roles out there. Just study and train. A lot of times people will come from banking or some other world and they think, “I can be an actor. I’ll just jump into it because I’m hot/attractive/cute.” I would say spend time really studying/training/working at the craft of acting. It’s a sacrifice. You have to love it and really have to do it and study and train at it. If you’re willing to do all those things —  if you have the perseverance — you’ll be okay. Very few people get success quickly and easily in this business. It takes a long time. You have to love it and you want to do it. Don’t do it because you want to get famous.

If you could do it all over again as an actor, what are some things you would do differently?

Hmmm, interesting question. I don’t know if I would’ve done anything differently. I believe everything happened the way it was supposed to happen. If I’d moved to L.A., I may have pursued more television, but then I wouldn’t have gotten The Daily Show. If I went through the last 15 to 20 years again, quite possibly I would have made the same choices. I think I just did what I had to do.

You’ve been working as a regular correspondent on The Daily Show since 2006. The blog Jezebel recently posted an article saying that The Daily Show excludes women from key roles in the show. Your thoughts on the matter?

In terms of the criticism that The Daily Show doesn’t create enough roles for women, well I say “Welcome to Hollywood.” If you’re going to level that criticism  on The Daily Show, then I say you have to level that across the board. I don’t think The Daily Show is different than anyone else. We have women on the staff, women writers and one of our executive producers is a woman. But if you say there have to be more key roles for women, then yes. I totally agree. But you could say the same for everywhere in Hollywood. It’s a very male-dominated profession. It’s a male-dominated world.

Let’s talk about arranged marriages. I’ve heard your mom often threatens to take you to India and find you a girl since you’re currently single. Are you afraid she’ll still do that?

Honestly, my parents barely get out of the house these days. I can’t imagine them dragging me to India at this point. They don’t even leave Tampa anymore. [*Laughs] I don’t think it’s a real possibility anymore.

What do you look for in a romantic partner?

Wow, first time I’ve been asked that question. Maybe people are getting concerned about me. Well, I look for a creative soul with a sense of humor. I’m also looking for a woman with six fingers on her left hand. And so far, I just haven’t found all three. But when I do…

Hmm, well Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan has six fingers on each hand…

Really? Really? If only he was a hot girl. If Hrithik had a sense of humor and boobs, he would be perfect for me.

I noticed from your Twitter feed that you’re a soccer, err sorry — a football fan. Which team are you rooting for in the 2010 FIFA World Cup? U.S. or England? I know you’ve spent considerable time in both countries…

Well, both of my teams are out at this point. My childhood was in England, but my adulthood was spent in U.S. I was rooting for both of these teams. I’m just excited that I’m actually going to the World Cup final match on July 11. I’ll be live-tweeting from the World Cup Final actually, if I can get a signal, so watch out for that. In terms of teams, I feel Germany looks really good right now. A Germany vs. Brazil game would be amazing. I keep looking at the graph they put on the FIFA website and I keep having these fantasy matchups. Argentina and Spain are also looking really good. So is South America. I would really love it if the winner would be a big upset. I think it’ll be a great World Cup final.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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