From New Delhi to The Bluff to Hollywood: Kunal Nayyar shares his story

'The Big Bang Theory' star reminisced on The Pilot House and the first house he lived in in the US, "The Loveshack"

By Courtney Warta | October 12, 2017 12:55pm
Kunal Nayyar discussed topics ranging from his old house at UP to portrayals of Indians in movies and television.
Media Credit: Connor Lorber / The Beacon

“Big Bang Theory” star Kunal Nayyar, who graduated from University of Portland in 2003, returned to campus Wednesday to share his experiences and reconnect with the community. He sat on stage in the Chiles Center with former professors Mindi Logan, Larry Larsen and Gwynn Klobes. The three took turns asking questions and reminisced on their shared times at UP. The latter half of the talk was opened up to audience questions followed by photo opportunities, which will be posted on University of Portland’s Facebook page later this week.

In case you missed it, here are the highlights from Wednesday’s event. 

Growing up in New Delhi, India: 

“New Delhi was just chaos, family everywhere, open door policy. There was this really big sense of community, that I grew up in that was a very beautiful to me and very difficult when I left, when I came to Portland. The most beautiful part of growing up in India for me was being surrounded by so much — sometimes too much — sort of everyone is in your business, everyone knows everything. It’s fascinating to me. Those were the best memories I ever had of growing up with my family and being in a culture that’s very loving, very giving, very benevolent, very generous with their time and everything they had was everyone’s. It was very shared. Which in Los Angeles is sometimes not the case, you know? It’s very cut throat. Everyone’s wall is up because everyone is trying to get ahead. I miss that sometimes. I miss being home for that reason. It’s ok, I’m fine. Don’t feel so sad.” 

Visiting New Delhi now:

“It’s funny because I have a lot of cousins and now it’s like I have some cousins who I’m not sure are my cousins. Like I get instagram DM’s (direct messages) ‘Oh, i’m your 19th cousin’ or like ‘I am your seventh cousin’s son’s daughter’s best friend. Like why don’t we hang out?’ So it’s funny there are a lot of people who I don’t know who are family. I probably have some cousins right now, right here.”

University of Portland still feeling like home:

“Yes, absolutely (UP still feels like home). Like equal parts it feels like nothing has changed and equal parts it feels like I’ve been gone a long time. I was telling some other people you guys have a bar in the Pilot House. Where was that in 1999?”

Meeting his wife and former Miss India, Neha Kapur:

“I met her through some friends. I was visiting New Delhi. She’s very tall she’s like almost 5’11 and I’m 5’8. I said ‘sit down, I’ll buy you a drink’. I mean to be honest I was single. She was attractive. I didn’t know.”

On staying in Los Angeles:

“We’re in the middle of the 11th season of The Big Bang Theory. We have one more after this which is 12. I don’t know what happens after that, if that’s it or if there’s more, but we’ll see. London has been a city that gets thrown out (as an idea of where to move) because it’s a halfway point between Los Angeles and New Dehli, where my parents are, my wife’s parents are. So we’ll see. But I like to believe we live in a world, hopefully or we should all work together to live in a world where there are no boundaries and wherever we go we can live and do good for the community and give back and make our home anywhere. You know because why should we be separated by the way we look or the way we sound or because you eat beef and I eat pork? I mean, who cares? Why does all this nonsense matter? I don’t know maybe L.A, maybe London, maybe New Dehli, maybe Paris, maybe Spain, maybe parts of Africa.”

On staying grounded:

“It takes work to understand what’s real and what’s not. I know that people like me because they like the show, but they don’t know anything about me. I’m presuming not anyone really knows me except for a few people. And if they like me that’s good, that’s important. But outside of that, if I fall in love with the idea that people love me for the idea of who they think I am... Then that’s not real and it’s not easy. It’s not easy.”

On guilty pleasures:

“If I have a guilty pleasure it’s eating good food because I ate 7/11 sushi and buffalo chicken taquitos from 7/11 for almost 10 years of my life so I like to eat well. But my guilty pleasure is probably cars. I don’t have a lot of cars but I did just recently get myself a Ferrari.”

His first house in the United States, nicknamed “The Loveshack”:

“I used to sit on the porch and play guitar. I have some beautiful memories there. Next door to us these three old ladies used to live there.”

A current resident of “The Loveshack” informed Nayyar that Elenor, one of the three ladies still lived next door. 

“Elenor’s not dead?! What? She was there 18 years ago she was probably 80. Tell her I said hi. I’m sorry that was horrible that I said that! They need to update that house. I took a picture outside of it today. It’s on my Instagram.” 

The first house I ever lived in the US! #Portland #1999 #loveshack

A post shared by Kunal Nayyar (@kunalkarmanayyar) on

Jobs on campus:

“I worked in the physical plant.. I also cleaned the church windows that was part of my job. I cleaned the toilets and the garbage from Mehling. I used to clean that dumpster one entire summer.”

Favorite part of Portland:

“You know this is going to shock you, but it was the weather. Because I grew up in New Delhi where it was always hot and then I came here and I could wear scarves in May. It was always raining so you have a coffee and listen to some Radiohead. You just felt in touch.”

On auditioning for “The Big Bang Theory”:

“I think that I was auditioning for a Chuck Lorre sitcom and because I was just out of graduate school I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. When you’re screen testing at Warner Brothers... I didn’t know what that meant. I think that saved me in a way because I wasn’t jaded.”

On cultural stereotypes:

“I mean Raj (the character he plays on “The Big Bang Theory”) dated two white girls last season so I don’t think he’s that much of a stereotype. So I have gotten to live out many amazing dreams through him. Yes, he’s smart, yes he’s had trouble with women because he suffered from selective mutism but I really don’t think it has anything to do with being Indian. If the worst stereotype is that we’re smart, you know that’s pretty cool.”

Highlights of “The Big Bang Theory”:

“I’ve made some really beautiful friends. Lifelong friends. The writers, the actors. It’s also really cool to go to the Golden Globes. We always know we’re not going to win because they put us next to the bathroom. But it’s really cool because all the stars use the bathroom.”

Advice from Nayyar:

“You should find something within yourself that is untouchable, that will give you a lot of strength in your life. As opposed to always looking for it from the outside, because that’s just not in your control. So, I encourage all of you to maybe get out if you feel like you’re in a little bit of a clique or something. Get out of all of that and experience so many beautiful people everywhere and so many beautiful things you’ll learn and don’t create a small jail for yourself so young. That jail will come when you get older, it’s called marriage. It’s a joke!”