Dopinder, the Indian cab driver who gave bad relationship advice and took high fives as a form of payment in Deadpool, has become a trending sensation overnight after he starred in HBO’s show Room 104.
The Indian American actor Karan Soni is a ‘guest’ in the fifth episode titled “The Internet,” which takes place in 1997 and Soni’s character, Anish, a writer who wants to be a novelist, has forgotten his laptop at his mother’s house, so he is on the phone with her, guiding her through the mechanics of his laptop to get her to email his script to him as he has a meeting fixed with an agent.
But the role wasn’t originally written for an Indian, instead, due to a scheduling conflict the original actor couldn’t play the part and so with a less than 24 hour notice, Soni pulled an all-nighter, arriving on set the next morning only to know that Poorna Jagannathan, the actress who plays his mother, will be off stage for the whole episode.
Hardly knowing each other for a few minutes, Soni and Jagannathan managed to improvise the script to make it sound more Indian by adding words like “beta and raja” and sure enough it was loved by all.
Other than Room 104 and Deadpool, Soni has starred in other movies like Ghostbusters and Office Christmas Party, along with TV Shows such as Betas, Melissa & Joey and Silicon Valley to name a few.
Soni was born in New Delhi, India and he came to the United States when he was 18, to attend the University of Southern California.
He got his first role on a TV show at age 21 and a few months later, he landed a role in the movie Safety Not Guaranteed with Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson, which did really well at Sundance Film Festival.
“Until then, I was working part time in a restaurant. When I was 23, I quit my job. I had a plan that by the time I was 30, if I still have a part-time job and I don’t have enough money and I am just doing this then I will quit. Luckily at 23, I think I am working enough and don’t have to do a part time job,” he told the Deccan Chronicle.
Soni is also known as the “did it hurt when you fell from heaven” guy from the AT&T commercials and was recently signed by the CAA, one of Hollywood’s top agencies for actors and sportsmen; their clients include Jennifer Aniston, George Clooney, Lupita Nyong’o, Priyanka Chopra and Amish Tripathi.
Soni also told the Deccan Chronicle that he felt that he was being typecast as a stereotypical Indian in Deadpool although his performance was appreciated worldwide.
“I have worked a lot in America and have played all kinds of characters. In my TV show Blunt Talk with Patrick Stewart, I play a news producer and there is nothing Indian about the character. This summer, I’ll be in the Ghostbusters movie where I play an American character. I did not feel like I was being stereotyped in Deadpool. In fact, I have never been cast as someone who speaks in Indian accent, so for me, playing Dopinder was different and I was really excited… and it was fun. But moving forward, if I get offered a role where I play another cab driver, I am not going to take that. That would be stereotyping,” he stated in the Deccan Chronicle report.
However, he added the fact that Indian actors do have a market in America and with more Indians being cast in TV series, the opportunities are just getting bigger.
“You get to see an Indian character in almost every TV show. Now, Priyanka’s Quantico is doing really well and even Aziz Ansari was appreciated for his show (Master Of None), so you see a lot of Indians on TV,” he said.
But acting wasn’t always what he wanted to do, “I came to LA to study in the University of South California and started taking business classes. My professors would keep saying that I should audition for TV shows and movies so that just got planted in my head. I got really lucky and I found a small agent who had seen me in a play and then he started sending me for auditions.”
Soni’s upcoming films include Unicorn Store, Creep 2 and Deadpool 2; however he doesn’t mind doing a Bollywood film someday and eventually desires to work with Karan Johar.
In fact, Soni is in the process of writing a script for a movie that he would like to cast Bollywood actors in as “90 percent of the story is set in India.”
“If it gets made, there are characters for which I would want to cast Bollywood actors. I think that this project is something that people will be interested in producing because I feel like Americans would love to see Bollywood actors.”