Tag Archives: Aaron Sorkin

THE 30 THINGS I LEARNT TILL 30 #LIFE #LEARNING #LISTICLE

So some of you know that I have this secret annual tradition called the ‘annual mail’, which is my way of saying both ‘Thank You’ to everyone I love, like or admire; and a way of sharing some lessons I picked up in the year gone by. I’ve been writing it every year for the last seven years (new edition coming soon!) but I’ve never made it public, because it isn’t meant to be.

But last year, on turning 30, I decided to put together every epiphany I had in my 20s as the ULTIMATE ANNUAL MAIL LISTICLE. It not only served as a compilation of the many truths that hit me over the years, but a snapshot of the many values I picked up from all the wonderful people I’ve met, loved and respected, and from the many awesome things I’ve been so fortunate in having been able to do.

On turning 31 a couple of days ago, I went back to this list and realised that it also comes in quite handy in reminding myself of who I am exactly and why I have chosen to be this way, each time I can’t seem to understand WHY HAVE I BECOME 30+!! WHY GOD WHY! Seriously though, I just thought maybe just this once I’ll make this public because if this helps me find my way when I’m lost, maybe some of it may resonate with some of you too 🙂

So here goes: the 30 things I learnt till 30:
(P.S. Watch out for the #ProTips!)
(P.S.II. When I wrote this last year, hashtags were still cool, I swear)

1. It’s all about loving your family. Basically, KJo is truth. There is nothing as gratifying as loving your family because at the end of the day, they love you not for who you are, but IN SPITE of it :p. Yes, families are not perfect, in fact they are faaaaaar from it, but a wise man once said in a web series, ‘Rishtey zidd se chalte hain’ :). No one can ever love you as deeply as family so nothing matters more than loving them.  Do what you’ve got to do in life, but everything comes after family, home and love.

2. Love is all you need. Suuuuuure, getting laid on Tinder just like that may have its pros (#whatevs #notjealousok), but in the generation of ‘swipe’ and ‘move on’, there’s nothing more beautiful than staying put. And holding on. There’s truly nothing more romantic about finding a person you love and BEING WITH THEM. And committing to them. Because your life can truly never ever suck if you have someone to come home to. (Even if your home is now filled with lamps and photo frames and flower bedsheets, which is totally, perfectly super-duper ok, of course). Truth be told: love is happiness. And so is marriage.  #TheBeatlesWereRight #EveryDamnTime

3. Don’t be an Asshole. Yes, life is tough, people suck, shit happens. But being an asshole won’t solve any of it.  On the other hand, being kind can make a tough life easier, mean people sorry, and shit less shitty. Here’s a secret: if you are kind, the universe is kind right back at you. If you treat people right, especially the lesser privileged, if you give tips, if you are tolerant, if you *understand*, if you smile at people, if you don’t look down upon them, if you GIVE A SHIT and are generally a not an asshole, Life. Will. Be. AMAZING.  (I gave a TEDx talk on the same, cheggitout :): http://goo.gl/HxxYMX) #DontbeaTrump #BeAnObama

4. All lessons you need about life, love, break friendship and everything in between can be found in 10 seasons of FRIENDS. ‘Welcome to the real world. It sucks. You’re gonna LOVE IT!’#ChandlerBingIsMyHero #GumIsPerfection #UnagiIsTheSecret #ItsallaMooPoint #PROTIP

5. Agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaho, toh saari kainaat helps. The universe knows. It breathes. It lives. It connects. And it syncs with you. If you want something desperately, you get it. And if you don’t get it – you really don’t want it bad enough. Or you’re not really working for it (of course you gotta work for it!!!!!) Or you want, like, Emma Stone or something (YOU CAN’T GET HER, SHE’S MINE).

6. Be a Lannister; pay your debts! Be grateful. Your success is not your own, your happiness is because of so many and any time you’ve really got something you wanted, it’s because there’s so many good people who’ve wished you well. So pay it forward! Give gifts, pay compliments, be polite, be appreciative, hug those who matter and tell the ones who’ve been there that you couldn’t have been there without them. And be there for others because someone’s been there for you. Friendship mein SAY thank you and SAY sorry when you need to. Tyrion knows better than the Barjatyas do!

7. Not all scars can be seen.Yeh thoda deep waala hai. The thing is, everyone goes through shit, and all kinds of shit too. Depression is real. Mental health is just as susceptible and vulnerable as physical health. The more you get to know people, the more you realise, fuck, life is tough. Everyone has issues, insecurities, fears, pain. So don’t judge the surface. And don’t compare your life to anyone else.  Because they have problems you don’t know of, and you have a support system they can’t dream of. Be kind, be understanding, be human. And DON’T. TRUST. INSTAGRAM. Instagram is a scam!! No one’s *that* happy.

8. You can survive your entire life on paneer and ketchup. #TruthBomb #MicDrop #PROTIP

9. You don’t need to drink to PARTAY. You totally can if you want to, but you don’t *need* to only drink, smoke, get high, or do any society-defined ways of having fun to ACTUALLY HAVE FUN. And it’s not boring or bland or uncool to be your own person. Be different. Be boring. Be weird. Be comfortable. Be your own sabse favourite. Be YOU. Being you is the new cool. And if you want to get HIGH to PARTAY, BRING ON THE SUKHBIR! #OhHoHoHo #BhangraRocks

10. You are never too old to be young. So be enthusiastic, be excited, be childish, be cray-cray and USE EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!! Maturity is a state of mind defined by the life you lead: it’s NOT about burying the child in you. There are a lot of things people can dislike about you but the *stupidest* of it all can be ‘why are you so excited all the time!’ Because LIFE is short and you won’t get brownie points… or actual brownies… for adulting. #SONAACHOSAAREGPHAADKE!!!!!!!!!!!

11. Traffic is a great teacher.Pick a thing to think about, a story to flesh out, a problem to solve, a call (or calls) to make, new music or audio books or stand up or TED talks to listen to, and your greatest enemy will turn into your biggest friend. Your best ideas will come to you during traffic if you have an agenda. #Boom #JustChangedYourLife #PROTIP

12. Who you are is a choice you make.At some point in your life, decide who you are. (By that, I don’t mean fat and cute because you can’t help that.. NO, YOU CAN’T). I mean take out your moral compass and point it in the direction you want to follow, and then FOLLOW IT. You could be Salman Khan or Rahul Dravid and it’s okay to be either. But be either forever (try and not be Salman Khan). Yes, change to get better (and thinner) but your life is going to  be defined by the choices you make, and once you have made a choice about who you are, every other choice will be easy AF. Basically, ek baar commitment kar di, toh khud ki bhi mat suno.

13. Choose your friends and work with people you love. Really, CHOOSE the people who are always around you. You’ll make tonnes of friends in life over the years, but choose the ones who care for you, who are there for you, and who are essentially good and positive people. Life is too short to have shitty, sucky friends with bad vibes. It is also too short to spend working for horrible bosses, dumbass colleagues and asshole employees. The most important thing you learn about being happy (and ‘successful’) at your job is to not choose a job, but choose the people you work with. Choose your boss. Choose your collaborators. Choose your friends. And choose the hell out of your workplace (but try to ensure it’s not in Saki Naka).

14. Live your life like you are in an Aaron Sorkin TV Show. Try and live a life of honour, and try and and pretend that everything is happening because everyone else has honour too, it’s just that their honour is different than yours. Try and be like Aaron Sorkin wants you to be. He is ALWAYS RIGHT. #PROTIP

15. Success is a trap. The idea of success as something you get only when you ‘achieve’ a certain amount of money, car, a partner, designation or life is a load of crap peddled by people who aren’t happy themselves. You can be successful even if you are earning zero but have managed to build a family that loves you. You can be successful even if you are single at 40 but are doing something you LOVE from all your heart. You can be successful without doing engineering or a MBA or being a foreign return and you can be successful at YOUR OWN TERMS. AT ANY AGE. Success is about happiness. If you are happy doing what you do, guess what? YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL! Unless what makes you happy is the announcement of Chetan Bhagat writing as a woman for the first time, in which case, beta tumse na ho payega.

16. Everyone is clueless.Screw the ‘norm’. Screw ‘this is how it is’. Screw ‘this is best for you’. And REALLY screw ‘Log kya kahenge’. And DO WHAT YOU WANT, WHENEVER YOU WANT IT. You are not wasting your life doing something you want to do – even if it doesn’t work out. Mistakes are good because you know what not to do, plus you are TRYING! The best kept secret is: *Everybody* is clueless. No matter how old they get… Especially the older they get. No one EVER has their shit all figured out, and that’s OKAY. There is no expiry date to following your dreams. So listen to yourself (and don’t listen to *them*), trust your instincts, and go after your heart. After all, risk toh spiderman ko bhi lena padta hai.

17. Make a to-do list of stuff you’d like to accomplish at the start of the year and spend the year trying to make it happen.There’s something about putting your goals down that gets the universe excited about helping you, and something about cancelling it out that makes you feel like a rockstar. Make to-do lists every month, week and day too, and keep changing priorities so you can have your pizza and eat it too (yes, I love pizza). Of course, you won’t be able to accomplish everything on the list but that’s only because picture abhi baaki hai mere dost! #PROTIP

18. Find the thing you are passionate about and let it kill you (or make you really fat). A life without passion is a life without ‘life’. What’s the point of just existing if you have nothing to ‘live’ for? And if you love your work, it will stop being work! So find your passion and stay inspired.  Believe in something, keep sight of your goals, work your ass off, and you will make your own luck. Work hard because you care for something and do it for free at first if you have to. Because when you put your heart and soul into your passion, the money comes.. it has to!

19. REWARD yourself! Rewards are great motivators – they can be a weekend away with the ones you love, a trip with your family, a holiday with yourself, a car you’ve always wanted to buy, action figures that make you go nuts, DVDs and posters and pop culture merchandise you want to own, or you know stuff people who are not me may want :p, but it’s important to celebrate your life. Don’t literally kill yourself working. Take a break from the things you love to do other things you love, spend the money only because you have saved it, do small things that bring you great joy, waste your time in the way YOU want to, because YOU feel you have earned it. You’ll always be excited with life when the rewards are coming from YOU! Take a step back every now and then and tell yourself you are awesome because you are!

20. Be the master of one sin (and the jack of many).There are a hundred different ways you can while away your life (TV, movies, music, video games, books, food, LAMPS) but try and while it away on one thing more than others, so that you are called an ‘expert’ on it and no one can shove it in your face again. Plus you may get to host a show about that thing someday! #PROTIP

21. Sometimes, you need to get lost to find yourself.Failure is good. Failing early is even better. You learn what you suck at (and you *should* know what you suck at), you learn that you don’t know it all, you learn this amazing thing called ‘perspective’ and after a quarter life crisis, you realise that it’s OKAY. That people fail. And then they don’t. Because when things work, you get experience, and when they don’t, you get a story out of it :). Remember, at the end of (500) Days of Summer, there will be Day (1) of Winter.

22. Whenever life sucks, go to sleep early. No matter what, tomorrow will always be a new day.#PROTIP

23. Don’t go full ret**d. Yes, the internet is a great place for you to tell everyone you hate or don’t agree with that they suck balls, but the question is: WHY? Yes, there are idiots on the internet but the truth is, for them, *you* are the idiot on the internet. Nothing ever comes by being a full ret**d on the net so if you want to outrage and change someone’s opinion, do it gently and kindly and in intelligible words and if that doesn’t help, then, in the immortal words of John Lennon, LET IT BE. Change the world by your deeds, not your outrage. The world doesn’t *NEED* one more instant opinion without facts or research or knowledge or understanding. What it probably needs is an annual mail with all the opinions in points 😀 #AnnualMailRockOkay #OutrageDoesnt

24. Think on your own. There is *so* much noise all around us, so many opinions flying around, so many people who want you to believe in their truth, so much propaganda by everyone from media to politicians to your government, that shutting it all out and thinking on your own is probably the most difficult and amazing task that anyone can accomplish. If it’s getting tough to listen to yourself, leave your phone, go off of Facebook and Twitter, do a digital detox, but make sure that your opinions and your understanding of the world comes from YOU. Do not believe every copy-paste on Facebook, every forward on Whatsapp, every video that tries to make you dumber. Think before you share, post, tweet, anything… you can get smarter through a pause before every instantaneous reaction someone urges you to make.

25. Mard ban yaar! Be a man! | Aurat ban yaar! Be a woman! (#equalrights) You don’t have to or need to declare your affiliations or beliefs, but it’s important to stand up for things you believe in, and that starts with standing up for yourself. Respect yourself and don’t let anyone take you for granted whenever push comes to shove.  You don’t need to be aggressive to be respected, you don’t need to demand respect to command respect. But unless you treat yourself right, no one else will.

26. Something motivating about being fit and healthy that I will try and learn in my 30s. #PROTIP

27. TRAVEL!!!!!!!!!!Get out of your bed, get out of your city, get out of your country, AND TRAVEL!!!! It’s literally the best thing that can happen to you. There is so much culture, art, inspiration, hope, happiness, life out there that you’ve never seen, known, lived or experienced that you truly can’t be whole without the perspective you get when you travel. Meet people, talk to them, hang with them, share stories, share histories, share moments, live in hostels, live in AirBnBs, live in dorms,  live out of a backpack, live out of a car (ROAD TRIP!), just go LIVE. The world is so beautiful and rich, and you don’t need to be rich to travel, you just need to want it. #GoToEurope #EuropeistheBest

28. TELL YOUR STORIES.You don’t have to be a writer or filmmaker to tell your stories. You don’t even have to tell them on a big screen or a small screen or any screen. But you *must* tell your story. Write it on blogs, Facebook statuses, tweets, Instagram it, Snapchat it, or say it out aloud. Make it funny, make it emotional, make it what you want to be. But TELL YOUR STORY. The reason the world is lopsided is because your stories are being told by other people who are representing them in ways that you are not. It is only being told by louder people, or people with money or just people with more balls but perhaps skewed perspectives. The only way to change that is to step up and use the wonderful invention that is the internet, and put your story out there. So more truths, more perspectives and more stories can get out there and *everyone* is represented.

29. Remember to pack your sherwani’s pyjama when you have a destination wedding. #PROTIP

30. Everything is Awesome if you choose your Shire.The reason we spend most of our lives thinking everything is NOT awesome is because of the problem that plagues our generation. The problem of TOO MUCH CHOICE. The previous generations had stuff allotted to them and were told, this is how life is, and they had to live it like that. We have the internet, we have the phone, we have APPS, we have infinite choice, and having too much to choose from is ultimately what makes us unhappy and makes us believe nothing is awesome. So the trick is: find your Shire. As in the Shire from Lord of the Rings. And when I say find, I mean CHOOSE. Choose your intangible. Your Shire or intangible could be having great friends, great love, great family, a great hobby, a great home (SHIRE!), it could be the one thing that’ll always be what it is, that’s worth saving… it’s the good in the world that’s worth fighting for. And when you know what that is, even when something goes wrong in your life, you’ll always have your intangible or your shire, and everything will be awesome!! And just knowing that it’s there, will make the journey awesome, even if it’s towards Mordor, okay maybe not if it’s towards Mordor. So what’s your Shire?

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© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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THE THOMAS SADOSKI UNEDITED INTERVIEW #TV #THENEWSROOM #DONKEEFER

Note: This interview was taken by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoon) for The Sunday Guardian. An edited version of the interview can be found here: http://goo.gl/XDEmsZ

[My other interviews this season:
Rupert Friend from Homelandhttp://goo.gl/drIeeF
Joshua Malina from Scandalhttp://goo.gl/0FrRV8
Anatol Yusef from Boardwalk Empirehttp://goo.gl/drIeeF.
Annet Mahendru from The Americans is here: http://goo.gl/drIeeF.
Coming up next: My interview with John Cho from Selfie]

INTRODUCTION
If you know me well, you’d know the story of how I became a writer, because I must have told it to you a million times. If you don’t know me, quick recap: I was in engineering college, and I saw Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and after getting my engineering degree and getting a couple of jobs, I left it all to go to Mumbai to make a TV show because Aaron Sorkin had corrupted me forever.

So ever since The Newsroom was announced, I was looking forward to it desperately. And the first episode of the show blew me away, just like every first episode of every Sorkin show ever has before. It had all the things I loved about it – the opening where shit hits the fan, the middle where a bunch of fantastic actors try to clean up the shit, and the end, by which you know that *this* show is going to be *the shit* (I really don’t know why I have used shit as a metaphor here, please forgive me).

I was obviously taken aback by all the criticism Sorkin faced for The Newsroom. The Newsroom is perhaps not as accomplished as The West Wing, but people weren’t even giving it a chance! The second season was a solid return to form by Sorkin and the series premiere of the third season, I thought, was terrific. Maybe I’m just biased but I do believe that in a world full of shows like Jersey Shore and Keeping Up With The Kardashians, it really can’t hurt to have a show that speaks of idealism. The Newsroom may not change the world, but at least it’s *trying to*.

Anyhow, just like all of Sorkin’s shows, The Newsroom has some fantastic actors at its helm as well. Pretty much every actor has made an impression (of course, my heart doesn’t stop beating for Olivia Munn’s Sloan!) but I really thought the way Thomas Sadoski, who plays Don Keefer, turned his character around from an anti-hero to a romantic lead, was amazing. Thomas is an actor-actor, and has always brought a lot of sincerity to the role. While everyone loved to hate Don in season one, I did believe that Sorkin could never make him an out-and-out villian… he never does.  So it’s been such a pleasant surprise to see Don be one of the good guys now, and he’s definitely among my favourite characters in the show, because Thomas has brought a rare complexity to him that I really admire. 

Getting to speak to Thomas was a great experience too. Nothing at all like Don, Thomas is, in fact, quite the thorough gentleman and polite all the way through. If I liked Thomas’ portrayal of Don before, I’m definitely a fan of Thomas himself now, and I can’t wait to see the work he does in the future. For now, five more episodes of The Newsroom and of Don!

THE INTERVIEW
Since the unedited interview is long, I’ve divided it into the following segments:

1. INTRO: SEASON 3 & LOOKING BACK ON THE NEWSROOM
2. ON DON KEEFER AND HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH SLOAN
3. ON AARON SORKIN AND THE MAKING OF THE NEWSROOM
4. ON IDEALISM AND HIS FUTURE PROJECTS

So you can skip to the part you want to, or go through the entire interview and enjoy Thomas’ answers.

1. INTRO: SEASON 3 & LOOKING BACK ON THE NEWSROOM
“Idealism is possible if you have the support of the people closest to you.”

You guys have finished shooting the final episode of the Newsroom. The last day of shoot must have been very emotional.(Pauses) It was a sad day. We weren’t all together on the last day so it was additionally sad because the cast got to be very close over the years. We had put together a real family over the course of three years and was difficult to, sort of, let go of the whole experience, one person at a time. But we did end up celebrating a little. Olivia and I went down and watched Jeff (Daniels) and Emily (Mortimer) shoot the last scene of The Newsroom on the last day. We sat with them for three or four hours and watched them shoot it. And when it was all over, we all stood in the middle of a street corner in New York and hugged and talked and laughed… and had a very nice time. Then I walked back to the hotel. It was a sad evening but by the time I had walked all the way back to the hotel, I had, sort of, come back around to this real feeling of gratitude for having been involved in the process from the very beginning. And of course, for learning as much as I got the chance to learn and spending as much time with the wonderful people that I got the chance to spend the time with. It was a real blessing.

The blessing may have been compounded because from what I gather, this is the best season of The Newsroom yet. Olivia Munn and the others have said so in their interviews, and Aaron Sorkin mentioned in an interview that it was only in the third season that he started to learn writing The Newsroom.
(Chuckles) I am happy that Olivia feels that way about the season and I’m not going to disagree with her. But I disagree a little with Aaron that he has just figured out how to write the show. I think Aaron knew what he was doing from the very beginning and I think he sometimes doesn’t give himself enough credit. Personally, I was happy to be involved in the show from the very beginning in the way that he was writing it. It was interesting to watch it grow over the course of 23-24 episodes. This season is a different season than what it has been in the past and I’m excited to have been a part it and to respond to it. I thought it was fantastic, you know, in that every day that we came into work, we were happy to be there, and we were happy to be getting to tell the story that he was putting out for us.

What are you allowed to reveal about season 3 in general and about Don & Sloan’s relationship in specific?
This season begins pretty shortly after the end of the last season. So all of the things that are up in the air at the end of the season 2 are being dealt with in real time in the third season. So Don and Sloan have to figure out exactly who they are and what the status of their relationship is. Will and Mackenzie have to figure out how their relationship is going to work and Jim is off on his own path sort of trying to figure out how his life comes together, and Maggie, having suffered the loss that she suffered in the second season, is in a place of real change and figuring out how she should move forward with her life and her career. And Neal – well, some things are going to be asked and expected of him this year that he hasn’t ever dealt with before. And Charlie has to sort all this and manage a lot of these difficulties. So it’s quite an exciting season!
Unfortunately I am not allowed to give away exactly the things that happen but I think the teasers they have put out so far have done a pretty good job of highlighting some really interesting storylines and the quirks in them. But I can tell you this – a lot happens to our little gang of misfits this year and everyone leaves the end of the season a completely different person than from what they were at the beginning of the season. I think that’s the hallmark of good storytelling and I hope that people who watch it will feel the same way.

So what was Sorkin’s initial conversation with you guys about what he was trying to do with the show and how has that changed over seasons?
There wasn’t necessarily a big conversation that we all had about what we were going to do with the show, you know. Aaron wrote the first episode and we all came in and did it, and we just sort of handled it moment to moment. There were never any, sort of, great, big cast meetings with Aaron, where he sat down and said, ‘This is the big scene for this season,’ you know. He would write the episodes, and we would discuss it, scene to scene, moment to moment, and the arc would build itself organically that way. So it wasn’t that sort of situation where he said, ‘Well, this is what we are setting out to do and this is how we are going to change it.’ It just happened that way.

Then let me ask you this – after all the backlash that The Newsroom got for its morality and idealism, after the end of the series, what is the message that the audience will finally takeaway from The Newsroom?
My hope – and I don’t know if it’s going to be the case because people are going to respond on the basis of how they view things through the lens of their own personal experience. But it’s my hope that the takeaway from the show for people would be that if you are going to walk against the stream, you have to do it with the support of your loved ones and your friends, and take refuse with them. That, you know, idealism is possible, and an idealistic end is possible, if you are willing to have the courage, and if you have the welcome support of the people closest to you.


2. ON DON KEEFER AND HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH SLOAN
“I always liked Don, from the very beginning”

You’re quite the Casanova on Newsroom – where others are struggling to keep up one relationship, Don’s now moved onto your second! How much do people hate you for getting to be Olivia Munn’s love interest?
(Laughs) You know, I’m really not aware of the hate but I’m sure that I do get some and at some level, I’m just not noticing it. But Don’s really been a great character to play and I’ve enjoyed watching him grow and watching people’s response to him change over the course of a couple of years. I think that Don will continue to change even more in the third season.

Did you distinctly notice the public’s reaction towards Don changing – were people dicks to you when you played a grey character and are they more pleasant to you now?
I don’t pay attention to critics, so I don’t know what their perception of the character’s change or of my work has been, but I have very much noticed the change in the perception of fans and of members of the media who have watched the show and whom I have become friendly with. I have noticed that there has been a softening towards the character in their minds a little bit and I’m happy to not be the person that everyone loves to hate anymore, though that was also fun to do. I don’t know if I have changed everyone’s minds distinctly and I don’t know if I want to. I think that Don’s a fun character to play because he’s complicated and at any given moment you can either love him or hate him.

How did you go about making a character unlikeable first and then likeable? Was there a particular moment in the show that helped you to understand Don?
I think, for me, ultimately, the moment I came to understand Don the most clearly was in the first episode of the series, when Don says aloud, “Am I the only one who’s not dramatically doing anything?” I think that line told me everything I needed to know about that character was, and I just needed to hold on to that. You know, I can’t judge the characters that I play, because if I do, then I can’t play them honestly, and I can’t play them with integrity. So I held on to that and just created a character around that and around whatever I found in that moment. And, you know, Aaron was gracious enough to continue allowing the character to grow. I think, from the very beginning, we both had a very clear understanding of who this person was. Aaron never set out to make him the archetypal bad guy and he wanted the character to grow. So, in collaboration with Aaron and his great work, I was able to get the character to grow and spread its wings and have everyone get to know him a little bit better and add a little bit more depth to him as time went on. For me, he was never any different. I always liked Don, from the very beginning.

But now that Don’s a nice guy, what’s the conflict in his character?
Umm, I don’t think there is any conflict in his character. I have seen Don since the very beginning in the way that the rest of the people see him now. Don is a character of great integrity and I think he has very specific ideas of how he wants to do the news and why he wants to do it. His ideas obviously change and grow, you know, with the influence of Mackenzie and Will and everybody else, and with growth comes conflict. I think with Don a lot of conflict is internal: how is he going to change his beliefs (to align with the rest), and how he will go about handling things. So I think it’s the same conflict that Don was dealing with in the beginning when we first met him in episode one, and to some degree, it’s the same fight he’s fighting later on.

3. ON AARON SORKIN AND THE MAKING OF THE NEWSROOM
“You can’t have an off day on an Aaron Sorkin set”

So what is the process of an Aaron Sorkin show like? How did an episode work?
Oh! We get the script very, very close to when we begin shooting. So you spend almost all of your time trying to learn the lines till they are absolutely perfect, because that’s the way Aaron wants them. I actually found Aaron to be a really gracious collaborator in that you come in with your ideas and talk about a scene and he’s willing to hear them and he’s willing to watch your choices. And, most of the times, if you can make a good argument for why you are doing what you are doing and why you are choosing to say a line a certain way, Aaron is absolutely willing to let you, and also to support you. He certainly has his ideas on who these people are and what stories he wants to get across. So as long as your choices aren’t standing in the way of the story he is ultimately trying to tell, I found him to be a really gracious collaborator. He’s incredibly intelligent, very gracious, and obviously really cares about what he’s doing and what he’s putting on to the page. So it’s been a really great experience working with Aaron.

I would imagine working with Aaron Sorkin for the first time would be an interesting experience because you have to get used to his sing-song dialogue. You can’t possibly have an off day on a Sorkin set, right?
Yeah, he makes them wordy (laughs). His pace and his rhythm and his meter certainly make it very difficult to have an off day. (Chuckles) But we all have them, and they don’t feel good. You know, it takes time to get used to it. For all of us, the first few episodes of the first season were tricky because we were trying to learn who these people are, how to speak the words that were written and how we were going to shoot those words, and how it was all going to work out. By the end of the first season, I felt like we were up on our feet and had moved along quite well. But then, at the beginning of every season after a hiatus, it’s like a muscle trying to stretch out again (chuckles).
It take a long time and a lot of work to get all of those words in your head and then to speak them out. But it’s a great payoff as an artiste because you have that skillset now. Also, you know, because of the pace and the density of the dialogue, you are almost forced to be a team player and that takes a lot of pressure off. There are no big solo moments you have to worry about. No one’s solo on set and no one in any scene feels like they are bigger or grander or that anything they are saying is more important than anybody else is, because we are all just there for each other, you know, saying these words out as honesty as we possibly can and playing off of each other to the best of our abilities. It’s a great time.

You had trouble with the material even after coming from a theater background, I can imagine how difficult it must have been for the non-theater guys.
Well, you know, the majority of us on the show come from a theater background actually. So that helped us greatly to be ready for Aaron’s writing. Aaron is a playwright first and foremost and what he does is that he writes theater for the screen. But for people who weren’t accustomed to that required, you know, some extra work that they may not have necessarily been accustomed to. The great thing about our cast, though, was that everyone was up to the challenge and everyone was willing to put in the work and the effort to make it all happen. I know from the beginning of my career as a theater actor how difficult it is to, you know, get used to that sort of verbal dialogue, and to just the amount of stuff you have to say. I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be later on in your career when you’ve already got habits that you’re in or things that you are accustomed to. But I think it speaks to the quality of the actors that we have, who weren’t necessarily from a theater background, that they were able to pull off the show as easily and seamlessly as they have.

How does the table read at The Newsroom go, with all the back-and-forth dialogues you are reading for the first time?
Well, Aaron is there, and we all come in and sit down with most of our crew, our producers and people from HBO. And Aaron gives a little speech before we start, introducing all of the new people that we have in the show that week and then we sit down and we read it. For most of us, it’s the first time we have heard it, and certainly the first time we have heard it out loud; it may probably be only the second time we have read it, since we usually get the scripts only a few hours before the table read So it’s exciting, you know. It’s always fun, and we have a lot of fun. Like I said, it was a big family by the end, and everybody really enjoyed working with everyone else, and we had a great time. So there was a lot of joking and a lot of laughter, you know… people appreciating what other people were doing and appreciating storylines that other actors were getting to have. I remember that in season 2 when Maggie went to Africa and we all heard it for the first time about everything that happens to her, you know, everyone in the room was upset. There were a lot of tears and people were really choked up, because we all love Alison. We are big fans of hers, and of course, we were excited for her to get to play such powerful work. But, you know, we were heartbroken about what was to happen to poor Maggie too (chuckles). So you know our table reads are sort of a big family dinner without too much of the negatives of a drama.

I’m also very interested in knowing if it was particularly difficult for directors, particularly the ones that come in for a single episode, to shoot The Newsroom, with the way it’s written, as you mentioned, like theatre.
Well, being a television director just by itself is always a little bit difficult because you are often times walking into someone else’s world, and you are only there for a few weeks. So it becomes your job to get a very clear understanding of what the world is and who its characters are before you even step on set and that’s before you even start dealing with the actors, which, you know, (chuckles) is always another story altogether. But we were fortunate to have, over the course of three seasons, brilliant directors every episode. Putting that stuff and putting Aaron’s dialogue on film is a tremendous task and the fact that every single director was up to the challenge and every single director did as great a job as they did, I think, speaks to the quality of the person who was involved in our show and who wanted to work on our show. We were also very fortunate that our executive producer Alan Poul directed a lot of our episodes, and in this last season we were very lucky to have Anthony Hemingway, who had directed one of our episodes in our second season too. So there was a continuity that was really helpful there as well. But you know, you can go down the list of directors we have had, from episode one with Greg Mottola all the way to the very last episode that was directed by Alan Poul, every single one of those directors is incredibly capable and incredibly talented and we were really lucky to have every single one of them.

4. ON IDEALISM AND HIS FUTURE PROJECTS
“As an artiste, If I’m asking my audience to be challenged, then I have to be challenged too.”

I’ve always wanted to ask this to an actor from an Aaron Sorkin show. Do you think, with all the idealism in them, working on a Sorkin show makes you a better person?
(laughs) You know, Aaron is a romantic. He is unapologetically romantic. And you know, it’s something that I appreciate very much about his work. As an artiste, you ultimately want your work to be influential to the people who see it, but you also want your work to influence you too. As the artiste, you want to change just as much as you are inspiring change in your audience. What I mean is that whatever growth you want to inspire in your audience, you really want to grow at least that much as an artiste too. And so, when you are dealing with great writers and great collaborators like Aaron and this cast and the great directors that we have had, it’s hard not to grow a little bit. That’s my take on it any way, other people will have different takes on it. Some people just want to be entertainers but as a storyteller and as an artiste, I feel like it is important and essential that if I’m asking my audience to be challenged, then I have to be challenged too, and Aaron definitely challenged us as artistes and I think we did grow. I know that I did.

I’m just curious here, so please indulge me. You’re working closely with two Indian actors – Dev Patel in The Newsroom and Hannah Simon in an upcoming romantic comedy, Lemonade. Have you picked up anything about Bollywood yet?
Oh yeah, I have fantastic relationship with Dev. Dev was always, (chuckles) well, he was the one cast member who was universally loved. You just can’t not like the kid. He’s a great guy and, you know, Dev is obviously very, very proud of where he’s from and he was constantly, sort of, giving people pointers into the ways that we could expand our knowledge of cinema and music. Many of us are still in the process of trying to take him up on it (chuckles), but he is a great guy and we loved working with him.
Unfortunately, the movie with Hannah hasn’t been shot yet and we’re still waiting for to get our dates and set up, but I’m really excited to be a part of it. I think she is fantastic and we’re both really looking forward to working with each other. I’m a big fan of her work and we’ve got together quite a few times to talk about how we’re going to make it. And we’re both really excited to get going whenever that happens to be!

Apart from Lemonade, you have a bunch of other indie films lined up after The Newsroom.
I think the other movies that are coming out are really special to me as well. I think Wild is going to be a big movie. I think a lot of people are going to be moved by it and I am hopeful that the movie will inspire people to read Cheryl Strayed’s amazing book. Then I have another film that’s coming out in December, which is just a charming romantic comedy with myself and Leslie Bibb. It was written and directed by Liz Tuccillo, who wrote Sex and the City for years and also wrote a book called ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’. So it’s this really fun, quirky, charming romantic comedy about two people trying to find their way back to each other after a couple of tragedies. You know, we made the movie on a shoestring budget but it’s a really fantastic movie. It got into South by South West and did very well there. It got sold and it will actually be out on demand and in theatre on December 5. I’m really excited for people to see that. I think it’s a great, charming piece of romantic comedy that people are really going to enjoy.


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Note: An edited version of this article first appeared in The Sunday Guardian in the November 16, 2014 issue.
Link: 
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THE JOSHUA MALINA UNEDITED INTERVIEW #TV

Note: This interview was taken by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoon) for The Sunday Guardian. An edited version of the interview can be found here: http://goo.gl/mQzMDo


If you know me well, you’d know the story of how I became a writer, because I must have told it to you a million times. If you don’t know me, quick recap: I was in engineering college, and I saw Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and after getting my engineering degree and getting a couple of jobs, I left it all to go to Mumbai to make a TV show because Aaron Sorkin had corrupted me forever.

Obviously, after Studio 60, I dived into Sorkin’s filmography, and Sports Night and The West Wing are the two other shows that further made reinstated my faith in writing, and inspired me towards taking it up myself. I have loved all actors from Sorkin’s shows – Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford in particular, but if there’s one actor I had a certain fondness for, it was Joshua Malina, who played Jeremy Goodwin on The Sports Night and Will Bailey on The West Wing.

The thing I always loved about Joshua was that he played these amiable, everyday guys, who connected with you on a human level because they were people just like you. I became a huge fan of Joshua over time. (And when I saw him in A Few Good Men, I was bowled over!!!) I started watching Scandal for him too. And of course, his hilarious twitter persona (@joshmalina) never fails to make my day because of his quirky tweets, and trolls!

Last month, I got the opportunity of speaking with Joshua, and the one hour interview that I had with him turned out to be one of the most fun interviews I’ve done. Joshua is just as amiable a guy as his on screen avatars, and even more so, maybe! He is way too self-deprecating, completely at odds with his Twitter avatar, and just loves to converse with you, rather than doing an ‘interview. He congratulates you when he likes your question, and laughs hard when he finds something funny. I’ve now become a fan of his as a person too, and I hope we get to see him back with Sorkin or another cult, unforgettable role!


THE INTERVIEW

Since the unedited interview is long, I’ve divided it into the following segments:
1. INTRO
2. ON SORKINESE, THE WEST WING AND SPORTS NIGHT
3. ON THE CREATIVITY OF AARON SORKIN & SHONDA RHIMES
4. ON SCANDAL
5. ON BEING A PRANKSTER AND A TWITTER TROLL
6. ON CURRENT TELEVISION AND HIS FUTURE

So you can skip to the part you want to, or go through the entire interview and be regaled by his hilarious answers:


1. INTRO
“Sometimes I think why on earth am I in this profession where there are 60 different jobs in your career.”

Joshua Malina is that guy you’ve seen in your favourite TV shows, from The West Wing to The Big Bang Theory to Scandal. He’s also starred in some of the recent classics, from A Few Good Men to In The Line of Fire. One of the most sought after TV actors, Malina talks to Nikhil Taneja about being an Aaron Sorkin regular, working on Scandal, the most watched TV drama today, and why its awesome being an actor on TV, in his first ever India interview.

I have to begin by asking you this: Have you seen your never-ending IMDB page? It’s quite insane.
(laughs) Yeah, I have. And I think two things when I look at my IMDB page. One, I think about how lucky I’ve been. And I’m very, very grateful for the people who’ve been willing to hire me (chuckles) and for Aaron Sorkin, who’s played a huge part in my career. And the other thing I sometimes think is, ‘Wow, look how many times I’ve had a job end’ (chuckles). That’s 60 times I’ve been working and then out of work! And I think why on earth am I in this profession where there are 60 different jobs in your career.

You started out in television with Aaron Sorkin and you are now working with one of the other greats, Shonda Rhimes. How do you look back on your 20 years as an actor, having worked with all-time greats such as these?
That’s a great question. I think… I’d like to think that I’m a better actor. Because I think, though I always wanted to be an actor and I did theatre growing up – as well as an year in a play of Aaron’s – once I moved to LA to pursue film and TV, I really didn’t do what I was doing. I was learning on the job. Nobody trained me and I never took an ‘acting for camera’ class. It was one of those things… it was just the confidence of youth where I thought, ‘I’ll just figure this out’, and I had to figure it out in front of the camera. So there are probably things early in my career that I wouldn’t dare to go back and watch (chuckles).
So, I feel, just with the experience of acting all these years, I hope that I’ve improved and that I’ve learnt some things, and probably, most of what I’ve learnt has been a result of working with really good people. That’s the other thing; when I look at the list of things I’ve done, somehow I just got very lucky that I’ve been able to work with people like Aaron and Shonda Rhimes; and Alison Janney, Martin Sheen, Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson, and just watching people of that calibre has been an acting school of its own.

Over the course of your career, has it been difficult for you to break out of the amiable, guy-next-door roles that Sorkin wrote for you?
That’s also a great question. Yeah, definitely, Aaron wrote such strong characters of a type for me that is generally what I’m thought of as, and instead of being upset about it or being too concerned, usually I’m thankful that anybody tends to think of me for anything (chuckles). I can’t ever complain about being typecast as an Aaron Sorkin type. That’s a good problem to have. But yes, you usually jump at opportunities to show other sides too. Recently, I did an episode of Law and Order SVU here I was asked to play this guy who may or may not be abusing kids and I thought, ‘Wow, I get to play sick and twisted!’

When did you realise that comedy was something you are naturally inclined towards?
That’s a good question. I would say always. As a kid, that’s what I was drawn to, and as a young adult, in college, that’s always I was drawn to. But then, in a way, my career has gone the other way more than I would have anticipated, which is that Aaron has helped me create a career as a dramatic actor that I did hope for but I didn’t expect would happen. I always thought I would be more of a sort of sitcom-y type of comic actor. And so, sometimes, I want to swing the other way and go, ‘Actually I’m a comedian, I can do the comic stuff.’ You know, as an actor, you don’t necessarily get to really guide the way that your career goes, it sort of takes you along with it.


2. ON SORKINESE, THE WEST WING AND SPORTS NIGHT
“During Sports Night, I’d often think, ‘You don’t have 3 page monologues in TV shows, not in half hour TV and certainly not in the third episode!’”

In these 20 years or so, TV has gone through a massive change. Sorkin was the one who brought about a revolution in network TV with The West Wing, and so, you’ve been at the forefront of this change, in a way. How do you reflect back on that?
Hmm… yes, you are right. At that time, I was an actor who was hungry to get some opportunities and who didn’t get too many of them until Aaron, who was, admittedly a personal friend of mine, created Jeremy Goodwin for me, and eventually created Will Bailey for me. In a way, I was very lucky because I had access and opportunities to some of the best material going way back. Now-a-days, there’s much more really, really good quality TV on, so I guess your odds are a lot better. I still think Aaron is a kind of his own; I won’t say there are a lot of Aaron Sorkins walking around, but there is a lot of very, very high quality TV and great writing on TV. And I do think some of the credit goes to him for helping up the game, and helping show potential for finding an audience for really quality TV. It’s really like the golden age of TV. Now, you really think twice sometimes before you go the movies, because you can stay home and watch incredibly good stuff. You don’t need to go to the movies and see a 75 or 100 million dollar budget project to see something that’s really, really good.

A few years after you started, in 1998, you did Sports Night, where ‘Sorkinese’ started from. What do you remember of that time from where TV writing really began to change?
Yeah, it’s usually only in retrospect that you go, ‘Oh, that was ahead of its time’ or that things were changing then. I mainly remember the excitement of getting a new script of Sports Night every week and thinking, ‘I get to do that on TV. I can’t believe he’s getting away with this!’ I opened the script for The Hungry and the Hunted, which was episode 3, and I’d see a three page monologue and I’d think, ‘You don’t have 3 page monologues in TV shows, not in half hour TV and certainly not in the third episode (chuckles)!’
So, I was, to some extent, aware that something special was going on and that Aaron was being given latitude to do new things, and to push boundaries. So, yeah, maybe I was more aware of it than I think, because he was just doing stuff that you didn’t see a lot. But at that time, there was just concern that, you know, ‘Are people ready for this?’ and how will it be greeted. Sports Night was a battle when it came to ratings and every week we’d look at the ratings and think, ‘Okay, we are going to be on for another week’. We still did 45 episodes but it was never easy. But it did give way to The West Wing and that was the one that really clicked, and people were then willing to take in the kind of material Aaron was putting out.

I’ve felt very curious about this: Would you say actors from Sorkin shows find it difficult to adjust to other work after having worked on such high quality material?
(Laughs) Well, I certainly had jobs where it was all too clear to me, that I was not working on an Aaron Sorkin show. But anybody who thinks that they’re gonna have a level of that kind of quality material in every job they get is just not being realistic. I think Scandal is a show where I love getting every script too. I think Scandal’s writing is great and clever and smart and fast. There certainly have been jobs in between where I’ve thought, ‘Okay, I’m not in Sorkin Land anymore.’ You just said yourself, you have to approach them as if they just cannot be as good.

What would you say it was about Sorkin’s writing that stood the test of time?
Well, I know him very well and have known him a long time, and he himself is very, very sharp, very smart, very articulate. He has a way of writing his own views into his shows. Usually, all his characters have his own hyper articulateness, so you get great characters who just know how to express themselves in a way that, as a viewer, or as an actor playing that part, make you wish that you could operate on that same level. The dialogue is so clever and so smart and on the money, and I think, emotionally too, what’s going on beneath all the words, just really works. It’s just a special gift that he has.

I’m going to ask you another question that I’ve always wanted to ask of an actor who’s worked as an Aaron Sorkin series regular. Do you think that working on an Aaron Sorkin show actually makes you a better person because of the higher morality that it strives for?
(chuckles) You know, it certainly pushes you in that way. I mean, The West Wing, in particular, really pushed you to care about its politics. It had its own specific lesson every episode that spoke to the greater yearnings and the better nature of people. So yeah, I really think his shows are inspiring and his writing is inspiring, and uhh, yeah, yeah, it pushes you to, maybe, chase that idealism a little bit.

So why aren’t you working with Aaron Sorkin again, then?
(Laughs) Well here’s the truth, then. The real person to ask this is Aaron. Because I’m completely shameless. Every time he has something new, I send him an email, or if I run into him, I tell him upfront, “I’m right here, I’m free and I like doing stuff.” I always thank him in every interview to appear in everything he writes (laughs). I can understand that maybe he wants to take a little break from me and the rest of us and show the audiences some new faces. But one thing is for sure, every time I even hear that he might be writing a new project, I will send him an email and remind him that we are friends (chuckles) and that I would like to appear in the new things he does.

How often do the cast of The Sports Night or The West Wing have reunions?
Not as often as we’d like. Usually, it’s more often trading emails or hopping on the phone. Whenever Josh Charles is in town, I’ll see him. Likewise, when I was at New York filming that episode of SVU, Josh and I got together like 3 times. So, if during work your schedules sort of happily coincide or relapse, you try and catch up. But actually keeping the group together is so hard to do because everyone’s married now, or has kids, so it’s difficult to arrange. But sometimes happy coincidences happen and someone shows up, like Mary McCormack just did an episode of Scandal, so I got to meet her. Dule Hill was in a Broadway show last summer so I went and saw it and we hung out afterwards, so things like that happen.

You know how, when old friends meet, there’s always this one thing everyone fondly recollects or can’t stop talking about. What’s that in your case?
(Chuckles) That’s funny. When I was with Peter Krause and Josh Charles, and actually, even when I saw Felicity recently, we were reminiscing the fact that (laughs), that when we had free time on the sets, we would play a sport we invented called ‘Chair football’, where we would take these rolling chairs from the office set – because there were chairs *everywhere* – and we played very, very violent version of tackle chair football. That’s as much fun as we’ve ever had (chuckles)

Do you ever get happy about how, if Sorkin’s not cast you, he’s not cast anyone else either?
(Laughs) Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Aaron Sorkin’s been really blocking everyone, but he’s actually letting everyone do all those sorts of different things, I have to say. On a serious note, you know, I feel so very proud of my friends, when I see them lead and excel. Josh Charles was just nominated at the Emmys, for example, and it is just so great.

So what would you say has been the legacy of The West Wing and Sports Night for you, personally?
You know I’ve had people come over to me all the time since the shows. For example, there was a particular episode in Sports Night called ‘April is the Cruelest Month,’ which I think of as the passover episode. My character Jeremy’s storyline in the show is that he’s Jewish and he’s putting together passover theatre at work, and they are going to do the exodus story for the colleagues of Sports Night, whether they were Jewish or not. One of the things I noticed from it is that a lot of Jewish people would come up to me, and tell me that were very, very touched by the fact that it was this kind of a substantially Jewish story being told in the episode, and it just made me realise, again, how Aaron was doing these things that most people don’t do, and that it was getting through to people.
And that happened to me on The West Wing all the time too, and has been happening for years, even till recent days. Like you just said to me, when you started the interview, that his writing from the shows I’ve been lucky enough to be part of, sort of inspired you to go on and become a writer, and I’ve had people come up to me and say that they watched The West Wing as teenagers, and then went to school, majored in Political Science and now they’re working for Congressmen, and it’s all because of Aaron Sorkin and The West Wing. So it’s just one of those things that knocks you out! I didn’t even aspire to or think I’d ever be part of something that touched people or affected people on that level. As an actor, most of my career, I’ve been more concerned with just trying to keep working (chuckles), much less hoping to be part of something, where someone’s going to walk up to you and say, ‘This affected the course of my life.’ So, in that sense, I’ve been beyond, beyond fortunate to have stumbled into Aaron Sorkin’s orbit.


3. ON THE CREATIVITY OF AARON SORKIN & SHONDA RHIMES
“They both write scripts that are really too long for the hour that we have to broadcast it, so you really have no option but to speak quickly.”

And in contrast, what does it mean to be working on a Shonda Rhimes show, one of the most loved shows on TV today?
Yeah, there are not too many people like Shonda either. I’ve had a chance to work with a couple of these real biggies of TV like Aaron and Shonda. And it would be interesting, she’s going to have her own three hour block on Thursday nights on prime time network TV, and I don’t think anyone’s ever done that before. And it’s a very nice experience, I have to say, for somebody who’s creating and exceeding at the level that she is, that she is still very approachable and very warm and very maternal. The kind of things she brings up, and just the fact that she wants to make sure that the cast is being taken care of, are touching, because she’s so involved.
She is a very, very good boss to work for, and it’s also exciting, that thanks to her and the level she’s at, Scandal got a chance to grow. A lot of shows get pulled after one, two or three episodes for not performing and Scandal was a slow starter, and I think one of the reasons that the network gave it a chance is that Shonda Rhimes has an incredible track record. So instead of being too eager to pull it or cancel it or remove it, they said ‘Let’s give her some time, let’s see what this turns into,’ and that was certainly to the benefit of me and everybody else involved in the show (chuckles).

How do you compare the creative process of an Aaron Sorkin show to Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal, which is one of the only hit 24 episode-long series on TV today?
Actually, yes, I’d say that there are many similarities. Shonda and Aaron are both very dialogue heavy. They both like characters who are very articulate and speak very quickly; they also write scripts that are really too long for the hour that we have to broadcast it, so you really have no option but to speak quickly. They both have unmatched focus and dedication that they bring to their writing and their vision.
And so, I have a similar approach to both shows, which is to have ultimate respect for the script. When the script arrives, I’m not one of those actors who’s thinking if we can change this or that or ‘How about if I say this?’ The script is like The Bible for me, and I’m a character who says exactly those things and I have to somehow find a way to make that work. Whether it’s The West Wing or Scandal, I take it all equally seriously. I just try to click forth with the excellent material simply and straight-forwardly. I just, kind of, live in the moment.

Although, as you say, both Aaron Sorkin and Shonda Rhimes have many a similarity, and have both been equally successful on network TV, Aaron’s writing has always polarised people, whereas, Shonda’s writing has by and large been accepted happily by the majority. Why do you think that is?
That’s a tough one. That’s a very good question. Because, as we spoke, they certainly have similarities in the dialogue and the articulateness and the way they go about it all. (pauses) Yeah, that’s a tough one. I have to think about that. What’s – what’s your take on that?

Well, I’d like to believe it’s to do with the moral centre that Sorkin offers. There’s a sort of idealism in all of Aaaron Sorkin’s shows that not all people agree with. Idealism is something so uncommon in today’s world that whenever Sorkin offers that worldview to them, they just do not accept it. Shonda Rhimes sort of shows people a mirror of themselves, while Sorkin shows them an aspiration.
Well, that’s very well put. Yeah, yeah, you’re right. Although, Shonda, in a way, is not always so cynical either. If you look at Grey’s Anatomy, there’s a lot of romance there, and Aaron’s a romantic as well. So, I do think they’ve a tendency to overlap in their similarity more than in their difference, but yeah, you’re right. Aaron’s really created a very aspirational take on Washington DC, whereas, Shonda’s is more, I guess, lurid and dark and out there.

Since you’re a writer yourself, what have you picked from both Aaron Sorkin & Shonda Rhimas as a writer that you someday hope to incorporate in your own writing?
Well, one is the focus and dedication that they have and that they bring to their writing and to their vision, even if it’s not in the zone of what you’ve seen before. So if Aaron was, 15 years ago, doing 3 page monologues, that inspires me to really write my vision of something. But by the same standard, you also have to earn that a little bit as a writer. So if you are a relatively new or untested writer, and if you come in with something that’s wildly off the wall, you’re maybe going to have a harder time somewhere trying to find a balance of writing in the realm of what network TV and the broadcasters are looking for, and still trying to be true to your vision and your characters in the same way that Shonda and Aaron do.

4. ON SCANDAL
“David and I share a hard headedness and stubbornness. Like I’ll always read the next Scandal episode firm in the belief that this might be the one time where I come out on top (chuckles)”

How did you first connect with David? Was there a scene or moment that particularly spoke to you?
I like that he has a single focus, and if he thinks there’s an issue of right or wrong, he will dig in and he’ll just hit his head against the wall over and over, because that is needed in the service of justice. I like the scenes where he’s butting heads with Olivia, I like when he has this wall of evidence and he would peep down into the rabbit hole of trying to figure things out, maybe not showering, maybe not eating the way he should and living the case. Yeah, I like that he has tunnel vision.

You know, betraying The Gladiators on Scandal may have been the most evil thing you ever did on TV. Was that empowering?
(laughs) That’s funny.  Yeah, that was a time when it looked like I was really, really evil and yeah, I loooved that. I got people on the streets and people on Twitter absolutely hating on me. And I wanted to do a dance of joy, I was so happy. I was only disappointed that it turned out that I was really actually kind of a good guy.

Do you every get frustrated with your character of David Rosen in Scandal? He’s always been set up to fail because Olivia always has to come out on top.
Yeah, I guess there is a little frustration in it. But I think David and I share a hard headedness and stubbornness. Like I’ll always read the next episode firm in the belief that this might be the one time where I come out on top (chuckles). But I really like David’s storyline in Season 4; I love the fact that it’s a lot about his career this season. He’s back in the thick of things and he’s fighting the good fight. So I still want to believe that by the time this story has been told, David would’ve had his victory, though I don’t know if I can ever truly hope to beat Olivia Pope.

Do you think Olivia and David can truly ever team up?
I think Olivia and David can team up if their interests align over a specific issue at a specific time, but David would be foolish to ever fully trust her. I think she’s certainly shown herself not to be somebody who you can let your guard down around. But sometimes you’ll have common enemies, or you will have a common interest, and that’s when they can work together.

Where does that leave David Rosen in Season 4?
I don’t think I can say too much about season 4, but I can say that so far I really like David’s storyline. A lot of it is about his career, which of course, in Scandal’s first three seasons, has had its ups and downs. He’s had a lot of failure, he’s even left his job at one point to become a teacher, and he’s kind of right back in the thick of it as the fourth season begins, and like always, he’s fighting the good fight. And I’m really enjoying that and I think people are going to enjoy seeing where season 4 takes him professionally.

5. ON BEING A PRANKSTER AND A TWITTER TROLL
“Stick the hornet’s nest that is Twitter to see if someone gets overly upset about whatever little grenade I’ve thrown out there. I’m much kinder than that guy.”

You are infamous as being a pretty great prankster. So what goes on behind the scenes at Scandal?
(laughs) That is true, yeah. I’ve done a lot of pranks but I feel that I have to stop talking about these things because its making it harder and harder for me to keep doing these things. It’s got the spotlight on me. And things have now turned a corner where now it’s like everybody’s plotting against me. Last year, when we were shooting the show and I was in the middle of a scene, Tom Verica, who’s our producer and one of our directors, actually ran out with a huge cream pie and smashed it over my head! And I felt, ‘Wow, I’ve really, made enemies on this set. I’ve got people attacking me during the workday on camera.’ So I have to start going underground and plotting a comeback.

I find this contradiction in your career, where you’re supposed to be this famous prankster but everyone loves casting you. So either you’re not a great prankster or you are a really great actor. Which is it?
(Laughs) Well maybe it’s a combination! I don’t know how good I am or how bad I am, it’s a combination. The thing is, you work so long and for such long hours together that things can get intense and tiring. And you know, every Shakespeare play has its fool, and every TV show needs its fool too. Maybe I’m destined to play the fool.

What’s the best behind the scenes prank you’ve ever played?
Well, this is a story that I told before, but it’s a great one. When Jimmy Smits just joined The West Wing and Janel Moloney and I thought of this. I even think it may have been her idea and I don’t give her credit, but it was Valentine’s Day soon and Jimmy Smits had been on the show for a couple of weeks, so we sent him an enormous bouquet from Brad Whitford. I had stolen personalised stationary from Brad’s trailer so it really seemed like it had come from Brad because it said ‘From the desk of Bradley Whitford’ on it. I wrote a message on it and it was kind of (chuckles), well it was a little bit of a suggestive note from Brad to Jimmy, saying how much he enjoyed working with him and also, ‘I want you to be my valentine’ (laughs). And it was delivered on set from Brad to Jimmy, who actually believed that it came from Brad and I think it got a little bit uncomfortable because Brad had a girlfriend so I made sure he understood, later. But it was very, very funny.

Do you take a call on whether or not you should do a prank depending on the cast? For example, I’ve read how the cast of Scandal is a bunch of nice, decent people. Do you go ahead with your pranks anyway?
Yeahhh… nope. It makes it even more fun for me (laughs). I like to make things not so nice, like come on people, let’s be realistic here! I like being the mischievous devil in a group of otherwise very nice people who make the cast and crew of Scandal. And they really are a very nice lot, so someone’s obviously got to ruin it.

And then of course, there’s this evil Twitter persona you have, where you seek out confrontation and indulge in insult comedy. You seem like a nice guy to speak with, so how did that persona come about?
(Laughs) That’s funny. Yeah, I would say I’m much kinder than that Twitter guy. Umm, Twitter’s a stage for me, it’s an opportunity to let my edgier, comic side out, and it’s a safe place to do because I don’t have to look anybody in the eye (chuckles). I like to provoke people, and yeah, it probably says something not very nice about me. But I use it as a comic medium, and stick the hornet’s nest that is Twitter to see if someone gets overly upset about whatever little grenade I’ve thrown out there. Scandal fans, in particular, are very interactive, and they are happy to tell you, good or bad, what they think of you and of the episode. I have a very thick skin, and I don’t get my feelings too hurt and I’m hoping that’s how people see me too. Because usually I am 15% serious with anything I say on twitter.

What do your kids think about your Twitter persona?
Oh, they don’t pay attention to it. They don’t care about my career at all In fact, whatever I do, they just don’t care about it. They’re very funny themselves and occasionally they’ll say something and I’ll say, ‘Oh! I’m going to use that on Twitter’. So I use that and pretend that’s coming from me on Twitter and later, I tell them about it and they sometimes get a kick from it. But the rest of the time, they don’t look at my Twitter, they don’t want to know if I’m on a TV show, they don’t want to watch it, so, in that sense, they are very nicely unimpressed about anything about me.

Have you so far confronted anyone who you trolled on Twitter?
So far, not really. But I’m sure that day will come. I have a whole, ever-growing list of people I have to hide from if I ever work with them!

What Twitter trolling, would you say, you’re most proud of?
Oh, that’s hard to say. This one that I do, and I probably do it every six months because I can’t help myself, because it’s so funny that I always want to do it with new people. Where you just that – there’s this great little link that I’ll tweet every now and then and say, oh this is truly the worst person on Facebook. And then I put the link up, and then everybody clicks on it and it sends them back on their FB profile. So thousands of strangers think I’ve just called them out as being a horrible person, and I’ve just done it so many times that most people say oh here we go again (laughs) but it’s always these few hundreds of people who haven’t seen this before, and they go, you don’t even know anything about me, how dare you sir! And, I thoroughly enjoy that.

Are you planning to take this edgier persona outside of Twitter, to, say, a web series or a TV show?
Yeah, I would like to do that, absolutely. Like you pointed out, I haven’t really had characters who’ve had that persona. (Laughs) In fact, the characters I have played are so much nicer than the guy I am playing on Twitter or may be my real self too! But I do like the idea of doing an edgy comedy that really shows my less appealing comic side, so let’s hope it happens.

6. ON CURRENT TELEVISION AND HIS FUTURE
“My heart starts beating a little faster and I still get a thrill when I show up at a new job. That’s because I’m doing the things that I’d have told you as a 10 year old that are my favourite things to do.”

I also want to ask you about current TV. There’s a new trend on TV, where characters are bumped off every now and then. Earlier, the conflict would be heightened drama and now, someone’s just killed. Do you find it ridiculous or exciting?
Well, I’ve got two different answers. One is as a viewer, and as a viewer, I like the fact that the stakes are going to be raised to the point where you can’t be sure, on a lot of shows, about any characters surviving till the next episode. The stakes are so high on a show like Game of Thrones that you don’t know which characters to love, because you don’t know what’s going to happen next and as a viewer, I think that’s exciting. I like it, I like the raised stakes.
As an actor though, not so much (laughs).  Especially on a show like Scandal, every episode I get, I search the end first to see whether David survives. ‘Okay, phew, he’s alive, now I can go back to see what the story is!’

You’ve not done any cable TV so far. Why is that? After Scandal ends, would you be willing to explore it?
That’s true. Well I certainly love watching cable shows – I’m a big fan of Veep of HBO and I’d love to be a part of an ensemble or a show like that. So, if that’s an opportunity that comes up I’d be certainly interested in pursuing it, or in something of that type. Also, as we spoke, I continue to write with a partner, so after Scandal ends, I’d love to concentrate on trying to getting a show made and on the air. I do get very excited about that prospect.

Do you think, with viewers moving towards cable TV in such a big way, network TV is going to last?
Well, yeah, it’s going to be challenging for sure, but I think if people like Shonda Rhimes, or a show like Scandal keep doing great, it will certainly last. This year, we’re on 9’o clock, and yet I know that Shonda just has a way of keeping it exciting with high stakes, and keeping it competitive with anything that’s on cable. So yeah, it is getting increasingly challenging to compete with the greater freedom you find on cable, but people like Shonda, for sure, can make things work.

Do you ever tire of working on network television with its 24-episode season shows, where you have to play the same character over several years?
You know, I think, my answer would be different from most other actors. For me, if I’m happy in a job – and I’m very happy in Scandal, for example – I’d sign a contract now that says that I’ll have to play this role and do this project for the next 15 years. ‘Where do I sign? I’ll do it!’ So, you know, I think most actors get iffier than I do in wanting to do other things. I just, frankly, enjoy the fact that we have a couple of months off and I can do a couple of episodes of this and that. I play a little recurring part in the Big Bang Theory between season – I think that gives me a nice outlet to do something completely different – but I really am very happy in playing David Rosen, for example, and the writers come up with enough variations and enough really interesting, twisted thoughts that I’d be happy to do something like this for years to come.

I love how you have this child-like enthusiasm about acting and television, after having done this for 20 years. What keeps you going at it?
That’s a very nice thing of you to say, and yes, I do feel that way, I have to say. I still get a thrill when I walk on a new set. And, you know, my heart starts beating a little faster when I show up at a new job, or work on a new thing and meet the new people. In essence, this enthusiasm is childish, yes, and it might speak to my arrested maturity maybe (chuckles), but in my life, I’m doing the things that I’d have told you as a 10 year old that are my favourite things to do. I loved acting, I loved doing plays back then, and the fact that somehow I managed to prolong that for another 40 years at this point, is, at one level, maybe when viewed from the outside, a little sad, but from my point of view (chuckles), it’s like, wow, I’m still doing that thing that’s my hobby, and I’m making a living at it! I’m married and I’ve got kids, I’m paying the bills, and so, I really do have the same enthusiasm. There’s something that is so much fun about going into work, and stepping into the Oval Office set, and conferring with the president of the United States. What a really nice, fun, escape!

So coming back to where we started, how will you keep yourself fresh as an actor to continue growing that insane IMDB biography?
In a way, staying fresh is a challenge, but for some reason, when I’m working I’m so grateful to have a job, that I’m just excited to get up and go do the thing. I do. The challenge and the fun of acting still just jazzes me up. It doesn’t get old to me. Being out of work gets old to me very quickly. That’s the challenge: How do you get up and take on a day when you don’t have a job to go to. When I actually do, I find I’m very energised by the opportunity to work and to act.


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Note: An edited version of this article first appeared in The Sunday Guardian in the October 11, 2014 issue.
Link: 
http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/that-nice-guy-from-your-favourite-television-show
Picture courtesy:
 Craig Sjodin. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

The Pursuit of Happiness: Why I took a sabbatical from MTV and Mumbai #Blog

In Bahrain (at home) for the next 3 months or so. This next phase of my life will be called ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ . This sabbatical from my career and the madness that is Mumbai has been taken due to certain circumstances to do with the heart than the mind, but having had some time to reflect in the 2 weeks since my last day at MTV, I have come to realise this is possibly the most important decision I have taken in my life since the last one six years ago, when I decided to switch from engineering to media after graduating from NIT Kurukshetra.

I have always had trouble understanding why we conform to the notion of ‘the norm’ defined by our elders, or peers, or our education system, or our culture and traditions, or just generations of people doing the same thing over and over because it ‘works’, against the much underrated desires of our heart, and consequently, against better sense. Because when you think of it, what our heart ultimately desires is the various and glorious ways of finding happiness, whether through momentary joy from the fulfillment of a little wish or the complete and irrepressible exhilaration from achieving a big dream, or the continued and blessed bliss of being in the company of the people you love, or spending your days doing the things that are your life’s passion, the things that you care about and the things that somehow still matter in the chaos of all that is the world today. And if that doesn’t make sense, what does?

July marks six years since I shifted to Mumbai seemingly against all better sense or judgement, as defined by what constitutes ‘the norm’. I didn’t know anyone in the city, I had no ‘contacts’ or ‘network’ or any real understanding of how to go about getting what I wanted – and to be really honest, I didn’t even know what I really wanted. I wanted to write and create and ‘executive produce’ a TV show full of awesome, because Aaron Sorkin did that, but I didn’t even know what an executive producer does; all I knew was that it must matter somehow because Sorkin does it. I wanted to do something related to movies, because that was the only thing that ever come close to the definition of what constitutes ‘magic’ to me, but I didn’t know what I could possibly do because I never believed myself to be a magician. And I wanted to write, because when I write, I realise the full extent of what it is to be alive, to live, to breathe, to be; but I didn’t know what I wanted to write, or even if I really did want to write, because writing was what artists do, and I was a product of a system where conventional thinking teaches you that you will die poor and lonely and hungry, if you take up art.

I didn’t know what I really wanted to do, but I was pretty determined about what I didn’t want to do – and that is to spend the most magnificent hours of the day of my life in front of a computer in a cubicle, somewhere in an office filled with computers and cubicles, only because everyone else does it, because it is safe, because it pays, because someone told me to, or because it is ‘the norm’. Trust me when I say this, there were several times in these six years, where I lamented the fact that I wasn’t born as one of those fortunate enough to enjoy the 9 to 5 life because it fulfills them or because they actually have a passion that involves a computer and a cubicle. There were many times I regretted not being wired in a way where I could earn an honest living doing what so many others do, because I had got placed in two companies in NITK, and it would have been so easy to take up on one of those offers and spend a well-planned life in a well-planned way as part of a well-oiled machine that sees the life and death of so many others just like me, and none of them really ever seem sad. But my problem was, I didn’t want to live a life not being sad, I wanted to live a life being happy. And most importantly, I didn’t want to live a life with the regret that not only did I not have the balls to do what my heart really desires, but that I robbed someone who wanted the same life I didn’t want because that’s the life that would give them happiness, only because I took up their seat in that company I was placed in, just because it is THE NORM.

The six years since that decision have been the most fantastic years, because even when I had a horrible day at work, or a horrible week, or a horrible month or phase, at least it had happened in the midst of doing something I love, and that was always a reason to find a way to overcome it. But of course, these horrible times have been few and far between, and the universe has generally been overwhelmingly kind in these years, and even though I only had a vague idea of what I really wanted, I have somehow miraculously (to me) managed to create, write and executive produce in television and in the movies, and it has only led me to believe that if you listen to your heart and do what you love, you may just get what you really want.

But you know what’s funny about all this? I didn’t have these epiphanies about happiness during most of these six years because during this time, I was only following my heart because it made sense to me. And so, the achievement of these dreams at times was almost like a ruthless goal that I *had* to fulfill because I had many things at stake, and sometimes different things fuelled me at different times – that I had a degree I had no use of, that I had made a promise to my parents, that my batchmates were doing well in the field that I had left, that I had to pay the bills, that I had to ‘settle down’ at some point, and sometimes, just the fact that I had a lot of pride and not doing well wasn’t an option. All these things inspired me, yes, but it was only recently that I realised that while I did attain this intangible ‘happiness’ at the end of achieving a goal, all the time in between seemed lost to me. At one point of time, I had almost completely stopped being social, stopped speaking to or meeting friends, stopped giving time to my close ones, didn’t give a shit about my health (I ADMIT), because I was so driven to ‘achieve’ happiness, I didn’t really care much about being happy in between. Happiness seemed to be some sort of a destination to me, and I had to just focus and spend all my time and energy in trying to get there. I was really moving from one goal to another, one stop to another, doing all the right things, but for some of the wrong reasons.

So now, I want the reasons to be right too. There are many, many things I still want to do, and hopefully, I will someday get to do those things too, but right now, I am taking this break because I’m horrified at the thought that my parents and the majority of their generation all but chugged along from one goal to another, without a larger perspective of the things that really matter; just like I had been doing since the past six years because without realising it, I had somehow still managed to succumb to the norm in some small way. So I’m going to use these months away from the chaos of Mumbai taking care of my mother, spending quality time with family, working on my fitness (finally!!), planning the wedding (because it happens only once so it should happen properly and not for two weeks in between work projects) and of course, writing, writing and writing some more, because these are the things that really do matter. In the middle of all this, I’m going to try to accomplish little things that make me happy: like finishing the IMDB 250, getting back to reading fabulous books into the night, taking long walks and discovering new music along the way, blogging, reconnecting with old friends, ORGANIZING MY COMPUTER & MAIL, possibly learning a new language, taking in the sights and sounds of Bahrain again, and making sense of all the many things that I have really not had the time to understand all these years – from taxes to politics to shares to FCP to the macbook to what women really want (I’m prepared to fail). The six films I did at MTV will be releasing along the way and I’ll resume my journalism gig, but mostly, and as may be obvious from the length of this post, I’ll be writing a lot, so there’ll still be lots of updates from my end.

I don’t know when I’m going to go back to a ‘conventional’ job again, because over the next few months, even after this break, I want to ideally spend some time in figuring out what I can accomplish on my own, without having a brand to leverage. The possibilities are endless and I’m already excited at the thought of going back and finding a worthy cause to get consumed by, and for all I know, I may find the cause even before I go back. But whatever I do from now and everything I do from now, I know for a fact: it will be in the Pursuit of Happiness

Note: This piece was first written on July 27, 2014
Link: https://www.facebook.com/tanejamainhoon/posts/10152547197633618

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© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

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