Critics and various groups with the word “association” in them took offense to the portrayal of Indians, and some might say, rightly so. But has the show moved past that initial drama? Parvesh Cheena, who plays Gupta on the show, certainly thinks so.Outsourced had it tough right out of the gate.
“To be fair, I think our show is under the microscope a little bit a lot more than other shows, because it was the first of its kind,” he tells EW. “We don’t put under a microscope some other shows that deal with lower-income white families. If Married With Children hadn’t come out when it did, would we really be looking at Roseanne, The Middle, and Raising Hope and being, like, ‘Look at how stereotypical they are to lower-income white people!’ When you have the first show set in India on American television, there’s gonna be a Nervous Nellie kind of vibe.” But, he says, they’ve moved on and truly found “a genuine quality to a lot of our characters.”
And now that they’ve delved into the characters’ backstories (Gupta, for instance, was revealed to be the black sheep of his family), Cheena hopes the audience has learned to see past any negative assumptions.
“The great thing with that is, when you see all that stuff, now [we're] not just talking about characters who are in India; that could be applied to anyone, you know? The kid whose parents don’t like him, or see him more as an annoyance than as a loved one, we could be talking about the loner kid in New York, in Westchester County, let alone the kid living in Mumbai,” he says. “And so we’ve been fortunate that we get to delve past those initial archetypes, and then we go to where the heart is.”
The intention was never to offend, Cheena said, but rather tell a story of a small group of misfits.
“We’re talking about five characters — when I say five, I mean the five series regulars of Indian ethnicity — out of a billion. It’s a big country. For every cool, hip, and awesome person…there’s gonna be a Gupta, you know? And for every hot, awesome, Bollywood actress, [like] Aiswarya Rai, who crossed over and did Pink Panther with Steve Martin, you’re gonna have a shy, quiet Madhuri,” he said. “It’s not saying that all Indians are that; it’s saying that this is a team of losers, a call-center crew — not even the cool ones who work for, like Intel and Apple. If our show had been all about the cool, awesome, A-team Indians, I don’t know if it would be a comedy. Because comedy is in the struggle, and the underdog, and that conflict.”
What do you think: Has Outsourced found the heart, readers?
(Additional reporting by Hillary Busis)
**BONUS: SPOILER ALERT!**
In this week’s Spoiler Room, I teased some exclusive photos of WWE wrestler The Great Khali on an upcoming episode of Outsourced. I’m a woman of my word.