'Outsourced' actor Parvesh Cheena: 'We don't put under a microscope shows with lower-income white families.' Plus, The Great Khali's big cameo -- EXCLUSIVE

Parvesh-CheemaImage Credit: Justin Lubin/NBCOutsourced had it tough right out of the gate. 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.

“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.

outsourcedImage Credit: Chris Haston/NBC outsourced2Image Credit: Chris Haston/NBC

Comments (91 total) Add your comment
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  • Josh

    I don’t have an issue with the portrayal of Indians. My issue is-I spend more time than I’d like dealing with call centers in other countries and it’s frustrating. So I choose not to watch a show that is set in an Indian call center because it’s not something I find funny.

    • rush

      that’s ridicolour reasoning……

      • rush

        ridiculous

    • Jen E.

      I don’t think it’s ridiculous reasoning, and my similar issue with the show is that outsourcing is a major problem with the American economy right now and I certainly don’t want the weekly reminder of how the middle class is sacrificed so stockholders can buy another yacht. That, and the writing is not clever.

      • E.Readster

        Outsourcing is a major problem with the American economy because of the “American” government. No one is forcing at gunpoint to give jobs to Indians or Chinese. they take it and work for close to nothing. Why are those American companies sending their jobs to poor countries? is it because they are greedy? because we are already the number one nation in the world that it doesn’t even matter? the rich get richer at the expense of the less fortunate and the poor. you can’t blame Indians for outsourcing – Blame the damn companies that lay people off or maybe blame the rising prices of everything and people not wanting to work for less than 15 an hour cuz they went to college or Univ and are entitled to a nice salary.

      • K

        I’m pretty sure Jen E. was not actually blaming Indians.

      • rush

        thats not what this guys said. he said he wasnt gonna watch the show because of his frustration with callcenters. thats like saying im never going to a mcdonalds ever again bcuz of on bad experience at one restaurant. and to me that seems ridiculous

      • jp

        Sad but true: you want low-price phone carriers, low credit card interest rates, etc., the companies are gonna cut corners someplace. And in most cases, it’s by sending jobs overseas for cheap labor.
        Nothing comes truly cheap.

      • SirLizard

        I don’t understand the reasoning here. The fact that jobs are being outsourced to India is exactly what makes this show timely. It’s one thing to dislike it because you don’t like the writing or the characters, but I don’t understand disliking it because it portrays a skewed vision of something that goes on today.

      • Steve

        I agree wholeheartedly with Jen E. I watched the show for about 6 weeks, but gave up because it just made me angry each week thinking of what outsourcing has done to our country. (Plus, ‘cultural differences’ is a joke that can only go so far.)

      • VinceP

        I enjoy the show, but I think I understand why Josh would not prefer to watch it. If you delivered pizzas all day, you wouldn’t really care to watch a comedy about pizze delivery people. Usually, we identify with television shows because we find something positive in common with them. If our experience is negative, then we won’t really find a show all that interesting. Am I hot or cold, Josh?

      • DFSF

        Gee Lizzie, just because a show’s subject matter is “timely” doesn’t automatically make it “funny.” Americans who have been “outsourced” just might not want a weekly reminder of the perverse corporate culture that led to this economic mess in the first place. Making it the title of the show only rubs our faces in it before we even turn on the TV.

    • stu

      my partner is indian & we luv the show. it’s an original comedy.

      • Bubba

        Partner … as in same sex lover? Now that’s something they should add to the show. Gupta is gay.

      • Layla said

        you suck I love outsourced it”s meant to be a fun show, you all are probably not indian how do you know if we find it rasist or not. Josh sucks balls

    • peachez2

      I don`t even understand what you are saying, Josh. All I know is I love this show and I tune in every week. It`s not offensive to me, and it is HILARIOUS!!!

    • Bonna2

      Josh, that line of ignorant reasoning just set the human race back about a billion years. Suppose I refused to have anything to do with anyone named Josh OR anything related to the word “josh” because an idiot named Josh made a narrow-minded comment about a TELEVISION SHOW!! Unless, that is, he was joshing….

      • Gerri

        Check that off the list of thgins I was confused about.

    • KC

      Hah, I find calling ANY customer service frustrating whether it’s here or another country because even though most are very nice, they are the “first line of defense” to weed out the simple questions and they aren’t given much info or authority. Companies are too cheap to train and pay employees who can answer more technical questions.

  • Holt Roussel

    Love the show! All the characters are LOL funny and enduring. I hope the network leaves it alone and allows it to grow and prosper.

    • Amanda Kiwinerd

      The most offensive thing is the lack of humor. Please cancel.

      • peachez2

        Amanda you`re lying to yourself and to others. You know there are other reasons you dont like the show and it has nothing to do with lack of humour, because it is humorous. Tell the truth and shame the devil.

    • Frank Anderson

      I like the show too. I find it a bit funny that some of e EW critics call Outsourced racist… But those same critics also love Big Bang Theory’s Indian character, Raj. Raj is an awkward, one-note character surrounded by a bunch of white stereotypes. Now, I actually quite enjoy BBT, but I do think it is more racist than Outsourced because it doesn’t bother to make Raj more of a round character. Almost every member of the Outsourced crew has changed more in half a season than Raj has in multiple seasons.

      • Yaz

        I agree! I love Outsourced and BBT, but you’re right- Raj is a one-dimensional character. A major part of his “Indian-ness” is that he hates everything associated with India and Indian culture. So the cahracters in Outsourced are a direct opposite to Raj on BBT.

      • KC

        Yeah, and what’s shameful is that he’s the least paid on the show, the excuse given that he has less lines. I think he should be paid as much as Harold, for their characters are the same level of importance. That seems prejudiced to me.

  • Daryl

    Its a great shop. I hope NBC will leave it alone, not try to change it and let us, the viewers, just enjoy it.

  • esteban

    I don’t think the show is racist or unfair in its portrayal of Indians, but really, the show is not funny, has a boring lead actor, jokes fall flat too often, and once you look past any cultural differences, it just kinda sucks.

    • Coco

      ITA

  • Mindi

    I like the show well enough and there has been good moments on the show past the somewhat lazy writing and jokes. What bothers me is that when it sems that they make some forward movement with a character, the character will revert back to form or dissappear (like in the case of Asha, who seems to have disappeared once the Todd character moved on from his pursuit) I think that there is potential here with the ensemble, but I’d like to see them do more different combinations of actors in scenes like other great shows like Community will do successfully. But of course before they do that, they need to incorporate better writing beyond the ignorant culture divide/misunderstandings…

    • LOL

      Asha has been invisible ever since Todd moved on. I was thinking she’d be the most interesting character, but the writers have ignored her.

    • Yaz

      I agree- they need to do a better job incorporating the various main characters into each story line. You’re totally right about Asha and the lack of continuity of character growth. The writers do rely a bit too much on ignorant cultural divide/misunderstandings of Todd toward his friends/coworkers and towards India as a whole. I really love the show and hope it gets the chance to develop further!

    • KC

      I love Asha with or without Todd and I too was hoping we’d see more of her, as an individual and with Todd.

  • Sara

    Gupta rules!!

    • Gupta

      LONG LIVE GUPTA!!!

    • rush

      he definatly makes the show. my favourite was when he was crashin the double date( in one of the eariler episodes) and was telling a story about his dad, who used to say, “shut your mouth shout your mouth, i cant hear the radio!”, i laughed so hard my fanta came out my nose :S mostly because that actually happens around my house :P

  • moonbeam

    I really enjoy this show.

  • caryn

    I like Outsourced and I’m glad I stuck with it after the so-so pilot. I like the sweetness of the Indian characters and how the group of misfits has melded into a sort of family.

    • janice

      I agree. I am glad I stuck with it. actually the show had me at the pilot. My kids and I love the show. I keep checking the reviews because I am so scared it will be cancelled! Everyone seems to like the show via internet comments. THEY BETTER NOT CANCEL IT! Great show with so much going for it.

  • jasmine

    the show is iight. gupta makes the show

  • JJ

    I love this show now, it’s had some really hilarious episodes, and I’m liking the character development and how they all mesh so well together. “Who wants a taaaaaaaste of Gupta!” Ya gotta watch the Bollywood episode!

  • Iris

    I hated the original movie and thought that the pilot wasn’t very good. However, the show has found its footing and it is a great medium for Indian actors, writers and crew. Outsourced reminds me of Cougar Town last season.

  • Antoni

    It strikes me that the show is as much about the “Ugly American !!!” as much as it is about India. Not being Indian, I don’t know if it’s offensive but I have a hard time imagining any show about a non WASP group of people not offending someone.

    • panda

      I think that’s the thing. A show about Indians is bound to bring up stereotypes and people in America don’t know how to deal with it. People may feel as though this show is offensive and feel guilt for it being on the air. But as an Indian, this show does not offend me at all.

  • Raheem Hosseini

    I do think it’s a show that’s improved as it’s gone along. And to be fair, the writers did make the main “white” character out to be sort of your typical douchey Midwestern simpleton in the beginning. (“Gag gifts are funny!” “India is weird!”) I’m not even all that sure they’ve dialed that back considerably.

  • rush

    i’m of pakistani origin and there are soooooooooooo many elements of these characters that remind me of my family members so i dont find it offencive AT ALL. i’ve been a fan of the show since episode one and my whole family LOVES it

  • Kelson

    I loved the movie “Outsourced”. It was cute and funny and harmless, and Todd and Asha had really great chemistry. The TV show has added characters that take away from the charm of the movie. I don’t even know the name of the Aussie girl with Todd – as I just can’t get past that Todd isn’t wooing Asha as he did in the movie. But overall, I like the show. It just needs to explore the Todd/Asha chemistry just like the movie.

    • LOL

      What movie?

      • SirLizard

        Um, LOL, this isn’t exactly a difficult one to figure out for yourself. The movie Kelson is talking about is “Outsourced”, as he stated in his first sentence. One thing I have to say to Kelson, though, is that on a TV series you can’t really throw Todd and Asha together too soon, otherwise there would be no arc to their wooing. It would just be over and done with before you know it.

    • Jenn

      I loved the movie Outsourced too, that’s why I was soooooooo disappointed in the show. It just isn’t funny, it’s that simple.

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