New Netflix series Brown Nation has a lead Asian cast and British actor Jaspal Binning in a key role.
Born in Middlesex and bought up in Birmingham, the New York-based actor, director and producer has had an interesting journey that has led him towards the US-set comedy-drama about a man trying to balance his work and family life without much success.
Eastern Eye caught up with Jaspal to find out more his journey, Brown Nation, inspirations and future plans.
How do you look back on your journey as an actor?
I honestly think it’s been a bit insane. I left England as a 19 year-old who didn’t know anyone in New York. It made me grow up considerably quickly, learning about life with its ups and downs, which have all been very useful experiences in my acting work.
I moved from Birmingham to study at the New York Film Academy for two years, after receiving a scholarship from Rush Hour director Brett Ratner. I got a work visa after studying, and started working straight away, which I am very grateful for. I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked with the likes of Aaron Sorkin, Tony Kushner and Dev Patel (who is a proper lad).
How does Brown Nation compare to the other projects you have done?
I think it stands alone, in a completely different and unique way. I believe it’s definitely my most meaningful project to date.
The show truly showcases different parts of my Asian culture and has educated me about aspects of it I didn’t know about before, always resulting in hilarity.
Tell us about Brown Nation?
The show follows Hasmukh (played by Rajeev Varma), who runs a small IT consulting company, Shree Ganesh Computers, in Queens, New York. Staffed by a disinterested and lazy bunch of people, not suprisingly, his business flounders. His home life is not much better. His wife Dimple (Shenaz Treasury), who is a frustrated and jobless artist, complains constantly about not having enough time to explore her creativity because of the demands of taking care of her dog Bobby.
Hasmukh tries desperately to balance his work and family life, but neither seems to have his best interest at heart.
Who do you play in it?
Gautam (my character) is a hyper-intelligent office worker with a sensitive soul who comes across as a tragic hero. He always strives for the best, but believes that he is let down by the stupidity of the other workers surrounding him, especially his boss Hasmukh.
He is a driven man trying to do the best for himself and his family, who cares about his work and wants to be the best in his field.
Could you share a memorable behind-the-scenes experience from shooting Brown Nation?
I actually brought my Playstation along with me when we were filming, so when we finished for the day, myself, Atit Shah (producer), and (co-star) Akaash Singh (Mookie) definitely had some memorable moments on FIFA. Many thrashings were dealt out. I know Atit would never admit to them, so I’m calling him out now.
What is your favourite moment in the series?
I know it sounds corny but I would say the whole show. I think this is a monumental statement to our industry, to have a TV series about Asian people on Netflix. I’m just so proud of all of the cast and crew, and will leave it for you guys to decide on your favourite moments.
Who are your acting heroes?
Idris Elba, Michael K Williams, Riz Ahmed, Dev Patel, David Harewood, Manish Dayal, the whole cast of Goodness Gracious Me. I could go on. All of these actors are stalwarts for what I hope to achieve in my career. They have committed themselves in their work to make a difference with their choices and showcase their personality and originality. In my mind they represent pure acting quality.
Which would be your dream role?
To be the first British-Indian James Bond.
What can we expect from you next?
I will be acting in a new Amazon TV series produced by Monte Bezell and am currently in advanced talks to produce my new TV pilot that I just created, called Where You From? I will also be filming the rest of the first season of my new award-winning TV series Doomsday.
How does directing and producing compare to acting?
It’s rewarding, but hard. Producing is the most demanding thing I have ever done in my life.
My fellow producers on Doomsday (Karin Agstam, Sonja O’Hara and Vincent Petrosini) can attest to that – making sure you are putting out fires all over the place, like ‘Where can we buy camera batteries in the middle of rural Pennyslvania?’
What about directing?
In terms of directing, I’ve found it incredibly educational. I really enjoy watching actors grow, words coming to life and new worlds getting created.
I have just won Best Director at the New York Television Festival for Doomsday with my co-director O’Hara and Best TV pilot at the Independent Television and Film Festival, so I’m definitely enjoying working behind the camera for a change.
What inspires you?
Good work. Me and one of my best friends Donald Paul (who appears on the TV series Power) have a system where we record our auditions for each other at our apartment. It always reminds me of the hard work I did to get to where I am, and how I always need to continue to improve to become the best artist I can be. It is a proper acting workout.
Finally, why should we tune into Brown Nation?
It’s a lot of fun, the perfect show to switch on, relax, and have a laugh to. All of the characters are incredibly endearing and the show celebrates our heritage and culture. I heavily suggest that you Netflix and chai with us.
Brown Nation is available on Netflix now. Log onto Twitter: @thebrownnation to find out more. You can follow Jaspal Binning on Instagram: @jsbinning and Twitter: @risingdiscovery