As queer representation on television makes strides, another minority has begun to stake their claim in the industry. Like many Asian Americans, Maulik Pancholy has found himself at odds with Hollywood’s vision of the ideal male.
“I feel like whenever I’m given a script and it’s an Asian American character or a gay character, I’m so aware of how it’s being used,” he said. “Like, are we laughing at this character because of who they are or are we laughing along with them because of the things they’re putting out into the story?”
It’s a stigma in Hollywood that he once demonstrated in HBO’s The Comeback. He played one half of an Indian comedy duo who played into the stereotype in order to please a sitcom’s unoriginal vision.
Over coffee at Soho House in New York’s Meatpacking District, we met with the actor fresh from his run with the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of The Taming of the Shrew in Washington, DC. In true Shakespearean style, he played the leading lady, Katherina.
For the actor so accustomed to being cast as a token Indian or a gay cliché, it was empowering to go off the cuff for the part of a lifetime.
“There was something really fierce about getting to feel that power,” he said. “And I also think she’s one of Shakespeare’s great female roles. It’s a pretty controversial play, but I think at it’s core, she’s a pretty tough cookie and it was fun to play that.”
Now back in New York, Pancholy has begun to settle back into his life. He lives in the city with his husband, Ryan Corvaia, a chef and co-owner of an event company. Together for over a decade, they’re only in the first years of their marriage.
“We kind of just thought of [our wedding] as a big party where we’d invite all our friends and family,” he said. “Instead, having gone through it, I really understood why the practice of getting married has been around for so long. There’s something really beautiful about having a ton of friends and family witness your love for each other. It’s like an intangible shift.”
The two were engaged in India, in front of the Taj Mahal, with friends and family around them.
“We reconnected with so many family members,” Pancholy said. “I have a ton of second cousins there, and these are cousins who are my age who I grew up with. We’d go to India for a month at a time and I’d spend weeks playing with them. Now they’re married and have families, and they’re starting their own businesses.”
Pancholy has even ventured into his own business after partnering with Rebtel, an app that hijacks local phone lines to offer unlimited international calling for low monthly rates. It was his friends and family in India that inspired him to make this career move. Staying in touch, he found that Indian telecom companies doubled their rates over the summer.
In addition to his new tech venture, he’s involved in an upcoming web series, New York is Dead as well as a few other projects in the works.