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Exclusive Interview with iZombie’s Rahul Kohli

Photo Credit: Kharen Hill /The CW.
Photo Credit: Kharen Hill /The CW.

Born in London, Rahul began acting in school plays at an early age. When he was 17, drama became a main focus for him. He studied film and drama in school and then began to perform on stage in various productions from William Shakespeare’s Henry V to Eduardo De Filippo’s Sabato, domenica e lunedi.

After leaving the theatre and acquiring an agent, Rahul began working on British television and guest starred in such shows as Eastenders and Holby City. His current role on iZombie has given him the opportunity to demonstrate his acting chops on American TV and he is smashing it.

His character, Ravi Chakrabarti, is a fan favorite and thanks in large part to Rahul’s strong social media presence, the actor himself is a fan favorite as well.

Keep reading to see what Rahul had to say when we caught up with him by phone earlier this week.

Did you have an enjoyable first Canadian Thanksgiving?

“I’ve been a bit of a pig, actually. I haven’t moved from the couch. I’ve just been playing Uncharted, watching Bladerunner, and other such stuff. I don’t think I’ve showered. I’ve only ordered food from delivery service. That’s the way to do it, right?”

That’s definitely the way to do it. So you’ve been enjoying your extra long weekend, then.

“Oh, yeah. Yeah. Definitely what the doctor ordered. I, uh, I’d kinda been missing out on some real binge gaming. Like, back before iZombie I used to – because I wasn’t really doing anything between auditions – I would really get to sink in 60, 70, 80 hours into whatever I wanted to. These are all first world problems, by the way. (laughs). Now that I’m on a hit TV show, I only get to give it 3-4 hours a week. So it was nice to have time to really binge on something.”

You must be in withdrawal pretty regularly, then.

“Uh, yeah, something like that. (chuckles) The games just keep piling up, really. I keep buying them but…” 

What are your favorite games right now? 

“Right now, um, I’m currently playing through the Uncharted collection, which I think are incredible. I’m picturing Robert Buckley as the lead. I think he should play Nathan Drake. Yeah, Buckley is, you know, he’s got the action down and the chops to do it. He’s got the humor and some of the best comedy timing I’ve seen in an actor. I’m forcing him to dress up as Drake for Halloween. And I will then take pictures so I can further prove how good a casting choice he is.

I’m just playing Uncharted, a bit of Star Wars beta, Battlefront beta which is pretty good and then EA Sports has sent me every sports title, so I’m kind of going through some of those and stuff like that, but yeah, I’m mostly playing the Uncharted.”

Sounds like you skip around with genres. 

“In terms of the gaming? Oh yeah. I think that’s where I’m probably the most experimental, which sounds really sad. (laughs). Whenever I get to a restaurant, I’ll always order a burger. Everyone knows it. I’m always – I’m not really about variety being the spice of life. I’ll always do the same thing, except with gaming. I’ll play RPS’s, RPG’s, sports, first person, third person, puzzles, different platforms. For some reason I’m happy to keep that varied.” 

Do you ever vary what you put on your burger or is it the same thing every time? 

“Same thing every time. (laughs).”

Does that come with being a Londoner? 

“I don’t know. No, actually, my friends from London will go to a restaurant with me and I’m the only one who gets the chicken nuggets or a burger. Even when we’re on a holiday, I’ll do the same thing, so no, it’s not a Londoner thing. I think it’s just me being boring, I guess.” 

Is that one thing you don’t have in common with your character, then? Because Ravi is definitely not boring.

“He’s not boring, yeah. He’s a very layered dude. I’m very lucky to play him. He’s definitely not one note. Every time I read a new script, he’s doing something new that I had no idea he did or had in him. I’m very lucky to play him.” 

I think you had said that you were more or less plucked off the streets of London to play him.

“Yeah.”

How did that happen? 

“You know how you hear of those models who go, ‘Oh yeah, I was in the middle of a modeling contract and, it was such a shock, someone saw me’? I had a tape for Chakrabarti so my agent kind of called me up and was like, ‘There’s this project going on in America that looks awesome. They haven’t found what they’re looking for. Here’s the script. You can go in on Monday and put yourself on tape.’ And I didn’t really think much of it. These never go well. Casting off a tape…for pilot season…in America…never go well. I mean, I couldn’t book a job, you know, in the room, filming five minutes from my house, let alone something that was filming in the U.S.A. for pilot season, that was a DC Comic property. But I went for it anyway.

I think I was upset that weekend. I was frustrated with where my career was. The day that I got the iZombie audition was the day that I had a really bad audition for 24, which I’d been looking forward to. It just went terribly. I put a lot of frustration and anger into that and then, seriously, I think I made the tape on Monday and then on Friday I got offered the part. Then I flew out a week or two later to make the pilot and then the rest, the rest is history. We got picked up and got to do our first season.

So I have a lot to thank for that 24 audition. And it didn’t go well at all. I’m just remembering, it wasn’t anyone’s fault. You know, it wasn’t like I went in and did anything bad. It’s just, with actors sometimes there are certain jobs that you look at and you really want in advance. You don’t want to think like that but you do and you put everything into it and you think, ‘This is the one that’s going to make something for me,’ and it wasn’t. It just didn’t go very well. And iZombie came up the same day, so yeah. I went full throttle on it.”

How are you liking Vancouver?

“I love Vancouver. It’s my home away from home. I, uh, it’s just, for me, it’s the perfect mix of America and Europe. It’s got similarities to what I’m used to, the European sensibilities, but it’s also like I know I’m in North America because of its size. It’s an incredible place to shoot. We’re very lucky to be here. 

I’m being very English. I’m making a cup of tea. (laughs) That’s all we do, the British. We just drink tea.”

 (laughs) It’s not English Breakfast Tea, is it?

“It is. Yeah.”

(laughs) You’re a stereotype!

“I have so many relatives and friends who travel over to Vancouver a lot and they’re like stuffing tea bags down their pants. I think they’ve got a whole smuggling operation going on.”

Wow. So what do you miss most about London?

“My family. My girlfriend. Yeah, um, that’s probably the first. Things kind of pop up sometimes, like when we get Thanksgiving, and the cast will hop on a plane two hours and they go see their friends and family and I can’t. That’s not an option for me. That’s why I got into gaming as well. When I was a kid, I was an indoor kid. London’s not like the prettiest place, you know, it’s got quite bad weather and if you don’t learn to enjoy your own company growing up in the city, you’re going to have a bad time of it. So that’s why when we have these Thanksgiving holidays or breaks and people get to go see their families, that’s when I’m happy to just jump on the Play Station or whatever and just binge and not feel like I’m missing out on anything. Perhaps I’m weird, but it’s kind of like London. (laughs). It’s how it was back then. It’s how I functioned and was sort of therapeutic. So yeah, I miss my family. I miss my missus.”

Did you do much traveling before you were cast in iZombie?

“I did as a kid, funny enough. My parents would make sure – I mean, we weren’t rich or anything – they always did really well with making sure me and my sister saw as much of the world as possible. We have a lot of family in Asia. My mother’s from Thailand, so we would see my family in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia. We’d get to go to Europe a bit. And then for work, I think I’ve just done Prague and Cuba. Then with iZombie I got to see a lot of America and Canada.”

Canada vs. America…do you have a preference?

“As far as Canada versus America? Ohh. You know, I…it’s kind of unfair to me to say. I do enjoy certain aspects from both. My only real experience in America is Los Angeles and that was Los Angeles during my hiatus period between season one and season two and I was doing nothing. I was literally doing nothing. Because obviously we weren’t – the nature of the show – and obviously being a season regular, I wasn’t going up for jobs or anything like that. I was just enjoying my time there. So, I didn’t really see much of America, but there are certain things that I love about America. One of them was the weather (chuckles). It was just beautiful, and I soaked that up. It never got old. Like I said, I haven’t gotten to do as much of America as I want. I went to New York for a few days for the Up Fronts.

Vancouver, what I love is, like I said, that it’s got that European sensibility and in Vancouver there seems to be something to do for everyone. If you’re into hikes and nature, your kind of sporting activities, Vancouver’s got you. And if you’re into drinking and staying out till 3 in the morning, and drinking beer and having a good time, they’ve got that, too. So I, I…right now I’m very happy where I am.”

What parts of America would you like to see that you haven’t yet?

“Ohh. That’s a good question. After Skywalker Ranch? That would be one. I’m just gonna use that, pretend like that’s an actual place like a city. The Skywalker Ranch. I’d love to see the Grand Canyon. I haven’t really thought about this. Ok, uhh…there’s the Grand Canyon. I’ve done Austin. I’d do New York again, ’cause I’ve kinda already done that. San Francisco? Scrap that – I know what. New Orleans.

I’ve heard so many good things about it from my producer, and Malcolm – who plays Clive Babineaux – filmed a feature film there a few years back. Obviously, it’s a place that’s beeen through some tragedy, and you know, is still trying to get back on its feet, but he was telling me there’s still such a great atmosphere, a wonderful culture, and everyone who’s been to New Orleans tells me you just can’t find it at any other place, anywhere else in America. It’s just got this thing and you have to experience it for yourself. And my favorite rapper’s from there, so…”

Is there any chance that there might be an iZombie video game at some point?

“Oh, uh…(chuckles) I’m not too sure. Yeah, I’d like to see some  iZombie – well, we’ve got action figures coming out. They’re making a Liv one. In terms of a video game, no, but I remember pitching something during an interview. I thought how it could be like the Telltale game series with The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones where you make choices and the story plays out to the choices you make. I thought that was a very good fit for iZombie because that’s it, that’s what Liv does. She always has to make the tough choice. And, like right now with whether she chose to save Evan [Liv’s brother] or not. Do you zombify him or do you let him die? That kind of dilemma that she gets put through, that’s what makes the TellTale game series a good fit.”

If they did do something like that, would you volunteer to voice your character? 

“Oh yeah. That’s like – I’ve got a bucket list. Being in a video game, voicing it, movement, any kind of involvement is on the list – I’d love to do that. Yeah.” 

Loved the Star Wars line. New Hope (laughs). Do they ever let you have any say in lines like that? Especially with as into gaming and everything you and Ravi both are? 

“(laughs) I’d like to take credit for that. I didn’t have any say whatsoever. That genius is from the writing room. But there is a weird thing going on. More so – I guess because he isn’t bound by certain things – I think I have fun with Ravi. I get to be a bit of a mouthpiece about pop culture and what’s going on. For me, I feel very, very, very lucky. I guess I’m always sounding off or tweeting about what’s going on in the gaming world. What’s going on in the film world. Or my love for Star Wars and stuff like that. And every time I read a new script, the writers have snuck in a line here or there…I don’t know. It’s such a compliment to get to do that. And I guess already, in retrospect, even though it’s my first job I don’t think I’m going to take this for granted. I don’t think I’m going to be in a position like this very often where they are literally like, ‘He loves Star Wars, give him another Star Wars line. He really fancies Rihanna? That’s his celebrity crush? Let’s give her a shout out.’ It’s such a strange thing to do.

The episode that just aired, Frat Boy Brains, I-I-they somehow just let me get out Lil Wayne. And I just love that. I love that they let us do that. I didn’t want my character to go for the same football team – er, soccer team – as me. That was the type of thing where I was like, ‘No,’ I needed to create some distance. (laughs). I don’t mind him being a geek like me and we can obviously deal with the same stuff, but it’s still gonna be separate. It still has to be his own thing.”

I was wondering about how much he seems to mirror your real life and if that was on purpose by you or the writers or whether it was just a coincidence. That’s kind of fascinating.

“It’s a very natural thing, I think. It’s kinda like when you do a pilot, when you start off with something, you’re really helping them realize their vision. You’re stepping into someone else’s shoes. And you’re trying to give a good representation of what they want. The writers, the producers, or whatever. Then what happens is, once you’ve presented them with your take on it and are like, ‘Is this what you want?’ they then, as you come back, start looking at what you brought that was unexpected and adjust. So what happens is, it’s kind of this natural evolution where I played him in the pilot where there was no ad-lib. There was nothing. It was just as it was intended to be. And my audition on tape was identical almost to what was done on the day because that’s what they found, that’s what they were happy with.

Then by episode two when they’d started following what’s on Twitter and they’re turning him into a person, putting him in relationships, it’s like, ‘Oh! You like this, you like that. Let’s put him – ‘ and I guess the best example of that is me and Robert Buckley [who plays Major Lilywhite], we both act like 8-year-olds. We’re both just overgrown children and collect toys and play video games and watch anime together and stuff like that. When they were looking for something for Major, post-Liv relationship, Ravi was gonna move in and they were gonna develop a new relationship, they grounded that in reality I guess. They were like, ‘Well, what game are you guys playing right now?’ and we were like, ‘We’re playing Diablo.’ Next thing you knew, boom, it was in the script. (laughs). They’d made it a line.”

When you were at SDCC, was it difficult to keep yourself from going to all the gaming stuff? 

“(chuckles) Uh, no. There’s a really tight schedule on Comic Con. We are there from, I think we start at something like 7am and then it’s literally non-stop for the next 12, 13, 14 hours. There’s not really much deviating. But we did make the decision this year, me and Malcolm [Goodwin, who plays Clive Babineaux], we got there a day early, we got our passes a day early. So we actually hit the floor the night before. We didn’t do that last time because we figured we’d be able to do both. So, yeah, this time we went early to see the cosplay and there was a Liv cosplay. We got to do some shopping, got to see some action figures, so that’s how we do it now. What we do is, we make sure we get in the night before and get our tickets right away.”

 

 

Watch Rahul and the rest of the iZombie crew on Tuesday nights at 9pm EST/8pm CST on The CW.

Written by Erica Schaaf

Erica is a former social worker and mother of three who has been writing since she was a child. She currently writes fanfiction for the Veronica Mars and The 100 fandoms and is published on Kindle Worlds as well as fanfiction.net and archiveofourown.org. She hopes to one day have the chance to be a fly on the wall on set of her fave shows while filming!

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