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Exclusive Interview with Karan Brar of BUNK’D

Photo Credit: Wes Klain
  Photo Credit: Wes Klain

When Karan Brar first landed the role of Ravi Ross, he was super bummed out. He had been auditioning for the character of Luke in a new show called Jessie. He had made it through multiple auditions and was competing now against an actor named Cameron Boyce. At that point, Ravi Ross didn’t even exist.

“I thought, wow I did such a bad job they kind of gave me a pity role,” Brar said. “And my executive producer was like ‘No, no, no, this is NOT a pity role, I assure you. We rarely write characters for actors.’ And she was like ‘You nailed that audition and we really wanted to have you here.'”

Now, after four seasons playing Ravi on Jessie, Karan is entering his second season on the resulting spinoff show BUNK’D. The renewal for the spinoff was announced in February. Brar remembers finding out through an email that he and his cast had been renewed, though he admits he was a bit preoccupied stressing about school.

Starting on Tuesday, Aug. 23, Disney Channel aired a new episode premiering each night at 8 p.m. through Friday, Aug. 26. Ahead of the show’s return to its normal night and time on September 16, we got Karan on the phone to discuss what to expect this season, plus some of his own summer camp secrets.

You’ve been through the experience of being renewed several times before, but this is a new show. What does it mean to you that the series is still as successful?

It means a lot. It’s kind of crazy how dedicated our fans have been and how supportive they’ve been of us. Sometimes, you know, in today’s world, our attention spans aren’t that long and to have our fans be with us since day one is crazy. It’s also funny because parents will come up to us and be like “Hey we watched you guys grow up” and it’s crazy because we went from 11-year-olds to 17-year-olds that are about to enter college. (laughs). But it’s amazing how great the fans have been throughout the years and how they keep tuning in. It means a lot, and it really shows they appreciate the hard work that we put into the show.

So far, the whole cast has been saying that season two is bigger and better, and it has lots of adventures. With so much action, how do you keep yourself just physically going?

A lot of coffee. (laughs). Well, I love coffee, period. But, I think it’s just the hype of everyone else, because everyone’s really happy to come to work and everyone’s really in love with what they’re doing. To have that energy on set doesn’t make it a dread, it makes it an excitement. The only difficult part of our show is having to get everything on time, because the episodes are so crazy, we need to make sure that we get all the things that we need and all the shots that we need, by the time everyone needs to clock out. That’s the only stressful part of it. But it’s the energy of everyone else that keeps us going, and that positive vibe and that excitement as you progress to the next set. It’s all in that rush.

Do you know all the shenanigans you’ll be doing when you go in? Or are you sometimes surprised when you come into work?

(laughs). It’s always a surprise when I get the Friday script. Sometimes the writers will hint to us what’s going to happen, but we’re always kept on our toes. So it’s not like we’ll be told six episodes in advance “Oh, here’s what your characters are doing.” So we’ll be reading the script, and we’ll be thrown off about where our characters are going, but it’s also really fun! It keeps us on our toes, and it switches things up.

We know that Cameron Boyce is returning for an episode called “Luke Out Below.” Peyton List mentioned in one interview that this episode has a mountain set, and harnesses, what can you tell us about that episode?

Without having someone hunt me down and killing me, I can say confidently as Peyton List said that there WILL be a mountain and a lot of harnesses. (laughs). It’s crazy because we are literally in a box. We are in a box soundstage. They wrote in the episode…Cameron comes back, and there’s a mountain, and that’s all I can say. We had to improvise and build a fake mountain, which is surprisingly really easy and it’s hard at the same time. The turnaround on the episode is really fast, but also really fun. It’s a crazy episode, and it kind of shows you the woes of a green screen and stuff. Because, with superhero actors, people in Marvel films and whatnot, they’re in green screens all the time. So, for us, we kind of had to be occasionally reminded, “Hey guys, let’s not make it this casual, like, we could die.” (laughs).

During the week of premieres, you and the cast were all together live tweeting. What was it like to see the work you all produced at the same time?

I think it was really fun to see who laughed at whose jokes. (laughs). We’re so cast-specific when we watch the episodes so it’s like “Okay I could’ve nailed that joke better” or “I could’ve done this better.” So we’re really nit-picky about our episodes. And I remember, while we were doing our live tweets, we were just sitting there, and it was dead silence, and Peyton’s line came up, and it was her joke, and I literally went “HA! That was funny!” And Peyton looks over and just genuinely goes “Oh my gosh, thank you!” (laughs). And I was like “No thank you!” And she laughed at my jokes, so it’s funny to see it all put together. Even though we’ve heard these jokes 50 times over, we still get a kick out of them.

And you’ve been playing Ravi Ross for about five years now!

Yeah, it’s been five, we’re closing in on six years! It feels like even though we’ve been doing this character for awhile, I feel like every week is a very new and very different adventure. So I’m always being put on my feet, and it never feels like there’s a regular flow to things.

What would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from playing Ravi thus far, both from the character and the work perspective?

In the workspace, it’s “never stop learning.” As an actor, it’s SO easy to get cocky and just assume “Oh, I know how to direct” and “I’m an amazing actor, I’m on a TV show, so everything’s perfect!” But I think it’s important to remember as an actor that the people around you sometimes have 20+ years of experience on you, so you should learn as much as you can so you can understand how the machine works. That’s what I’ve tried to do in my work, is to understand “how does this person do their job?” I can better understand how the machine works and how I can make my performance blend with everything else. It keeps you more humble when you’re trying to learn more. And from a Ravi perspective, I think what’s crazy is that we’re complete opposites. I’m literally another person when I’m playing him. So I try to learn from him in the sense that he’s very confident in himself. Yeah sure, he might be shot down at times, but he’s very confident with his body and who he is, and the kind of person he is. I definitely try to take after that and embody that confidence.

You’ve said that one of the things that makes the show great is that it’s relatable; not everyone’s lived in a penthouse, but most people have been to camp at some point. Do you have any good summer camp memories of your own?

I did a lot of research for Bunk’d. I actually went to camp for a whopping two days back in 5th grade. (laughs). So I have TONS of experience. (laughs). No, but back in 5th grade I did like a two-day retreat, and it was both the most miserable experience and best experience of my life. (laughs). It was Seattle, so it was rainy and really really cold. It was fun to be out in the wilderness, but we were also shivering cold. But it was fun to be out with your friends and be in your own cabin and have that bit of independence. It was cool to hang out with your friends and be in the mess hall; that was one of my favorite experiences, getting up in the morning and eating at the mess hall with my friends. Even though it was only two days, it was still…I get that kind of love that the characters have with Camp Kikiwaka. That’s where their second home is.

I also had a 5th-grade camping experience, called Nature’s Classroom. The day we were supposed to leave I just sobbed because I didn’t want to go but I ended up loving it.

That’s hilarious. I became a smuggler, like I’m not proud of it. But we were told, when you’re going into camp, no cell phones unless you need it, no outside snacks. And one of my friends went to the grocery store…

Oh no.

Yeah, it gets really bad really fast. They bought giant marshmallows, and it was like “Oh my gosh, do you guys want to have giant marshmallows?” And I was like “YES, but what if the teacher catches us?” And they were just like “It’s okay, we’ll smuggle it in our backpacks.” So for the weekend, I smuggled in giant marshmallows. I’m not proud of it, but I did do it. (laughs). I was a low-class marshmallow smuggler! It could have escalated out of control, but thankfully I ended up in the entertainment business! (laughs)

At least you got on the right on track! So, later this year your co-star Peyton List is starring in the new DCOM “The Swap.” If you guys were to have a “swap” episode of Bunk’d, which character would you like to portray?

Ooh…you know what, I’m gonna go back to the same one and go with Peyton! Because Peyton’s and Ravi’s characters are so opposite and so relatable at the same time, with their confidence. But it’s so funny to see them interact, and to see them out of their bodies and out of their comfort zones would be hilarious. I mean, Emma, how she walks into the room is very different than how Ravi walks into a room, and I think it’d be funny to see them in different bodies and see how they would react. Ravi being like “Oh okay, now I have blonde hair” and Emma being like “Okay, now I’m a 5′ 2″ Indian boy.” (laughs). It would be different!

During a recent Twitter Q&A, you mentioned you’d like to do a BUNK’D crossover with Bizaardvark, how do you imagine that going down? Would they come to camp?

I think…because I am a Bizaardvark fan. I think that show is hilarious. That show, I remember when it aired I was like those girls are hilarious! And I think one of the things on that show, they do like a live show with their music, so we could have it crossover that way, where we somehow get a plane ticket to meet them in LA. Either way, that would be awesome.

When Bizaardvark first came out I couldn’t stop listening to the theme song, it was too catchy.

(laughs) I know right! It’s funny, Kevin [Quinn] also has a few songs this season, and there was this one song that ended up on my iPhone playlist. So I’ll be driving into work, and sometimes the song will play, and it’ll be stuck in our heads for like a week because it’s super catchy! I don’t know how it got on the playlist.

What is one secret from Bunk’d that people probably don’t know?

Just how hectic it is. I think that sometimes people forget that even though we’re on a camp set, it’s a crazy show. One, the set is ginormous, we have a lot of people on there. It’s also like, the things we have to cover sometimes can be a lot to do in two days. Like the mountain set, we have with Cameron coming back. That was a lot to shoot because, not only were the actors in harnesses all day, but also just having to get those technical shots, like high up. They had to put the cameras on lifts so they could get the right shots. I think it’s really cool, because the fans recognize how much effort goes into the show, and they always tune in every week. So I have to give them a thank you, to the crew and the fans for just being supportive and hard-working.

You’re pretty active on social media, and I found your very first tweet today and ironically…

Oh my gosh…no. Please. (laughs)

You tweeted “MY first tweet and I am at work, haha!” Are you guys still on your phone a lot at work?

Oh my gosh, that was a bad moment in Karan’s life. Karan had a lot of progress on Twitter…I don’t know why Karan’s speaking in the third person right now, but he does. He has a lot of progression on Twitter. (laughs). You know what, I couldn’t figure out social media for the life of me, so I had Debby [Ryan] make my account for me. I’m helpless, so she helped me make my Twitter. But, we try our best not to use our phones on set. If we have a break or something then we’ll go on, but when we’re like working working, and we’re getting notes, and we’re on set, we’ll keep our phones away with our script supervisor who holds onto them or our parents. We keep them off the set.

Do you try to sneak a selfie every once in awhile?

The crew sometimes helps us out with that. For future episodes we kind of stockpile some photos so we can have something to post. So sometimes if we have a funny gag, the crew will take photos, and they’ll send it off to us, which is awesome because it just keeps the memories going. The most embarrassing moments on set will be immortalized forever.

Now, it’s back to school time, and for you guys, it’s back to camp time. But I know education is an important cause to you, do you have any advice for those getting back into the swing of things?

Time management man. I’m going through the same thing with the 12th grade, applying to college and taking your ACT or SAT. I think the best thing to do is, regardless of what school year you’re in, just remember your education comes first. Even if your friends want to go out and hang out, you have to prioritize yourself and what is best for you at times. So just keep time management in the back of your head and do what you need to do now so that you can have a bunch of fun later.

What’s going to keep fans tuning into BUNK’D this season?

I think what’ll keep them tuned in is the development of characters. We’re showing examples of typical teenage life and how sometimes there’s that kid that’s going down the wrong path and tries to figure out his footing. Just those normal storylines that everyone can relate to and get along with. But also just the absurdity of our show sometimes. We go to the weirdest places. We come back to a very normalized lesson and normalized situation, but we do go to different fun places. We always try to push the boundaries with our show, like okay this week is done, what can we do next week that will push it and switch things up and move the story along.

 

Season two of BUNK’D returns Friday, September 16 at 8 p.m. ET.

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