A Chat with Ben Rappaport (“Outsourced”)

The last time I was out at the TCA tour, I talked to Lucas Neff, the star of Fox’s “Raising Hope,” and I was surprised to find that he was fronting a prime-time comedy when his only prior TV experience involved a couple of scenes in A&E’s “The Beast.” Little did I realize at the time that Ben Rappaport, the star of NBC’s “Outsourced,” was coming in with even less of a television background. I mean, literally, it’s “Outsourced,” and that’s it. When I was in Pasadena earlier this month, I managed to meet and chat with Rappaport for a few minutes about the way his series has been coming along and found out his feelings on the change in the show’s timeslot. Fortunately, it sounds like tonight’s 10:30 PM debut is the perfect way to show newcomers to “Outsourced” just how far it’s come since its debut.

Bullz-Eye: I was actually a fan of the show as soon as I heard about the concept: I used to work in a call center myself.

Ben Rappaport: (Laughs) That’s so great!

BE: Did you have any call center experience yourself?

BR: I did not! My aunt works in a call center, but that’s it. I knew nothing about them…aside from, y’know, occasionally contacting one. (Laughs) But, you know, I didn’t know what was behind them, what was on the other end of that phone. It’s an office, and they have their own office politics and culture there.

BE: When the pilot came out, I know a lot of people kind of bashed it, but how do you think the show has evolved since then?

BR: I think it’s evolved big time! I mean, you know, the term “outsourced” was a way for us to get to India, and now I think everybody’s gotten to know our characters and the relationships and the dynamics. It’s stories about what’s happening between these characters. It’s not political. There’s no agenda there. It’s not sarcastic in any way. We’re just telling a story of people in India.

BE: I was impressed with the direction that it took as far as your romantic storyline. I didn’t expect you to hook up with either of your potential romantic interests quite as quickly as you did.

BR: (Laughs) It was kind of quick, wasn’t it?

BE: Yeah. It’s not bad. It was just surprising.

BR: Yeah, but while it was quick, I think there’s still lots of places to go with it. I mean, I think part of the story might be that it was too quick.

BE: I considered that. Just how long-term is the relationship going to be if they’re willing to jump into the physical side of it that quickly?

BR: (Grins) My point exactly! So we’ll see. We have a long way to go, in terms of fleshing out that whole situation.

BE: Were you surprised that it became so popular right out of the box? I mean, granted, it’s a premise that I could see viewers embracing despite the critics not really loving it…

BR: I think so, too. I wasn’t necessarily surprised that people embraced it, because I really believed in it when I signed on. I mean, when I read the script, I just laughed out loud. Like, just true gut laughter. There’s a lot of time where it’s polite laughter, but it’s just true, honest laughter. And I think it’s…you know, we’re in a place now where we’re able to watch a TV show that takes place in a different country, about a completely different culture, and still accept it into our homes every week and relate to it.

BE: It’s nice that your character is still able to have interaction with people in the States through the wonder of Skype…or some equivalent thereof. Are those weird scenes to play?

BR: The Skype scenes? Those are funny, because we’re just doing it to a blank screen, and then they superimpose it. But what’s great about it is that we have very generous actors on our show, so usually the actor will be in the room with you, reading the other text so that you’re not having to pretend to hear them or something. It makes it a lot easier.

BE: How is the camaraderie between the cast?

BR: It’s fantastic.

BE: It seemed pretty solid from the pilot.

BR: It was, and since then it’s grown even more. I mean, we’re family. It’s like going to summer camp every single day when you’re going to work. (Laughs) I wish I were joking, but I’m not! We hang out together outside of work, and we live close by to each other. I know a lot of casts that don’t quite bond like we do, but the way I feel is that if we’re having fun, then the audience will have fun watching us have fun.

BE: Can you speak to a little bit on how the rest of the season is going to go?

BR: Well, you know, they don’t… (Hesitates) I can tell you a couple of episodes that are coming up. Our first episode coming back next week, it’s January 20th and it’s at 10:30 PM, which is our new timeslot, after “30 Rock” now on Thursdays. That one starts off with a big Bollywood dance number.

BE: Yeah, actually, they showed us a clip of that today between sessions.

BR: Yeah, there’s a little clip that they just released on the internet today, and there’s a lot of stuff going on there. I get to play guitar, Anisha (Nagarajan) gets to sing, you see Parv (Cheena) dance…it’s a big way to start, so I’m really excited about that.

BE: I’m impressed that you guys waited this long to actually try something Bollywood-esque. I presume that was a conscious decision not to dive headlong into it.

BR: Oh, yeah. Why throw it all out there at the beginning? Might as well draw it all out and save the best for last.

BE: Are there any guest stars upcoming that you’re aware of?

BR: Not that I’m aware of, no. They don’t really tell us that kind of stuff as of yet.

BE: You brought up the new timeslot. How do you guys feel about that? A little skittish, I’d guess.

BR: Well, you know, it’s not really…I don’t think it’s that bad. I mean, we used to follow “The Office,” and now we follow “30 Rock.” And “30 Rock” is on par with “The Office” in terms of the quality and the people who watch it. It was an honor to follow “The Office,” and it’s an honor to follow “30 Rock,” so we’re happy. And I think this three-hour comedy block is really cool, and I think it’s a unique…you know, people haven’t tried comedy in this hour for, like, what, 15 years or something like that? And I think our show is the show to pioneer or experiment with that, because our show is such a new idea, and that timeslot is such a new idea. Hopefully, it’ll work out.

  

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