A successful actor and writer with three children’s books and a solo play under his belt, Anil Kumar is a real renaissance man. But that doesn’t explain why he was slapped around during his current story arc on NBC’s “State of Affairs.”
“All my friends have been breaking my balls. They’ve been hash-tagging me #BitchSlap,” Kumar said, laughing, when reached by phone. “Adam Kaufman, who I was acting with in that scene, he’s freaking amazing.”
On the show, Kumar plays Ahmad Ahmadi, a college professor whose student managed to sneak into the White House. Ahmadi has been on the government’s radar for a while and ends up in an interrogation room with an angry Lucas Newsome, played by Kaufman. Newsome takes his frustrations out on Professor Ahmadi’s face.
“The director is a guy named P.J. Pesce. It was really an intense, intense scene,” Kumar continued. “We shot that scene again and again, over and over like 12 takes. And P.J. was just sitting there over in video village, just sort of off-camera going: ‘Again! Again! Again! Do it again!’”
The actor said that scene was one of the most freeing and most amazing experiences he has ever had on the set: “That being said, I will tell you [Kaufman] connected once or twice. So I actually, literally did get bitch-slapped. There is that moment that happens when suddenly everything just gets real.”
Doctor, doctor, or doctor?
The actor, who enjoyed a five-week run of his solo play, “Rise and Shine…Or I Thought I Was White,” said he also teaches acting. “One of the things I tell my students all the time is ‘Go out and experience life. Do other things other than acting.’ Anything you do outside of acting will enrich you as a human being and will only make you a better actor,” he said.
But growing up in Ohio, he didn’t see himself becoming an actor.
“There’s a line in my play: “For an Indian kid growing up back in the 1970’s and 80’s, there were really on 3 choices of professions you can be. And that is doctor, doctor…and doctor,” he explained. “As a kid, I was like ‘Sure, I’ll be a doctor.’ As I started to grow up, I was like ‘Wait a minute. I want to do what I want to do.’ In my home it was India; when I stepped outside, it was America.”
In truth, Kumar didn’t come to acting until his last year as an undergrad.
“I was on the extended, five-year party plan. My last semester, I was just taking a bunch of electives,” he explained. I only had one or two classes I had to take. I ended up taking a Shakespeare class [and] I fell in love with Shakespeare. I thought to myself if there is ever any type of acting I’d want to do, it would be Shakespeare.”
Making good television
No stranger to the small screen, Anil Kumar has a variety of leading, recurring, and guest-starring television roles to his credit. He has appeared in monster hits such as “24” as well as “The Cape,” a show that fell short of expectations.
“I don’t think people understand generally how difficult it is to make good television. It’s really extraordinarily difficult [with] all the people that are involved in it,” he said. “I think ‘State of Affairs’ has the potential to catch that lightning in a bottle. I was on ’24’ for a while, and ‘24’ has got that pulse, that beat that keeps your heart beating, makes your palms sweaty. You’re watching and you are on the edge of your seat. That is very difficult to accomplish, and they did that so well.”