Born In: Hammersmith, London, England
Kunal Nayyar is an Indian-British film, television, and theatre actor. He is best known for his role as ‘Rajesh Koothrappali’ in the successful CBS situational comedy series ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ When he was attending college, he began taking acting lessons and played roles in school plays. After graduating, he did a few American advertisement campaigns before appearing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2006 production of ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ at Stratford-upon-Avon in the United Kingdom. In 2007, Nayyar debuted on the small screen in an uncredited appearance in CBS’s ‘NCIS.’ In the same year, he landed the role of ‘Rajesh Koothrappali,’ a geeky astrophysicist with selective mutism disorder, in the sitcom ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ He then went on to host reality shows and appeared in major Hollywood productions. In 2015 and 2018, ‘Forbes’ magazine listed him among the world’s highest-paid television actors, thanks to the success of ‘The Big Bang Theory.’
Spouse/Ex-: Neha Kapur (m. 2011)
father: Rakesh Nayyar
mother: Heita Nayyar
Born Country: England
City: London, England
Notable Alumni: University Of Portland
education: Temple University, University Of Portland
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In 2004, while still studying, Kunal Nayyar appeared as the ‘Pizza Man’ in Jordan Noce’s film ‘S.C.I.E.N.C.E.’ After finishing his education, he spent the year 2006 doing American television advertisements as well as performing on stage in America, England, and India. His portrayal of ‘Navin,’ an Indian exchange student eager to experience the American culture, in the West Coast production of Rajiv Joseph’s play ‘Huck Holden’ earned him the ‘Garland Award’ for ‘Best Male Lead in a Play on the West Coast.’
He appeared in English and American productions of ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ by ‘Royal Shakespeare Company’ and ‘Shakespeare Theatre Company,’ respectively. Nayyar also collaborated with Arun Das for their play ‘Cotton Candy,’ which opened in New Delhi, India, to positive reviews. He made his television debut in 2007, appearing in a season four episode titled ‘Suspicion’ from the action police procedural series ‘NCIS,’ where he played ‘Youssef Zidan,’ an Iraqi terrorist.
There is an interesting story behind Kunal Nayyar’s popular role in ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ The characters ‘Rajesh Koothrappali’ and ‘Howard Wolowitz’ were not part of the original unaired pilot of the CBS show. When the test audience liked the two male lead characters, ‘Leonard Hofstadter’ and ‘Sheldon Cooper,’ played by Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons respectively, the producers decided to include two more such funny characters.
Thus before filming the second pilot, they included ‘Koothrappali’ and ‘Wolowitz,’ thinking if the audience “liked these first two guys, let’s give them two more.” Nayyar’s agent had heard about the producers casting for the role of a scientist of Indian descent and encouraged him to audition for the part. Although the character was initially named ‘Dave,’ an American born to Indian parents, it was changed to ‘Rajesh’ after Nayyar won the role, because he came off as “so Indian.” The show became a huge hit and the twelfth and final season of the series was aired on September 24, 2018.
Along with Helberg, Nayyar served as the co-host of the ‘Tribute to the Nerds’ show in 2011 at the comedy festival ‘Just for Laughs.’ In 2012, he voiced ‘Gupta’ in Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier’s ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift,’ his first animated project. Between 2013 and 2016, he voiced ‘Vijay’ in Nickelodeon’s ‘Sanjay and Craig.’
He did two films in 2014, the suspense thriller ‘The Scribbler’ and the romantic comedy ‘Dr. Cabbie.’ From May 5 to June 29, 2015, Nayyar portrayed ‘Kalyan,’ a Nepalese student and the protagonist’s roommate, in Jesse Eisenberg’s off-Broadway production ‘The Spoils.’ The play was also performed in London’s West End in 2016.
He guest-hosted CBS’s ‘The Late Late Show’ in 2015. He then went on to voice ‘Guy Diamond’ in DreamWorks’ 2016 animated film ‘Trolls.’ He reprised his role as ‘Guy Diamond’ in the TV special titled ‘Trolls Holiday’ (2017).
He also had a recurring role in the TV series ‘Fantasy Hospital’ where he played ‘Dr. Pakij.’ In 2019, he played ‘Dr. Robin Sathi’ in the drama film ‘Sweetness in the Belly.’ The following year, he reprised his voice role as ‘Guy Diamond’ in the computer-animated jukebox musical comedy film ‘Trolls World Tour.’ He also played ‘Mr. Mills’ in Gil Junger's American family sci-fi comedy drama film ‘Think Like a Dog.’
Kunal Nayyar was born on April 30, 1981, in Hounslow, London, England, UK, to Rakesh and HeitaNayyar. At an early age, he moved to New Delhi, India, where he was later educated at ‘St. Columba’s School.’ He used to play badminton during his youth. In 1999, Nayyar went to the US to study finance at the ‘University of Portland.’ During this period, he fell in love with acting. He attended acting classes and performed in various school plays.
It was after taking part in the ‘American College Theater Festival’ that he decided to become a professional actor. He enrolled at the ‘Temple University’ in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from where he eventually earned a Master of Fine Arts in acting.
Nayyar first met NehaKapur, a 2006 Femina Miss India Universe, in 2008 at a bar in New Delhi. Although he was intimidated by her height—she is 5’9 and he is 5’7—he asked her to sit down and bought her a drink. From there, it did not take long for the couple to fall in love with each other. They got married on December 22, 2011, in their hometown in a traditional Hindu ceremony that lasted six days. At present, the couple resides in Los Angeles, California, while his parents live in New Delhi.
He published his memoir ‘Yes, My Accent Is Real: and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You’ on September 15, 2015 through ‘Atria Books.’ As he humorously states in the book, it is not exactly a memoir—he is not a president, or an astronaut, or a Kardashian to publish one—but a collection of stories from his life.
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