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RUSHI KOTA | ON NETFLIX’S ‘NEVER HAVE I EVER’

October 7, 2021

Read the full interview on Flaunt.com!

Rushi Kota is far more than just an actor, he’s the definition of someone who’s down-to-earth and lives life to the fullest. In describing himself, he states, “I’m pretty sarcastic, I make a lot of stupid jokes. [laughs] And I’m pretty vibrant.”

You may have seen him playing the role of Dr. Vik Roy on the hit television series Grey’s Anatomy on ABC, but most recently he returns to Season 2 of Netflix’s hit show Never Have I Ever, created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher. Stepping into a deeper role, his character Prashant plays the love interest to a first generation, Indian American girl, who got hitched via an arranged marriage.

Hailing from the suburbs of Queens, New York, Rushi was born to a single mother who moved them to the United States to give her son the best life possible. Of course, making it in Hollywood (or entertainment in general), you need to put in the work, stay passionate, and never give up. After ditching his Automotive Engineering degree, Rushi was accepted into Harvard University’s  MFA program for Acting.

Now, Rushi is living the American Dream and doing what he loves, with a goal to break stereotypes in Hollywood and be seen for more than just his skin color.

Flaunt caught up with Rushi via Zoom who had just returned to Los Angeles from Atlanta, where he was shooting NBC’s Ordinary Joe. Read below as we discuss his upbringing, biggest influences, when he fell in love with acting, what it meant to be on Grey’s Anatomy, breaking down the stereotypes of Hollywood, Season 2 of Never Have I Ever, training for a triathlon, love for EDM, fashion sense, and more!

You were born in India but grew up in Queens. What was your upbringing like?

I came to America when I was 8 years old. And growing up in Queens was really hard. When I first came to the States, I didn’t know any English at all. It was a very confusing time because there were no other Indians around me. As I was growing up I wasn’t Indian enough to be Indian, then not American enough to be American. There was this whole HipHop influence happening in Queens and New York. At that time, I didn’t know who to be or how to be. It was a trip. [laughs]

Biggest influences? Who were you looking up to?

Right now? Let’s see, Ryan Reynolds, Idris Elba he’s dope. Chadwick Boseman, my God. The dude is so nice, so talented. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts‎, Off Camera with Sam Jones. I listened to Kumail Nanjiani, Riz Ahmed, Mindy Kaling. Hearing about their experiences and being able to relate to that, it’s been eye-opening.

When did you realize you wanted to act or fell in love with it?

Right after I graduated from college with my undergrad. I did a whole Bachelor’s in Engineering and said “I really don’t want to do this anymore.” [laughs] I wanted to be a Formula 1 racer.

No way! Is that like NASCAR? 

No. There’s Formula 1, then there’s NASCAR. But Formula 1 is the cars that go really fast, so that’s what I wanted to do. That’s what my life ambition was, and I realized how so far away from that I can possibly be. I studied Automotive Engineering.

What was your first big break you would say?

My first big break was Grey’s Anatomy. Having the caliber of experience on that show and being able to be on it for more than one season, that was my biggest break.

How did it feel to be on such a critically-acclaimed show?

It was really cool. I think I was one of the first Indian Americans to have a character that was long-term on the show. Learning from all the OG’s who’d been there: Ellen, Chandra, James, Justin, and how humble they all are. Even after that many seasons of being on the show,   they’re so very open and accepting. It taught me a lot, they took me under their wing.

What did you learn from Harvard?

I got my Master’s in Fine Arts in Acting. I did a 2.5 year program there. [Laughs] We did our residency at the MXAT-Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia, I learned Russian for about 9 months. I didn’t know much about acting when I got to my Master’s Program so I was a total open book. A sponge, I absorbed everything that they taught.

What’re you most excited for with Season 2 of Never Have I Ever?

So Season 2 is out, it came out in July. Again it was a global phenomenon on Netflix, just blew everything off the charts. To have another season of a show be so successful and tell these really authentic stories of people of color, especially in America, and have it be so relatable to everyone and everyone’s experience is a really nice feeling to have. The show got picked up for Season 3, which is huge. Hopefully I still have a job waiting for me. [laughs]

I’m pretty sure you’ll be good right? [laughs]

Yeah that’s what I’m hoping for.

What does it mean to be breaking down the stereotypes In Hollywood? How true is the character to your own experiences?

It’s a very important time for people of color to be in Hollywood right now. The change is happening right now and it’s been happening. We’ve been seeing it happen for a very recent time, the past 3 or 4 years has been aggressively shifting. There’s been a huge call for diversity on and off the screen. Finally, we get people of color really getting to tell their story. It’s really a good time to be people like us.

It’s really fun because we don’t have to play our set race. We don’t have to just play only the Indian guy, or only the Chinese guy. We can branch out and do other things, and Hollywood is finally acknowledging that. The noise is so big out there that they’re like “yo we gotta give these people a shot.”

How is it working with Mindy and Lang, the creatives of the show? Fondest memories on set?

Just having the opportunity. Especially working with Lang, I haven’t gotten the chance to work with Mindy as much. It’s really fun to be on set and everybody is so appreciative of the fact they get an opportunity to do that. Lang is so wonderful, she’s easy to talk to. She’s directed the last episode of Season 2, it’s just so easy to work with her. She gets it. She’s a total actor/director.

What’s your favorite episode from this season?

My favorite episode would be where Prashant and Kamala finally have their very intimate moment and they kiss. That’d be my favorite episode, there’s been such a build to that then it just happens. There’s so much nerves, chemistry and energy. All of that is very visible in that episode.

What do you feel when you act?

I feel a lot of joy. When the adrenaline’s finally pumping, that’s my happy place. I finally get to live in the unknown. That’s when I know I’m really in the moment.

How does it feel to be nominated for an Emmy with Grey’s Anatomy?

I think they made our show to fit a category, and it fit that category. It was the best short form of drama or comedy that’s specific for prime time. I did get nominated for an Emmy and I was very happy. Oh my gosh, this never happened before. We shot 6 mini episodes and to be a lead in that and even have that, whoa that’s really cool.

I know you like to workout, how often do you workout?

I workout 6 days a week. [Laughs] Right now, I’m training for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon that’s benefiting The Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. That’s happening.

Are you excited or nervous?

I’m actually pretty nervous. Last month I felt really fit, and this month I’ve been traveling back and forth from Atlanta. I’m still training as hard as I possibly can until the triathlon, then I’ma let all go. [laughs]

Who do you listen to when you workout?

I listen to a lot of EDM. A lot of David Getta, that’s my jam. Axwell, David and Morten, Afrojack. Oh yeah, Alesso. EDM’s great. I’m seeing RÜFÜS DU SOL in November. My wife and I, we jam out to RÜFÜS DU SOL’s set in Joshua Tree on youtube. There’s one part of it, it’s literally like they’re calling the aliens. It’s so cool. [laughs]

The aliens?! 

Yeah. If you Google “RÜFÜS DU SOL, Joshua Tree” on YouTube, their whole set comes and they set this up in Joshua Tree. There’s this one part to their set and they’re all vibing out, the lights are going. It honestly sounds like there’s aliens about to land. [laughs]

How would you describe your fashion sense?

My fashion sense is fitted clothes. Sometimes very military style, like combat boots. What I’m wearing right now, my pants have pockets on the side. They’re all tapered towards the leg, also loose.

Any goals for yourself at this point in your career?

Yeah, I’d hope so. [laughs] To land a season regular on a network show, that’s what I’m hoping for coming up. Have enough credits and experience to take me there, to do an action-comedy all in one. Something with some butt whooping in there, but also a lot of dialogue and characters who are broken trying to figure themselves out. That’d be a goal of mine. I’d also like to put on some weight. [laughs] I want to get to 175, I’m at 160 now.

Do you eat healthy?

I do, I think that’s the problem. I eat really healthy and I workout a lot so I’m burning a lot of calories. In order for me to get to 175, I actually have to be eating even more. I don’t know if my mouth can handle all that. [laughs]

That sounds like a great problem. [laughs]

No it’s not! Because I’m a hard gainer, it’s pretty rough.

What’re you most excited for this year as the world opens back up?

I’m excited for this show Ordinary Joe, it premiered on NBC. My character comes in Episode 5 and he stays until the end of the season. It’s very different from what I’ve played before. It’s set in this political landscape, even though the show’s about Joe who’s made all these different choices and follows the path of the choices he’s made. I’m excited for this new character that’s so very different from me.

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