Filming TBBT Was Torture For Kunal Nayyar. Here's Why
'I was handicapped.'
- Each member of the Pasadena gang was given a striking trait to set them apart from the others.
- For Kunal Nayyar, Rajesh Koothrappali's feature became a burden as the show progressed.
- Fortunately, the character changed and the actor was finally able to feel free on the set.
Each of them has gone through a huge character development and changed a lot over the course of the show's 279 episodes. But back in the days when they hadn't yet grown on us, the creators gave each of them a special trait that would set them apart from the others.
For Rajesh Koothrappali, aka Raj, that distinguishing feature was his selective mutism. In the very first episode, we learn that Raj is unable to speak in front of women unless he is drunk.
This created the perfect ground for countless gags.
In the early seasons, whenever Raj wanted to say something in the presence of a woman, he would whisper it in Howard's ear and then the whole routine would happen. At first, Howard doesn't want to say Raj's thought to the room because he thinks it's stupid or offensive. But then he does it, while scoffing at Raj.
Of course, Raj's issue brought numerous relationship problems and quirky romantic sketches. For example, Raj once dated Siri on his phone simply because she was the only female he could communicate with.
All of this gave us plenty of fun and memorable moments. But for Raj's actor, Kunal Nayyar, filming the first half of TBBT was anything but fun.
When Silence Is Not Golden
For an actor, the voice is one of the most powerful instruments. It is hard to imagine playing a lead role without lines. Yet Kunal Nayyar had to do it for years. And it was annoying, to say the least.
'It was definitely frustrating because there were episodes where I knew I could contribute in ways [but] I was handicapped by the character's issue,' the actor said in an interview with Jessica Radloff (via TVLine). 'There were a lot of scenes where I would sit and sit and sit and then I would have to whisper something and Simon got to tell the joke.'
Having Simon Helberg (Howard's actor) deliver jokes for him must have been off-putting and disappointing. When you are a part of something as big as TBBT, you want to give it your all. But there were whole episodes at times where Raj didn't even have a single word to say.
'After a while, I would open scripts and see if I was in scenes with a female character,' Nayyar shared.
It took six full seasons for Raj to overcome his selective mutism. In the Season 6 finale, Raj suddenly speaks up in front of Penny, and just like that, his problem is over. For the actor, it felt like a new beginning and a cause for celebration.
'The freedom to be able to speak without that was really nice, just from an acting point of view,' the actor told Radloff.