LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Rizwan Manji drew the attention of the Indian American community with his role on the television show “Outsourced.” Since then he has been busy with his latest outing as Reverend Jax in an episode of “Perfect Harmony,” to be aired on Dec. 12 on NBC.
The thrill for him about this episode, he told India-West, stems from two reasons: the episode is Bollywood centric and the girl, who plays the part of his sister, is his daughter.
The episode is a musical mashup of Bollywood with Christmas carols. “I love being on this show simply because I get to do things I haven’t done before, like singing and dancing. It’s something that I am having so much fun doing! It’s all so surreal,” Manji told India-West, adding, “I am having a blast with the cast.”
Anna Camp, Bradley Whitford and Will Reenberg are among those who headline the show.
A proud father, Manji talked about how his daughter Ayana Manji auditioned for the part and got it. (Unlike what happens often in Bollywood!)
On the trend of having “ethnic” roles on television Manji agrees that it is a growing phenomenon. “I feel that networks are doing a very good job of developing shows “that are centered around Desis. Like there is a show that’s a spinoff of ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ with Preity Zinta and Vir Das. In a diverse country, you want to get as much of an audience as possible. I feel diversity in general is good economics.”
Speaking of clichés, Manji said that the drama genre is where he finds the clichés problematic because people view dramas as real life. He explained that a study had found that there are those who don’t know a Muslim in real life. So whatever representation they see on TV – like on shows like “24,” where the Muslim is a terrorist – is assumed to be what Muslims are like.
“We are in desperate need for representation of Muslims,” Manji asserted to India-West. “There is a lot more leeway in comedy, I don’t know if I find that to be the case in drama.”
The actor shared some of the show he likes. “Fleabag,” he said, he could not stop watching once he started. He finds Phoebe Waller-Bridge “just amazing.” On networks, “This is Us” is a favorite.
Of course, he has a soft spot for “Schitt’s Creek.” Manji exclaimed, “It was on for four years before anyone even knew about it, and then it got nominated for an Emmy this year!” Season 6 airs in January.