By: Amrie Cunningham [My Take on TV]
I recently got to spend some time chatting with Shaun Majumder, Dr. Freddy on FOX’s UNHITCHED. Here’s what he had to say about his role, his show, what makes him feel cool in the nerdiest of ways, and why boxing Craig Bierko could make anyone nervous.
I enjoyed the show. I think Freddy is one of my favorite characters so far.
Shaun Majumder: That’s exciting.
Why, when you first heard about this show did you want this role? Or how did it come to be?
It was a very unique coming to be. I am currently working on a TV show in Canada called “This Hour in 22 minutes” which is like The Daily Show but it’s been around for 15 years. It’s a staple in Canadian television. It’s like Saturday Night Live meets The Daily Show so I do a lot of different characters on this show. Every year when pilot season rolls around, I usually leave here and go down to LA. Last year, some opportunities came up. I was going to stick around here in Canada, make some money, and then if there were auditions, I’d just put them on DVD and send them down.
Well, Unhitched came around, which at that time was called Rules For Starting Over. They were interested in the role of Dr. Bill. The character was described as the nebbish, not so great with the women, really kind of insecure, starting over. That was all the description I got, so I put myself on tape up here, sent it down. They loved it, they were like, “We want to fly you down, we’re really excited.” So they flew me down to test me.
The way the testing process goes, you go in and meet with the writers and the directors and the producers before you actually go to testing with the network. So I go into the room with Bobby Farrelly, the writers and everybody. They’ve seen my tape, they go “we love what you’re doing, but there is a character that you do on this hour has 22 minutes and that we’ve seen before. His name is Raj Binder. And Raj Binder is a character who’s this sweaty, over the top, indignant character that goes out and interviews people and it’s quite hilarious, but it’s more of a sketch character than anything that would ever appear on something like this. Bobby Farrelly goes, “We really love that character.” I was like, you want me to get all sweaty and constantly say like “do you not find it hot in here?’ And they were like, no no, we just think the essence of the guy is kind of meek, a little meek, a little naïve, but super sweet and vulnerable. He’s this Indian guy; we think the essence of him could be really good on the show. I was really hesitant. I was like, “No I don’t want to do that.” I just know where this is going to go. America doesn’t treat this kind of character very well, they’re very afraid of this kind of thing. Anyway, I was really resistant, but we work-shopped some stuff and we played with it. This was like an hour before I had to go and test with the network. We work-shopped it and it was really really funny, it fell really funny and I totally trust Bobby Farrelly because, well, he’s Bobby Farrelly. Then we went with it.
Now after that first audition with the network, that freaked the network out. The network said it was one of the funniest things they’d ever seen, but they were like, we don’t know what to do with this brown fellow. They sort of passed and moved on for my character and my agent fought to get me to go back in and test with a new group of people. And then Peter Farrelly sat me down and we did the same process. Except he threw in, “ya know what, I love a Canadian accent, can you do it in a Canadian accent, can you do it in an East Indian accent and do it straight.” Everybody just kind of went, nope, we gotta do it with the East Indian guy. And that’s how it came to be.
Is it a lot of fun on set?
There is a real fun chemistry. I know that a lot of ensemble casts, that can be true or it can be very false. In this case, man, it’s really fun. There’s not a lot of ego bouncing around the set and I think that’s a huge part of it. I think ego generally gets in the way and I think my ego is the best out of anybody. There’s no doubt. I am the most awesome at being egoless [laughing]. But everybody’s really great. There’s a really cool, smart sensibility about everybody and there is a really good chemistry, no question.
What is your favorite thing about your character?
I think the vulnerability is so important in people in general. When you see actors or characters on TV or film, in characters in the fictional world of moving pictures, those who are not vulnerable, those who are hard or solid and you never see a crack in their armor, you kind of go, aw, come on you’re not human. There’s something about his vulnerability that draws people in. The feedback has been that. It’s like, “oh my god, I feel for this guy, I want him to succeed.” When people want someone to succeed, they become invested. And investment is what I believe allows a viewer to stick with something and want to see them do well. Not that they’re doing poorly. But even the strongest characters, when you see a little bit of their vulnerability, it draws people in. I think of Juno right now with Ellen Page. She was solid, she was hard, but then you see that little glimmer, that little break, and that makes you go “she’s totally human”. I think that’s my favorite part about Dr. Freddy. He is vulnerable and he’s just sweet and kind and wants to do the best thing. The vulnerability is what I really enjoy playing.
What’s coming up for the show, why should people tune in?
The first episode, the pilot, is one of those weird things where you have to set the table for the rest of the series. It’s very difficult to do that all in one episode. You do need to stick with each episode, because as we move forward in the series, you do spend a little bit more time with each individual character. Other than the crazy antics that do go on, which are just super hilarious in my opinion, they make me laugh out loud, and I’m not saying that because I’m on the show. there are just glimmers, little peaks of what’s coming, and I know what’s coming, and I’m like, oh my god, that’s really funny, that makes me laugh. So there’s a whole lot more laughs, there’s a whole lot more water cooler moments that are coming up. You start to invest a little bit more in each character. It’s not to the point where it’s a Lost or a 24, where you need to follow stories. Each week is a stand alone. I think, our chemistry gets a lot better as we move forward, and the stories get better…..we need to have a lot more time spent to get to know everybody. It will form its core audience.
What are some TV shows that you watch?
I’m a huge fan of the British Office. I was a little concerned that the US Office wasn’t going to cut it. I think it does a fine job, it has its own flavor, its own taste, and I love it. I used to be a huge Star Trek geek. Not old Star Trek, the Next Generation. Did you know that Data’s planet was Omicron Theta? Did you know that?
I did not know that, and I’m glad I do now.
I feel pretty cool, in the nerdiest sense possible. I used to watch that. WKRP is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen. Cracks me up. There was a show that used to come on, called Mac the 2000 year old Mouse.
I have never heard of that.
[Laughing] You have an addiction problem with television and you don’t know this! You need to be more of a junkie. You’re addicted to TV and you don’t know about this show. It’s a very rare drug. It’s on You Tube. There’s one clip of Mac the 2000 Year Old Mouse.
Anything else that you want to add before I let you go?
Watch our show. It continues to get juicier and better. My fiancé is in the episode airing on March 23. Her name is Shelby Fenner who was just in Vantage Point which was an, ahem, feature film.
I haven’t seen that one yet.
Yeah, the movie’s okay, but she’s great ha. She’s in that episode; I’m really looking forward to seeing her knock the snot out of Craig Bierko. She boxes Craig Bierko. We watched Cinderella Man before we had to shoot the scene and we were a little bit nervous because Craig Bierko kills people in that movie.
I take it that everything turned out okay?
Be sure to check out all new episodes of Unhitched, Sundays at 9:30 on FOX.