Actor Maulik Pancholy presented “Diversity on Screen” in Scripps’ Garrison Theater March 22. Pancholy’s talk touched upon his experiences as an Indian-American actor in shows such as 30 Rock, Weeds and Whitney. As an individual, Pancholy never considered his ethnicity a vital part of himself until he began auditioning for roles, at which point, he said, “my ethnicity was thrust upon me, and I realized I had to take ownership of it.”
Pancholy discussed Hollywood’s portrayal of minorities on TV and how his characters personally have evolved beyond the normal Indian-American stereotype.
“We’re starting to see more truthful portrayals,” Pancholy said. “The problem is, telling the truth isn’t always pretty.”
Pancholy cited 9/11 as an event that led to typecasting terrorists based on race. He personally played a Muslim extremist on Law & Order.
“It’s a story that needs to be told,” Pancholy said. “But what happens when that’s the only story being told about brown people?”
He encouraged students to create their own stories once they graduate—stories which have the power to portray ethnicity in a truthful and multidimensional way; stories which have the power to rewrite Hollywood.