South Asian actors in American TV Shows

We know you love Mindy Kaling and Aziz Ansari and Hannah Simone and Kunal Nayyar. We do, too! They’ve made us so proud by representing South Asians in the American media in a new light. In fact, there are several other American TV shows featuring South Asian actors and characters.

It’s time to widen your television viewing experience folks, so buckle up.

1. Danny Pudi on “Gilmore Girls”

Appearance: Seasons 6, 7

Pudi made an appearance as Raj on “Gilmore Girls” for four episodes. He worked with Rory Gilmore (Bledel) on the Yale newspaper. Kudos for not making him an IT guy, though. Pudi went on to star in “Community” as Abed for six seasons followed by the FOX superhero comedy “Powerless.”

2. Rahul Khanna and Annet Mahendru on “The Americans”

Appearance: Mahendru was a regular for seasons 1-3, Khanna appeared in seasons 2 and 3

Bollywood actor Khanna debuted into American TV with this excellent spy drama set in the 80’s. He played Yousaf Rana, an officer of the Pakistani ISI recruited by the KGB. He was intense in the role and we can’t wait to see him do more shows. Mahendru, meanwhile, proved to be one of the biggest assets of this show in her role as Nina Sergeevna, a clerical worker at the KGB who turned into an undercover informant for the Americans. Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, she is half Russian-half Indian. She’ appeared on episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy,” “White Collar,” and most recently, she played Nafisa Al-Qadi on FX’s “Tyrant.”

3. Arjun Gupta on “How To Get Away With Murder” 

Appearance: Season 1

This high-stakes, fast-paced thriller became an instant favorite as soon as it premiered. For 5 episodes in it’s first season, Gupta played Kan, a legal aid and lawyer who dates one of the protagonists. Since then, Gupta is starring in SyFy’s show “The Magicians” as William ‘Penny’ Adiyodi.

4. Nimrat Kaur, Raza Jaffrey, Suraj Sharma on “Homeland” 

Appearance: Season 4

Set in Pakistan (but shot in South Africa), “Homeland” season 4 saw three South Asian actors shine. “Life of Pi” star Suraj Sharma played medical student Ayaan, who becomes an informant of the protagonist Carrie, a CIA agent. Sharma made his Bollywood debut earlier this year opposite Anushka Sharma in “Phillauri.”

Jaffrey, who played counter-terrorism chief Aasar Khan, starred in other shows like “Elementary” and “Code Black.”

Kaur left quite an impression after playing Tasneem Qureshi, an ISI agent who actually works with the Taliban. Her work in Bollywood includes “Lunchbox” and “Airlift,” and she recently recurred on the FOX science-fiction drama “Wayward Pines.”

5. Sunkrish Bala on “Castle” (2009-2016 on ABC)

Appearance: Season 8

Bala, who had a guest starring roles in big shows like “The Walking Dead,” “Modern Family,” got his big break by playing FBI analyst Vikram Singh in the final season of “Castle.” He may have played a hacker and tech guy, which is quite typical, but Bala managed to ooze some humor to every scene he was in. He’s gone on to star in “Chee and T.”

6. Kal Penn on “Designated Survivor” 

Seasons: Regular cast

Penn needs no introduction. He is best known for his work in movies like “Harold & Kumar” and “The Namesake” and has appeared in highly valued TV shows, from “House” to “How I Met Your Mother.”

Penn also works actively with the Democratic party, he has been a member of Obama’s National Arts Policy Committee, was the co-chair of his reelection campaign among several other accomplishments. This suits him well because he currently stars as the press secretary Seth Wright ABC‘s political drama “Designated Survivor,” a role he plays with ease and versatility.

7. Tina Desai, Naveen Andrews, Anupam Kher, Purab Kohli on “Sense8” 

Seasons: Desai is regular, the rest appear in season 1

This larger-than-life sci-fi Netflix original show was crafted by Lana and Lily Wachowski. It tells the tale of eight sensates [born on the same day in different parts of the world but are inherently and deeply connected to one another]. Desai plays pharmacist Kala Dandekar, a sensate from Mumbai. Kher plays her father, Kohli her fiancé.

Through her character, the show explores Indian culture, practices, locations, and culture, just as they do with other places like Africa, Mexico, and Korea. It’s visually beautiful to witness. It only helps that the show navigates a complex, dramatic plot. Desai is a known face, thanks to her role in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and its sequel. Andrews plays Jonas Malicki, a sort of guide for the sensates. Another well-known figure, he is best known for his roles in “Lost.” Kher and Kohli are beloved Bollywood actors, although Kher is no stranger to Hollywood, having appeared in several movies, most notably “Silver Linings Playbook.”

8. Sachin Sahel on “The 100”

Seasons: Seasons 1-3

Sahel stars as Dr. Jackson on CW’s dystopian teen drama “The 100,” in which 97 years after the Earth has been destroyed, people now live in an Ark in space. 100 unruly teenagers are sent back to our planet to see if it’s habitable only for them to discover the people already living there. Sahel’s character is a moral, intelligent doctor who gets caught up in dangerous situations. He also starred in “Supergirl,” “The Magicians,” “Bates Motel” in the last couple of years.

9. Archie Punjabi on “Blindspot” 

Seasons: 2

Any fan of “The Good Wife” already knows and loves Punjabi. She played the badass bisexual aide Kalinda Sharma at a law company on the show for six seasons. Her character was much-loved and she won an Emmy for her performance. After the show ended in 2015, she did a guest spot on FOX’s comedy “Brooklyn 99” before fully immersing herself in her new role as Naz Kamal, head of a secret NSA wing, on “Blindspot.” As expected, she’s kicking ass here, too!

10. Noureen Dewulf on “Anger Management” 

Seasons: 2

After Sheen’s very public fall-out with Chuck Lorre about their show “Two and a Half Men,” he went on to create and star on “Anger Management” for 100 episodes. DeWulf starred as Lacey Patel, a patient of Charlie Goodson (Sheen), an anger management therapist. Her character is a very ditzy but bold woman on a mission to improve her life. DeWulf is hilarious and sexy in the show. After it ended, she went on to guest star in other shows like “Grandfathered,” “Life in Pieces,” and she’s done movies, too, including “They Came Together.”

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