“I can't explain why I wanted to act. I think being an artist is not a profession you choose, it chooses you.” Aasif Mandvi
India-born, England-raised actor and comedian Aasif Mandvi was the recipient of the 1999 Obie Award thanks to his work in the one-man show “Sakina's Restaurant,” for which he toured in various cities like Los Angeles, Boston, Pittsburg, Chicago, Toronto and London. A member of the New York based sketch comedy group The Associates, Mandvi also acted in a Broadway production of “Oklahoma,” which was directed by Trevor Nunn, and in other plays like “Homebody/Kabul,” “Einstein's Gift,” “On the Razzle” and “Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom.” Since August 2006, Mandvi has been a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
On the wide screen, the University of South Florida graduate is perhaps most popular for playing Mr. Aziz on Sam Raimi's “Spider-Man 2” (2004). Other film credits include “Die Hard: With a Vengeance” (1995, with Bruce Willis), “The Siege” (1998, with Denzel Washington), “Analyze This” (1999, with Robert De Niro), “Random Hearts” (1999, with Harrison Ford), “American Chai” (2001), “The Mystic Masseur” (2001), “Undermind” (2003), “Freedomland” (2006) and “Ghost Town” (2008). Mandvi will play roles in David Kaplan's “7 to the Palace” (2009, with Kevin Corrigan and Dean Winters) and Anne Fletcher's “The Proposal” (2009). As a television performer, Mandvi has appeared in a number of series, including “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Oz,” “Tanner on Tanner,” “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City,” “The Bedford Diaries,” “ER,” “Jericho,” and different editions of “Law & Order,” including “Criminal Intent,” “Special Victims Unit” and “Trial by Jury.”
Childhood and Family:
Aasif Mandvi was born Aasif Mandviwala on March 5, 1966, in Bombay (Mumbai), India, to a Muslim family. He was raised in Bradford, England, until age 16. His family then relocated to Tampa, Florida. Aasif received a scholarship to the University of South Florida, where he majored in theater. He later moved to New York City.
“When I go to India I am a foreigner, and when I am over here I am an immigrant. The fact that I grew up in England and I have been here for 17 years (makes it), a case of not really having your own place.” Aasif Mandvi
Aasif Mandvi made his acting debut when he won the part of a pixie in a school play. He was inspired to become an actor after watching Omar Sharif in David Lean's highly acclaimed movie “Dr. Zhivago” (1965). After college, he became a member of the Streetmosphere ensemble at Disney-MGM Studios at Walt Disney World and later moved to New York City to become a professional actor. He recalled, “I saw ‘Bugsy Malone’ one Christmas Eve, which was all cast with children, and I thought, 'Wow, I want to do that!' So I told my mother I wanted to be an actor and being the good South Asian mother that she is, she was not discouraging, but at the same time not encouraging. But I did some research and found a children's theater company in Bradford and signed up with them. That's when I wrote my first play as well. It snowballed from there.”
In 1988, Mandvi debuted on television with a guest spot in the Michael Mann-produced series “Miami Vice,” starring Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. He continued to appear in several series throughout the 1990s, including “New York Undercover,” “Nash Bridges” and “Law & Order.” Mandvi also acted in several films. Making his debut in “No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers” (1990), he was then cast in a minor role in the Bruce Willis vehicle “Die Hard: With a Vengeance” (1995), supported Whoopi Goldberg and Frank Langella in the sport-oriented “Eddie” (1996) and appeared with Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Bruce Willis and Tony Shalhoub in Edward Zwick's “The Siege” (1998). His additional film credits included Harold Ramis' “Analyze This” (1999, starred Robert De Niro, Billy Crystal and Lisa Kudrow), Sydney Pollack's “Random Hearts” (1999, opposite Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas) and the award winning drama “ABCD” (1999, as Ashok).
Mandvi was also spotted on stage. From March 1995 to February 1996, he appeared as the delivery boy in Elaine May's “Hotline” at NYC's Variety Arts Theatre, and was handed an Obie award for his fine performance in a one-man show called “Sakina's Restaurant.” The show ran from June 1998 to January 1999 at the American Place Theatre in New York City. In late 1999, he appeared in Marsha Norman's “Trudy Blue” at the MCC Theater, which is also in N.Y.C.
Entering the new millennium, Mandvi could be seen making guest appearances in such television series as “Deadline,” “Welcome to New York,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (all 2000) and “Sex and the City” (2001). He also appeared as Dr. Leever in the pilot of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” in 2000, a role he would reprise in two more episodes later that same year and one more episode in 2006. In 2001, Mandvi landed an important supporting role in the independent movie “American Chai,” playing the roommate of the title character. This was followed with performances in “3 A.M,” “Peroxide Passion,” and the Ismail Merchant-directed “The Mystic Masseur,” where he starred as Ganesh Ramseyor (all also 2001).
From March 2002 to February 2003, Mandvi took part in the Broadway revival of “Oklahoma!” for director Trevor Nunn. He portrayed the role of Ali Hakim, the Persian traveling salesman. He also appeared in episodes of “Oz” (2002, as Dr. Tariq Faraj) and “Ed” (2003) and in the films “Book of Kings” (2002, as Dr. Mitra) and “Undermind” (2003, as Shark/Roger).
In 2004, Mandvi's film career gained a significant boost when he landed the popular role of Mr. Aziz in the huge blockbuster hit “Spider-Man 2,” opposite Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and James Franco. Still that same year, he delivered a fine recurring portrayal of Salim Barik in four episodes of “Tanner on Tanner,” appeared as Sateesh in an episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and played Moazzam Begg and Mr. Ahmed in a stage production of “Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom,” by Gillian Slovo and Victoria Brittain.
After offering memorable performances in two episodes of “Law & Order: Trial by Jury” (2005), where he played Judge Samir Patel, Mandvi acted in the movies “Sorry, Haters” (2005), “The War Within” (2005) and “Freedomland” (2006) and returned to series TV with the HBO short-lived drama “The Bedford Diaries” (2006). Costarring alongside Penn Badgley, Milo Ventimiglia, Matthew Modine and Ernest Waddell, he notably portrayed Kamil Sharif. One episodic roles in “The Sopranos” and “Sleeper Cell” (both 2006) followed before the busy actor landed a three-episode role in the long-running NBC series “ER” (2006-2007), playing Manish. On stage, Mandvi played Melchior in Tom Stoppard's “On the Razzle” at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Massachusetts, (August 2005) and German chemist Fitz Haber in Vern Thiessen's “Einstein's Gift” at the Acorn Theatre in New York City (From October to November 2005). His other stage credits include a role in Tony Kushner's “Homebody/Kabul.”
On August 9, 2006, Mandvi debuted on “The Daily Show” as an occasional contributing correspondent. His duty has been expanded to a regular correspondent since March 2007. Explaining how he got the job, he said, “It’s actually kind of a cool story. I went down there, it was August 9, 2006, and I got a call that morning from my manager saying they wanted me to come down and audition for ‘The Daily Show’ at three that day. I basically put on a shirt and tie and went down there at three and met Jon Stewart and went on ‘The Daily Show’ set and did this piece with him and we just did it and he basically just turned around and said, 'Congratulations, you’re hired.' I wasn’t hired as a regular correspondent initially. I was hired as a one-off, kind of coming in every now and then when they needed something. But it was amazing because basically I got hired right there and I was a huge fan of ‘The Daily Show’ anyway. I was kind of just in this place. I was like, 'Really? Awesome.' It was just that kind of moment. And then he was like, 'Yeah we rehearse at 4:30 and then we tape at six. Can you do it?' And I was like, 'Yeah.' That’s how it went.”
Mandvi also appeared in “Music and Lyrics” (2007), a comedy helmed and written by Marc Lawrence and starring Hugh Grant, Scott Porter and Drew Barrymore. He followed it up with roles in “Eavesdrop” (2008), “Pretty Bird” (2008), “The Understudy” (2008), “The Response” (2008) and the Greg Kinnear starring vehicle “Ghost Town” (2008). The latter movie, which was directed by David Koepp and co-written by Koepp and John Kamps, cast the actor as a dentist named Prashar. Also in 2008, Mandvi appeared as Dr. Kenchy Dhuwalia in the television series “Jericho,” a recurring role he has had since 2006.
The 43-year-old actor will play Samir in David Kaplan's “7 to the Palace” (2009), which he also co-wrote with former “Daily Show” writer Jonathan Bines. In addition, he will portray Bob Thurber in the upcoming movie “The Proposal” (2009), opposite Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds, Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson.
“There are characters I won't play because they are stereotypes. There is subject matter that I don’t want to promote, like a terrorist plot. I won’t do it. If the role is just a stereotype, then I have a problem. I have to feel like there’s something to it.” Aasif Mandvi
Obie: “Sakina's Restaurant,” 1999