Kunal Nayyar's Experience On Set Of TBBT Was Anything But Fun

Kunal Nayyar's Experience On Set Of TBBT Was Anything But Fun
Image credit: CBS

The actor behind Rajesh Koothrappali felt 'handicapped' in the early seasons.


  • The Big Bang Theory's characters began their journeys by each acquiring a distinctive peculiar feature.
  • For Kunal Nayyar, the actor behind Rajesh Koothrappali, his quirk eventually became his personal hell.
  • Fortunately, midway through the sitcom, the actor was given the freedom he had been dreaming of.

It's hard to believe that there was a time when we didn't know Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, Howard, Raj, Bernadette and Amy. The so-called Pasadena gang first appeared on TV screens in September 2007 and, after a wildly successful 12-season run of The Big Bang Theory (TBBT), became best friends for millions of viewers.

In the end, each member of the gang became a nuanced, human-like character that we related to, loved, and sometimes even hated. But back in 2007, in the best sitcom fashion, TBBT creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady gave each of them a memorable trait that would set them apart from the others.

Quirks of Raj

Rajesh Koothrappali, aka Raj, was probably the most quirky of all the Pasadena-based friends in the show's early seasons. From day one, it was established that the astrophysicist was so uncomfortable around women that he couldn't utter a word. His selective mutism would only disappear with the help of alcohol.

Of course, this became the perfect basis for numerous running gags. Just remember how, in the early seasons, Raj would whisper in Howard's ear when he wanted to say something to a woman, and Howard would always refuse to repeat it out loud because it was stupid or offensive, but then he would say it anyway while mocking Raj.

On top of that, Raj's problem was the basis for his relationship problems and quirky romantic arcs. For example, he once dated Siri on his phone just because she turned out to be the only female he could communicate with.

All of these storylines gave us a lot of fun moments to remember. But they were not so amusing for Kunal Nayyar, the actor who portrayed Raj.

Acting Impossible

The voice is one of the most powerful instruments an actor has. Not being able to utter a single word in a scene is tricky and difficult. And this was Kunal Nayyar's reality for years. A reality he eventually came to hate.

'It was definitely frustrating because there were episodes where I knew I could contribute in ways [but] I was handicapped by the character's issue,' the actor said in an interview for Jessica Radloff's book on TBBT (via TVLine). 'There were a lot of scenes where I would sit and sit and sit and then I would have to whisper something and Simon got to tell the joke.'

Having Simon Helberg, the actor behind Howard, deliver jokes on his behalf was a real disappointment. Imagine being part of something as big as TBBT and not being able to fully contribute. Naturally, Nayyar felt sidelined.

'After a while, I would open scripts and see if I was in scenes with a female character,' he shared in the book.

Six full seasons - that's how long it took Raj to overcome his selective mutism. In the Season 6 finale, he suddenly speaks up in front of Penny, and just like that, his struggle is over. For the actor, it felt like a new beginning, a great cause for celebration.

'The freedom to be able to speak without that was really nice, just from an acting point of view,' the actor told Radloff.

Source: TVLine.

When did you like Raj's character better?