We had the pleasure of talking with Anil Kapoor from Season 8 of 24 about his character Hassan, the rise of his career in the US, and plans for future projects in the US and India.
I’ve seen in the episodes so far that Hassan’s a very standup guy. Will we get to see over the course of the storyline what the problem is with his marriage and why he’s having an affair?
A. Kapoor: He is not exactly, actually it’s not an affair, but it’s a kind of relationship, which he feels is kind of like a minor relationship and intellectually he believes that it’s more of a friendship, which there is a possibility that it might develop later on into a relationship, but it doesn’t.
Will we see more details about his marriage?
A. Kapoor: Yes, you will see the details of his marriage when the other episodes develop and progress after the fourth episode.
So you think that his relationships then with these women is a big part of his character?
A. Kapoor: Absolutely, because he is a normal person and he has his gray areas, which makes this character very human and very real. So these are the gray areas and yes of course he has these relationships and he has his problems with the relationship with his wife and he has this relationship with this journalist.
I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about what it’s like to work with Kiefer Sutherland and Freddie Prinze, Jr.?
A. Kapoor: Working with Kiefer, because I’d heard so much about 24 and Kiefer and I expected him to be of … when he comes on the shoot. I thought he’s working the last eight years on the same season, but I never felt that he had done eight seasons, I felt that he was exactly working as if it was just his first season, and his commitment towards [it and] his excitement was as if he just started shooting for it. I never really ever felt that he had already been shooting the same role, by the same people, but the enthusiasm and excitement was something which I was really taken aback with [and] his kind of commitment and professionalism. It was wonderful to work with him and he gets so much, when he does every, whatever he mouths, every line, every performance, … it looks as if he’s Jack Bauer and not Kiefer Sutherland, he’s completely into the skin of Jack Bauer. He’s become more Jack Bauer than he’s Kiefer Sutherland now when he’s on the set.
Wonderful. One more question while I have you on the line, also I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about thoughts on whether or not this will be the last season of 24, because I know there’s been some talk, or if you think that it will continue on?
A. Kapoor: I’m sure, I hope, and I pray to God that [is not true]… but I think Kiefer or Howard Gordon would be the right people to really answer this question.
I spoke with you last year when you were doing press for the DVD release of Slumdog Millionaire and you said that that movie in many ways represented not just a new chapter in your career, but it pretty much gave you a new career. And so now that you have another major step in this career, how is it working for you? Is it everything you hoped it would be? Are you enjoying it the way you hoped you would be?
A. Kapoor: It’s gone beyond my expectation to be honest with you. I felt that after Slumdog Millionaire, I [wouldn’t] know how people [were] going to accept me in the west. But I can see that everyone has been very encouraging and it’s been very, very positive, and especially working on 24 was very educating, very inspiring, and I again I feel the director, the writers, and the entire atmosphere… was as good or even better than what I had experienced in Slumdog Millionaire.
I’m just wondering if you had any concerns about going on 24? To be honest, most Indian or minority actors on there, play terrorists, and your role’s a much more positive view and I imagine a very standup guy. Did you have any [concern] of things going into that, going to the role?
A. Kapoor: That was one of the first, when I heard the role, I really got very inspired when it was not just your bad man and I felt that this was a guy who really stands up on his own and stands up for his conviction and what he believes in. And it is a very strong character and there are all the layers involved, a lot of complexity, and very, very human, very real, and really today. I’m very, very fortunate that being from India I was lucky to get this opportunity to do this role of Omar Hassan and very, very fortunate that it was 24. I’ve never seen this kind of writing… I’ve read a lot of scripts in India as well as internationally, but this writing of 24 is really very special.
Now after 24, do you have any plans to keep kind of trying to work in the U.S. whether in TV or movies or would you be interested in spending more time focusing on your film career in India, which is very big out there?
A. Kapoor: I feel of course, to be honest with you as an actor, every actor today especially in today’s…world is where the communication is so easy, I think …it’s not very difficult to juggle both the worlds. And I think wherever and anywhere in the world, any part of the world, where the material is exciting I’m going to go for it especially if it’s from the west end, because you see this is for me. It’s much more challenging because I’m performing in a different language; and mostly I’ve been doing films in my local language, which is Hindi, and now here I get an opportunity to speak in English, which is my first language in India.
And I had a problem when I was working in these films where the directors and writers would feel I would have difficulty working over there because I would think in English, but now I’m finding it much more exciting, much easier for me to work in films made in the west. So it’s a great phase and an exciting phase in my career, and even the second experience has been wonderful, absolutely terrific.
What are some of the differences that you’ve noticed, filming in the west versus kind of a typical Indian movie or an Indian series, are there very many differences or is it the same once you get on set?
A. Kapoor: I think it’s the same once you get on the set. Obviously the work and value system [have] different work culture, slightly different, but otherwise it’s the same, because show business all over the world is the same. The other thing is I can say is the scale over here in the west in the Hollywood films is much larger, because you see the number that they’re very big in terms of budgets where the kind of money which you spent on every episode or every feature film, and obviously the returns are much, much bigger.
The maximum returns which you can have in an Indian film, which is a huge success, it’s obviously less than a hundred million dollars, and here films are made in the budget of $150 million to $350 million and they go up to $1.5 billion. So definitely the scales are much bigger, that’s the only difference, otherwise I think films made in our country, also in India are now you will feel it and you will see it in the future that are of an international level.
Now if Slumdog Millionaire didn’t happen, would you have tried out for a part like this?
A. Kapoor: I don’t think this would have really happen if Slumdog Millionaire would never [have] happened. I think it’s thanks to Slumdog Millionaire that I’m in 24 and it couldn’t have been a better follow up, 24‘s a great follow up after Slumdog Millionaire. I play something which is completely opposite to what I’ve done in Slumdog Millionaire, which is always exciting for an actor when you do something completely different and something completely opposite in terms of a role. And so for me after the first time of really doing television, I’ve never done television in India, I’ve always done over a hundred feature films, so for me it was really something which was new, fresh, exciting, educative, and I really loved every moment of it.
Was there anything in particular that you did to prepare for this role?
A. Kapoor: Yes, I did. A matter of fact it was I think the most exciting part was the preparation for this role. I really loved the preparation, for me it was like I was playing this leader or the president of a fictitious country, which is supposed to be a middle-eastern country, and I am supposed to be the president. So obviously I went through a lot of all the leaders of the world, past as well as present, and I went through all the speeches, the body language, and how to speak. I read a lot of books on the UN and on the peace treaty and all about nuclear disarmament and the IAEA and what does IAEA do, what does NATO do, so all kinds of academic things which are usually discussed during the time of the UN. I just wanted to be very familiar to whatever happens.
So I read all these books and especially there was one book which are the speeches of all the leaders and all the leaders and all the people were wanting to know their price, that was a very, very inspiring book for me and the speeches really made a lot of difference. Sometimes for an actor you just need something, one takeoff point for them to start preparing for the role. So that’s really helped me, and otherwise for me even speaking English I had a dialogue coach … who was of great help and we had long sessions. I had long sessions with him during this entire show and he was of great help for me to speak the way this character would speak.
What we have done is not really typical … but at least in dialogue, because this guy is British, he’s educated in Britain and he’s a modern guy, so we had a little bit of British accent to this role. A Middle Eastern well educated in Britain how he would speak, so I think my writers and directors told me, that this is what I should follow and that’s what I did, and so these kind of preparations I did.
I have tried to change my voice in this show also, which if you see all my other films, which I’ve done earlier especially Slumdog [Millionaire] … in the western world that people are only exposed to my work in Slumdog [Millionaire]. And you’ll find a complete change in the way I look, the way I walk, the way I talk, and my voice quality and all the grains are completely different to do that role in this show which I’ve done.
This isn’t my question, but I did find myself thinking when I was watching the first four hours of the screener that Fox sent out that your tall hair should get a credit all to itself.
A. Kapoor: That’s thanks to Mike, who does my hair, and he says just leave it to me, Anil, this is going to be the talking point of your performance. I said, are they going to talk about my performance or are they going to talk about my hair? He said, don’t worry, they’re going to talk about it, this hair is going to help you perform.
There you go. I found myself wondering during the negotiation part, you and the U.S. President, they were very willing to find a middle ground, and do you find yourself wishing that real life would be a little like that with our leaders?
A. Kapoor: I think it is this way now. If you see the world leaders today, that’s what it is, and that’s what is great about 24 that they always distinctively predict what’s going to happen in the future. And at the moment, yes, that’s what is happening, most of the leaders of the world are taking the kind of part, which the President of the United States and 24 and Omar has to take, and that’s a very healthy way of looking at the world for world peace. And I think that all the leaders of the world are doing [this] at the moment, all the so called great leaders whom I look up to, leaders like Obama, and … from India, so I can really at least vouch for them that they’re taking this kind of a part.
I was wondering could you tell us a little bit about any other projects that you may have in the works?
A. Kapoor: At the moment, I am working in two productions in India, one is called No Problem, which is a complete mainstream Indian film, a commercial film, and where I play, it’s a comedy and I play a role of a cop; and then there’s another production called I Shall, which is based on Jane Austin’s Emma, and these two films are almost in post production and they’ll be releasing this year.
And the next, what I’m going to do is I’m going to start two more productions, and I’m looking at scripts sent to me by my agent. So very soon I’m going to decide which film I’m going to do. I’m doing a play as soon as I go back, which is going to tour all over the world.
Just one last question, there’s a large Indian community in America that are going to be surprised to see you in this role if they’re very familiar with the work that you’ve done in India and what would you say to your fans who are excited to see you outside of kind of the regular stuff that you’ve been doing?
A. Kapoor: To be honest with you, I’ve never really, my fans all over the world have never expected something regular from me. I do regular stuff, but I keep on surprising them from the time that I started my career in 1978 and I became a mainstream successful leading man in 1982/1983, from that to 2010 I’ve always surprised and people expect something different from me. So I’m sure they’re going to be expecting [it] and they’re not going to be surprised when they see me in 24, because that’s what they expect from me, and that I have always kept on raising the bar and more than anything else trying to sort of becoming a bigger star. I always wanted to be a better actor and that’s what I’ve tried to do, and I’ve taken these kinds of risks, and that’s the reason I did Slumdog [Millionaire] and that’s one of the reasons I did 24 also. So I think they will be very, very happy when they see me in 24.
Official 24 Site: http://www.fox.com/24/