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From Houston to Hollywood: Outsourced with Guru Singh

By Tamara Levine

Guru Singh

Guru Singh born in Spring, Texas plays the character of Ajeet in Outsourced

HOUSTON: “Outsourced” is NBC’s new comedy about a man from the Midwest who gets sent to India to run a call center.  The talented cast includes two Houston actors, Ben Rappaport and thirty-year-old Guru Singh, who plays the role of the enigmatic character, Ajeet.

Born in Spring Branch, Texas, Guru was raised by loving grandparents in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India, while his parents focused on their careers in the states.  At six years of age he returned to Houston, ready to begin kindergarten.  Punjabi is his first language and because of his rich childhood experiences, he is a man firmly rooted in both cultures.

Guru fell in love with performing at an early age.  A singer and musician, Guru played brass instruments in junior high band as well as in the Klein Forest High School Orchestra.  But Guru didn’t choose acting; acting chose him.

The Houston native credits his first acting break to the close proximity of the band and theatre classrooms in the Fine Arts wing at Klein.  After hearing from a theatre friend that the teacher wanted to see him about a part in a show, Guru auditioned and landed a supporting role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  “It was for the part of Chief, a six foot huge Indian.  Go figure that he picked me.  I think he typecast me.”

Playing the role of Chief made a lasting impression and Guru’s experiences at Klein Forest ultimately inspired him to pursue a career in entertainment.  “The Texas education system is awesome for Fine Arts, encouragement, availability and access for students.”

However, life wasn’t all play.  At his mother’s insistence, Guru balanced part-time computer-related work with his passion for the stage during high school.

These strong values not only instilled discipline, they also helped pave the road to success.

Following high school, Guru enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied acting.  Eventually he transferred to the University of Houston, where he earned a B.B.A. in Theatre and Management Information Systems.  Along the way, his family provided endless support and encouragement, especially his mother.  “As long as I was getting good grades … as long as I did a business major also, she was happy.”

Never one to rest on his laurels, Guru also tried on the role of director prior to graduation.  “After we came back from the University of Texas Austin, my good friend Solham Mehta pioneered an Indian acting company called Shunya.”  The duo self-produced two pieces written by Solham then progressed to other works such as The Indian Wants the Bronx by Israel Horovitz, which Guru directed at Diverse Works in 2004.

Not everything came easy, though.  Throughout college, there were countless times where solid auditions reaped no rewards.  Yet true to style, Guru didn’t let the experiences deter him.  If anything, the rejection helped prepare him.  When Guru moved to Los Angeles, he knew he wouldn’t get cast in every show he wanted, but he was determined nonetheless.

One of the secrets to his success has been a great attitude.  “I did not worry about it at all.”  Secure with the knowledge that acting would always be there, Guru ran his computer business during the day and attended acting workshops at night to continue developing his craft.  “I never really had a point in my life where I was like all-or-nothing.  I’ve never been an all-or-nothing kind of guy.”

While many actors spend years auditioning with little or no results, Guru landed the role of Ajeet within his first year of going on regular auditions.  “I was called because they [the casting director] put out an APB on a Sikh male.”

Regarding the hard lessons he’s learned during his acting career, Guru admits there haven’t been too many.  “It is arduous in the way that it is so selective as far as your look is concerned.  I wouldn’t have this gig if didn’t have this turban on my head, plain and simple.”  In addition, he has yet to enjoy a steady stream of acting work.  Nevertheless, he deals with these challenges by nurturing his art.  He’s always working on some aspect of the business, whether it’s reading plays, taking classes or producing web series.

For Guru, the best part about playing Ajeet on Outsourced lies in the possibilities.  “It’s a blank slate.  I get to decide what actions I do.  It’s great.  It’s like I’m in improv class again except I can do whatever I want.  It’s the best job ever.”

Beside its entertainment value and being the best job ever, Guru thinks Outsourced might break some barriers too.  At the end of the day, it’s a progressive show that transcends superficial one-liners about the food or the smell.  It’s about the characters and their relationships, things we can all relate too.

As far as encouraging words for other aspiring actors, Guru offers this advice:  Stay busy.  “The only way you’ll get booked for anything is if you book yourself, whether it’s a play or for a show you’re writing or producing yourself.”

Now that Outsourced’s run has been extended into a full season, there will be many opportunities to enjoy Guru Singh’s work.  Be sure to check out his performance of Ajeet every Thursday night this fall at 8:30 on NBC.

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