Caught by the Acting Bug, Vats Lands in the HBO Sitcom “Eastbound & Down”

Raj Vats (right) as the next door Indian neighbor “Tel” with the star character Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) on HBO’s EastBound & Down sitcom.

Raj Vats (right) as the next door Indian neighbor “Tel” with the star character Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) on HBO’s EastBound & Down sitcom.

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: Raj Vats caught the acting bug many years ago in 1998 just as he played his first stage role as a royal Indian Prince in Main Street Theatre’s production of Tom Stoppard’s 1995 play Indian Ink, in which yours truly also had an acting part. He was a stand-in for another local thespian, Pradeep Anand who had to drop out after two weeks of the 13-week long run. Vats managed to master the role in a week and step in quickly.

But the doors had flung open for the software engineer from Delhi and he had signed up with some local talent agency to get headshots and push his quest for acting roles through, though he didn’t leave his day job or entrepreneurial zeal that led him into other web-based business ventures. Vats continued to pursue his attraction to act, landing several small corporate training video roles and also cameo and side roles in occasional TV commercials. He also kept involved in local community events and organizations, notably the Indo American Political Action Committee.

This summer the mischievous, cherubic faced Vats who is quick with a smile and a one-liner was the only one selected from the Houston area to play a role in the 2013-2014 season of EastBound & Down, a sitcom on HBO. He plays the part of a sophisticated Indian neighbor “Tel” of the star character of the show “Kenny Powers” (Danny McBride), a rough and crude guy who has money but no class but is tolerated by his upscale neighbors. Kenny’s wild and loud ways add to the shock value and the comedy flows from it.

Vats says he “worked hard to get such roles that portray Indian in a positive role rather than as taxi drivers or convenience store clerks” because he sees that “if TV shows us as strong pillars of society then it helps all of our community”. “Perception is everything”, he adds.

With a little perseverance, Vats was able to get an agent in Houston and now has agents also in Dallas, Austin and Los Angeles.  He dreams of being able to get into a sitcom with a long term commitment and spend half his time in LA and the rest in Houston.

The media bug seems to go long and deep in the Vats household. Vats daughter, Rashi graduated from Texas Christian University in Dallas and went to work as a TV reporter. Two months ago, Rashi moved from KBTX 3 in Bryan/College Station to KRIV TV Channel 26 as a news reporter. Coincidentally, Rashi’s fiancé Daniel Gotera is a sports reporter for KHOU TV Channel 11.