Utkarsh Ambudkar on the “slow road” for Asian representation in Hollywood


Utkarsh Ambudkar's lead role in "Brittany Runs a Marathon" marks the first time in his career that a character was written for him with a full arc, he tells Salon. For the comedy star, it's a breakout moment that speaks to Hollywood's growing acceptance of putting Asian actors in lead roles.

"To normalize brown people for the general viewing public has been a slow-going road," he told SalonTV's Dean Obeidallah. "To just be normal, like a normal dude who sounds like me and looks like me and falls for a girl, it's a privilege. It's the first time in my career that I've played a character with a beginning, middle and end arc."

Ambudkar, who is known for roles in "Pitch Perfect," "The Mindy Project" and "Blindspotting," stars as the leading love interest opposite Jillian Bell in the Amazon Studios film "Brittany Runs a Marathon," in theaters August 23. While the film follows Bell's character and her hilarious quest to run in the New York City marathon, Ambudkar plays a hipster squatting in an upscale Manhattan penthouse.

When it comes to expanding acceptance in Hollywood, Ambudkar is quick to give credit to his fellow Asian actors, too, citing actor and writer Kumail Nanjiani who received critical success for "The Big Sick" and Rami Malek who won an Academy Award for his role in "Bohemian Rhapsody." "We're in a different place now," Ambudkar said.

Watch the episode above to hear about Ambudkar's push for inclusivity on the set of Disney's live-action "Mulan" and his role in the Broadway revival of Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop troupe "Freestyle Love Supreme."


SalonTV host Dean Obeidallah is also the host of the daily national SiriusXM radio program, "The Dean Obeidallah Show" on the network's progressive political channel. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.


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