A chat with Vik Sahay
Author Heidi Pitlor speaks to students at the Co-op Thursday afternoon. Paul Shim
The Daily Campus: "American Reunion" is the first "American Pie" film to be released in nine years. Do you think the film did a good job of updating the setting and characters with all of the cultural change that's come in the past decade?
Vik Sahay: I think that in regards to that, the film did an incredible job of updating that world. More importantly for me, I think it updated the characters and the humanity in a good way. I think that the writing is so spectacular because it reaches back into the iconic franchise and brings it up to date in a manner that updates the social media but more importantly brings the characters back into today.
DC: The "American Pie" series has always been known more for its large ensemble casts than any specific lead characters. As this was your first "American Pie" movie, did that make it easier to get into the swing of things on set?
VS: Well, yes and no. When it's an ensemble piece, you're looking at people who have been doing it for a long, long time. If it was a single star, everyone else would be new. It had elements that were daunting; Sean William Scott is a star, a veteran of the game, and on top of that he's playing somebody he knows inside and out in an environment inside and out. It's daunting, and you have to buck up and jump in. The directors, the actors, led to an open, collaborative set; it's very surreal to be in the same room with all of these characters you've watched for so many years.
DC: You played Sean William Scott's boss in "American Reunion." What was it like working with him? Was it a bit strange to boss Stifler around?
VS: I don't know if I would consider it strange, but you're in a bullfight because it's such a strong character. But I like a mountain climb and a challenge, and I needed to dive into the circumstances and forget that he's Stifler. He's my underling, and my character doesn't respect that character; given the circumstances, I had to eliminate my vantage point, knowing it's Sean, and it's Stifler, and just sort of go into that world.
DC: "Chuck" had famous problems with renewals. What was it like not knowing if you'd be back at the Buy More year after year?
VS: It was both difficult and simple. It was difficult because that precariousness is a tough environment to relax in, but at the same time it's relaxing because you enjoy the moment; 'let's be as brilliant as we can in each moment and each scene.' It means you can't make long-term plans, but so be it; we're on a show we love so much, and when the season's over, you wait. There wasn't an anxiety; it was, 'let's work in this moment and love it.' That was the vibe on set.
DC: "Chuck" was also known for its product placement savior Subway and its rabid fanbase who ensured the show went five seasons. Was it weird when the show suddenly started shilling sandwiches?
VS: I think there is an element to the future of television in that way; you may get to a place where you have a product completely behind the show and it becomes a pseudo-hybrid of a commercial and a show. It's one of the elements that kept the show on the air, and the writers were fantastic at making it sort of part of the storyline. It was what it was.
DC: Do you have any great fan experiences you remember?
VS: So many. I loved being around the people keeping the show alive; I never imagined that I'd be singing a Queen song in front of a rabid fanbase of the TV show I was on [at Comic-Con, where Sahay hosted "Chuck" panels]. We owed so much to those people, and they came out in the auditorium, singing us on, and as fun and delirious as it was, it was always very emotional because we owed them. That kind of loyalty and dedication lives on, and the fans helped carry us up that mountain.
DC: In "Chuck," you were one half of Jeffster!, a fictional band. Was it harrowing or exciting to sing songs that would be shown to millions of people?
VS: I needed to block out the idea it would be shown to anyone. It was incredibly harrowing at first, because I have no experience putting music together like that, but this was a whole different ball game. Over the course of the series, it became less "pure terror" and more of a hybrid of terror and excitement. I liked the challenge, and I learned a lot putting the songs together with all of these wonderful musicians. I never took singing lessons over the series because I didn't want my ego to get in the way of how Lester sang, more jagged and insane. By working and working on these songs with an incredible music guy like Tim Jones, you learn your moments. After the show, he said he felt he and I had been in a band for five years. That was so gratifying to hear because I respect the guy so much. It was really special in the end, but the adrenaline and terror were always present.
DC: Your character in "Chuck" was a self-described "Hin-Jew." What's it like being an actor of Indian descent in Hollywood, and does humor make things easier to deal with?
VS: I've been very lucky because I've gotten to play a lot of characters, and this was my first "Hin-Jew." I almost got cast as Morgan, then they gave me Lester; there was no specificity of his background. For me culturally, I lead with being an actor first, not an Indian actor; but I thought the "Hin-Jew" stuff was brilliant. On an artistic level, I thought it was fantastic.
DC: You're a pretty famous Canadian actor, having gotten your acting start on "You Can't Do That On Television." There isn't too much crossover from Canada to the US; what was it like getting into acting in America?
VS: It was a little like starting over; the crossover from Canadian television and film hasn't yet fully translated into broader international success. What I had going for me, I think, was experience; even though I was the same age as everyone else, I had time in front of a camera auditioning compared to someone coming in with no experience, but it was like "now you're climbing a bigger mountain." And the [Canadian] credits aren't going to mean as much; when someone can recognize a credit, it has bigger emphasis.
DC: What's next for you after "American Reunion?"
VS: There is a movie I should be shooting overseas in Europe; it's a dark, different, dramatic role for me to do. I got offered a great pilot that I turned down, tragically, because of the film; I'm changing gears to try something new, and it's pretty exciting for me, I think.
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