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endhil Ramamurthy really doesn’t want to tell you what superpower he’d most like to have. Actually, he’s a bit tired of answering that question—he’s been asked it a lot lately.

An odd inquiry for an ordinary Indian American guy from San Antonio, Texas? Perhaps. But then, Ramamurthy isn’t exactly ordinary. After today, his name (well, probably his face) is likely to become a familiar one in households nationwide.

Ramamurthy is one of the stars of the new primetime drama Heroes, premiering tonight at 9 p.m. EDT on NBC. The show chronicles the lives of ordinary people who discover they possess extraordinary abilities (read: superpowers).

Hype for Heroes

Heroes will air tonight (9 p.m. EDT/NBC) following months of fanfare. Fan web sites dedicated to the show have been anticipating the action since the summer, and NBC created more buzz by offering the premiere as a special free download on iTunes. To access the download, fans had to procure a card bearing a special download code from a nearby movie theater.

Ramamurthy is excited about the show, which he says is “less X-Men and more Unbreakable. It’s pretty dark at times—there’s the supernatural aspect, but how they deal with it is all rooted in reality, which is why we hope the show catches on. We don’t want it to be just sci-fi.”

“NBC has been trotting us out lately, and every single interviewer has asked all of us what superpower we’d want,” says 30-year-old Ramamurthy, who is part of an ensemble cast that includes Ali Larter (Final Destination) and Greg Grunberg (Alias). “My superpower would be the power to stop anyone from asking that question.”

That might be because Ramamurthy’s character, Mohinder Suresh, is one of the few leads who actually doesn’t possess any superpowers. Instead, he plays a young genetics professor at the University of Madras in India whose father’s mysterious disappearance leads him to the realization that there are people with superpowers living among us.

Standing for something

While he demurs from discussing any potential desire for real life superpowers, Ramamurthy is willing to address the fact that he has snagged a major role written for a brown character who isn’t a) a terrorist or b) a convenience store clerk. In fact, Ramamurthy deliberately refuses to audition for such stereotypical roles.

“I’ve made a very conscious decision that I’m not going to go in on stereotypical stuff—I’m just not into it. I’ve turned down auditions for lots of roles like that. I won’t do it, and my agents won’t ask me to do it,” he says. “I don’t fault other actors for doing that. Sometimes you just need to work. But for me personally, I would rather just go and do something else.”

Ramamurthy adds, “I have to take my hat off to Tim Kring for writing a part like this. I’ve never auditioned for a part this fleshed out, this well-rounded. Every facet of his life is touched on in the series. I feel so lucky.”

The cast of Heroes
The cast of Heroes.

But it’s hardly just luck that landed him the sought-after role. Creator Tim Kring didn’t originally plan to cast a 30-something actor as Mohinder Suresh. In an interview with Superhero Hype!, Kring says “The character I scripted was a man in his late 50s. We saw several men come in, and our casting director said that we need to take a look at this one actor [Ramamurthy]. My first reaction was ‘Well, why? He’s not right [in terms of age].’ She said, ‘Trust me, you want to see this guy.’ Sendhil walked in the room and opened his mouth and we all looked at one another, so I went off and rewrote the entire character. I made him the son of this man in his late 50s who had just died, who was following in his father’s footsteps.”

Anatomy of an Accent

Viewers watching Heroes tonight will notice the distinguished British/Indian accent Sendhil Ramamurthy employs for his character. But it didn’t come easy—he had to work to perfect it, and he claims that it’s still evolving: “The producers wanted a very specific accent. I did an Indian accent, and I listened to tapes to develop it. Then they came back and said the guy was educated in English, so it should be a British accent, with a lilt of Indian. My accent changes throughout the pilot a bit, because then they wanted it to be predominantly English. It’s kind of been a work in progress. So now, it’s very English with Indian hints.”

Ramamurthy is amazed at his good fortune, especially considering the fact that he was reluctant to audition. “But my agent said, ‘We just think you should do it.’ They kept bringing me back, and then they ended up going with me.” But he’s also a little nervous: “I want to live up to that expectation. It keeps me on my toes—hopefully, I earned it.”

There’s a good chance he has earned it. Classically-trained Ramamurthy, who has made guest appearances on shows like Numb3rs and Grey’s Anatomy, has performed in London’s famed West End. He starred in The Royal Shakespeare Company production of A Servant to Two Masters, a play written by Carlo Goldoni (Italy’s answer to Shakespeare). Before that, Ramamurthy graduated from London’s Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in 1999.

An actor by chance

But, like many South Asians, acting wasn’t exactly the first career option that sprung to mind. Ramamurthy hails from (what else?) a family of doctors: Dad is an anesthesiologist, Mom is a neonatologist, and younger sis Sujatha is a third-year resident in medicine and psychiatry. So when Ramamurthy started school at Tufts University, he naturally decided to be a pre-med major.

“At Tufts, I needed an arts credit to graduate, so I took Intro to Acting my junior year. I thought it would be easy—I didn’t even go to the classes. But 5 percent of your grade required auditioning for a college production, so I tried out for a play called Our Country’s Good,” he recalls.

In a twist of fate, Ramamurthy ended up landing the role of a British officer. “I didn’t really want to do it, and the guy said, I can recast it, but this is college—why don’t you just try it? So I did, and I loved it,” he says. After doing two more plays at Tufts, Ramamurthy was hooked on acting. He decided to attend drama school, but first, he had to break the news to his parents.

“I just came out and told my parents straight: I don’t want to be a doctor, I want to go to drama school,” he says. “My parents weren’t thrilled when I first told them, because it came out of nowhere. Looking back on it, they were as cool as they could have been, especially because I’d never shown any inclination toward acting. Later, they were totally supportive. They paid for drama school while I was living in London, and they flew out to see all my productions.”

Ramamurthy has snagged a major role written for a brown character who isn’t a) a terrorist or b) a convenience store clerk.

Today, Ramamurthy’s family and friends couldn’t be more thrilled about his newfound fame. While Ramamurthy will attend Tim Kring’s lavish premiere gala tonight in LA, his parents are hosting their own small party back in San Antonio. “They’re just really happy that I kinda got somewhere,” laughs Ramamurthy. “My dad keeps sending me all these Google things about me.”

Sendhil Ramamurthy

“This is the kind of break we were hoping he would get,” says his father, Somayaji Ramamurthy. “But we were proud of him even before, mainly because of his persistence and perseverance. He was doing his best, putting in hard work. That’s what we appreciate in him.”

One thing Ramamurthy’s had to adjust to is all the attention. “This is hands down the biggest thing I’ve done. A friend of mine sent me a picture of the billboard in Times Square—he said, ‘I see you every morning on the way to work.’ I can’t get used to it.”

He’s also not accustomed to the whisperings on the Internet about his status as the newest brown heartthrob. (Bollywood “heroes,” step aside.) The popular South Asian weblog Sepia Mutiny has mentioned him on several occasions, and more than a few women have commented on Ramamurthy’s charm and good looks on the site.

Ramamurthy is surprised by the attention: “The whole heartthrob thing is news to me. I’m very flattered, actually—I’ve never been in this situation before.” Unfortunately for his fans, Ramamurthy is quite happily taken. He is married to British-Polish actress Olga Sosnovska, whom he met at drama school. Together, the couple has a one-year-old daughter.

And how does his family, who is originally from Bangalore, feel about his cross-cultural marriage? “It literally was never a question at all. My parents were really laid back about the whole thing,” says Ramamurthy. As for their daughter, Ramamurthy says she “gets exposed to everything—Polish culture and Indian culture. Religion-wise, as well. My wife is Catholic, and I’m Hindu, and our daughter will get to decide for herself when she’s older.”

Of course, that will all come later. Until then, Ramamurthy will stay busy focusing on his blossoming career and launching what could be television’s next great sci-fi series. Here’s hoping that we’ll be seeing Ramamurthy uncovering the secrets of the heroes among us for many seasons to come.n

Ismat Sarah Mangla hasn’t been this excited about a new sci-fi show since The X-Files.
Published on September 25, 2006.
Photography: Courtesy of NBC Universal/Michael Muller.

More Information

Heroes on NBC

Comments are closed.
  1. October 17, 2006, 7:15 pm Rabia

    “Heroes” is one of the most addictive shows on TV in a long, long time. It’s very well-developed, great writing and characters, and, most of all, keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time. I get so wrapped up in the story that I’m actually disappointed when the show is over.
    What drew me in completely was Sendhil Ramamurthy’s character. And how I got drawn in is funny — I was at the gym using the elliptical trying not to watch how long I’d been on it. I turned my eyes toward the TVs, and one of them was tuned to NBC on the first night of “Heroes.” The captions started, and the first lines were preceded by “man with an Indian accent.” “What’s this?” I thought. So I listened, I watched, and I got hooked. I was so, so happy to see an Indian character who was not a terrorist, convenience store clerk, or some FOB to be picked on. I could say I’m happy Sendhil’s character isn’t a cab driver either, but he did have a stint as one; however, that’s not why he’s important. Sendhil’s character sort of ties everyone together, so I see him as the anchor of the show.
    Anyhow, it’s a brilliant, suspenseful show, and I know I’ll watch it for as long as it’s on the air (for a long time, I hope!).

  2. December 5, 2006, 7:55 pm Michel

    The sub-head on this article has been
    driving me crazy for the past couple of
    days…
    What’s an F.O.B.?

    The only two acronyms I could think of that
    might apply were “Fine Oriental Boy”, which
    seems a bit disrespectful and not in tone
    with the rest of the article, or “Fairly Odd
    Body” which might refer to Hollywood’s
    penchant for casting Asians in roles as
    mystics with cryptic answers for the main
    character(s).

    Or… is it something else completely?
    Thanks!

  3. December 5, 2006, 8:46 pm Hajra

    Fresh off the Boat.

  4. January 30, 2007, 3:17 am moo

    yep, fresh off the boat. when minorities have really heavy accents, are nerdy, etc. they’re considered “fobby” or “fobs.”

  5. February 26, 2007, 7:02 am garima

    hi, i am a journo..how can i contact sendhil for an interview? pl help me

  6. March 12, 2007, 2:18 am Lisa

    How can he not know he’s a hearthrob???!!!!!

    He has the most beautiful face (on a man) I’ve ever seen.

    And I love the accent (even though I know its not his own).

    Even without superpowers, Sendhil’s character is the most enthralling (he is absolutely mesmorising).

    Lucky Olga!

  7. April 8, 2007, 10:52 am Tamil Girl

    Senthil Ramamurthy is too hot and his accent is too cute:D

  8. May 22, 2007, 10:07 pm Desiree

    Sendhil is a fantastic actor whom I respect. I agree, Lisa. Even though his character doesn’t have any powers, he is such an important person on the show, and I love watching him. Oh yeah, he is in deed very very handsome…

  9. May 23, 2007, 7:04 pm Amanda

    Actually, his powers are super-hotness and super-charm… 😀

  10. May 29, 2007, 1:38 pm Christina

    From the first episode I was totally in to him! His accent is so, so perfect. He sounds so intellectual, yet simple at the same time. Even when he narrates, you don’t miss the looks. And he IS so handsome.

  11. June 7, 2007, 7:25 am Marie

    Oh Lord, I have never seen a more beautiful man in all my life! He is positively stunning! I am sure we will be hearing more and more about him. Heroes has many pretty faces on the show, both male and female, but Sendhil mesmorises, with that face and sexy voice….well, next to my husband of course, he is simply….DROP DEAD GORGEOUS!

  12. July 18, 2007, 10:39 am heather

    I have never in my life been so into a man on tv or in show business. I am so bummed he didn’t go into medicine. I am so certain I would have become a hypochondriac.”Darn it! I am sick again.:)”

  13. July 20, 2007, 9:11 pm Vicki

    I love him! Mohinder is the best character on the show! He is a great actor and not bad to look at!

  14. August 20, 2007, 10:36 am Shiva

    I love him !!! To my mind he’s one of the greatest actors in Heroes . I didn’t know how much Indian boys could be sexy 🙂

  15. August 30, 2007, 1:46 am kate

    sendhil is TOO gorgeous!!!

  16. September 20, 2007, 2:48 pm priveena

    He is simply stunning!!

  17. October 1, 2007, 7:32 am Y

    I just love him! too bad he’s taken!

  18. October 7, 2007, 10:22 am Maria

    I am so bummed he didn’t go into medicine. I am so certain I would have become a hypochondriac.”Darn it! I am sick again.:)”

    Hahahaha! I think it’s a very good thing Sendhil didn’t become a doctor. If I were one of his fellow doctors or nurses, I don’t think I would be able to pay attention to the patient with a man that gorgeous in the room!

    In all seriousness he seems very polite, funny and classy. Clearly his parents raised him right.

  19. October 25, 2007, 1:07 pm kate

    he’s simply sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo hot and charming!I love him!sendhil in case of divorce call me!or if u need a baby sitter!=P

  20. October 26, 2007, 8:16 pm Tammy

    As with everyone else here I too believe that Sendhil is mesmerizing and gorgeous. Duh!

    I was drawn to him when I accidentially caught the first episode of Heroes just a few weeks ago. Never knew the show existed before that. I was immediately hooked. Now I’ve watched every past episode and just absolutely love the show. It’s so smart and superbly written.

    Sendhil also reminds me exactly of my husband who is also South Indian: same bone structure, same charm, same gorgeous eyes. I swear they could be brothers (no joke). I was initially attracted to my husband because he is so captivating. There is just something about him. Must be something to do with being South Indian Hindus. I can’t explain it either.

    I’m really, really happy to see an Indian (though he is American) in a fantastic role here in the US. It’s long, long over due. Hopefully, Sendhil in this character will break the stereotype. I sure hope so.

  21. February 8, 2008, 3:13 pm Chris Allen

    Aside from breaking stereotypes (which is awesome) Sendhil is the hottest man on the show, even though there are several very handsome men. 🙂

    However, what I truly love about his character is that Mohinder represents the dilemma we all face: how to *be* good.

    Being able to tell right from wrong is fairly easy, in concept. However, in real life, often we are faced with grey situations. Mohinder is a caring, nurturing person who reveres life. He *is* good, and wants to *do* good. But, he is surrounded by unknowns. He has to determine who is the best person to trust. He revises that daily, as he sees that those who he trusted don’t deserve it, or that they themselves were ignorant of something, that made walking that path with them a negative thing to do. Sometimes, there *is* no right thing for him to do, other than just doing the best he can determine at the moment.

    Mohinder represents the best in us all… but also, the difficulty normal people face in complicated situations, in trying to determine just what *is* the right thing to do.

    He also shows how normal people have to live with their mistakes (even honest mistakes), to deal with the guilt they engender, and not let it parylize future choices and actions. Peter is the other character with truly high morals, but Peter is naive, lacks confidence, and tends to see things in too much black and white.

    In contrast, Mohinder is very confident in, and comfortable with, who and what he is—his dilemma isn’t in having the courage to do the right thing, it’s in figuring out what the right thing is, as best he can, while knowing that his knowledge is imperfect and that in placing trust with others, he’s risking harm to others as well as his own morals. He’s the much more mature character.

    I’m delighted that Sendhil is getting to play such a wonderful character, one who is the adult moral compass of the show. And, I’m delighted that the writers and producers ignore sterotype and prejudice, and simply cast (and write for) people as people.

    Congratulations, Sendhil—and thank you for bringing such a great character to life.

    Chris Allen

  22. February 24, 2008, 1:25 am Daniela

    OMG, he’s perfect!!!! 🙁

  23. March 3, 2008, 9:12 pm Maria

    Chris Allen, I agree with everything you just wrote.

    I have only one thing to add: Mohinder is the one of the few heroes on the show who tries to do the right thing *without asking to be recognized for it.* Peter, Hiro and Sylar are all hollering about their destinies and how they’re going to save the world… Mohinder just quietly goes ahead and does what needs to be done (or tries to). He cures the deadly virus by himself, he attacks Sylar by himself, he saves Hiro and Peter and the Haitian by himself – pretty much anonymously. I really, really like that aspect of the character, it makes his ethics feel the most genuinely grounded.

    I loved the ethical dilemmas he was faced with in the second season and thought Sendhil did a great job portraying them.

  24. July 19, 2008, 8:20 pm Mary

    Im kind of sad… I didn’t know his religion, in I am sad it isn’t the same as my own… I am so very in love with him!!! I AM glad though, that he has a semi- Christian wife who loves him!!! 🙂 Has anyone ever found pics of his daughter?

  25. September 6, 2008, 10:51 am Maria

    Not to start a flamewar, but Catholic is not “semi-Christian.” It’s Christian. I know because I am one. Although personally I couldn’t care less what religion anyone else follows as long as they’re a good person, which Sendhil seems to be 🙂

  26. September 27, 2008, 6:04 am Ryn

    Congratulation,sendhil.Heroes is the best drama i’ve ever seen..I write this from a distance..
    Namaste.
    Ryn

  27. October 2, 2008, 11:59 am Thusi

    senthil ………… im pleased to see a fellow tamil on telly makes me really proud of you

  28. January 13, 2009, 1:09 pm Shivani

    Im from south africa. Back in south africa the indians just don’t look like sendhil. Damn oh damn. My husband has just got to look like you oneday sendhil. Theres this one dude and he looks just like him. Thats probably why i stare at him everytime heroes comes on!:-) The good ones always get taken. Why oh why does this only happen to me?? Do you have to be double my age? Why oh why