Stand-up comedian Nik Dodani, 24, stars in CBS’s astute revival of hit late ’80s/’90s sitcom “Murphy Brown.” His character Pat Patel, the resident social media expert on Murphy Brown’s morning talk show, is tasked with teaching the crew about the modern reality of covering the news through a social media lens.
Although this show is his big break into network television, the Indian American actor is also in the Netflix comedy Atypical, recently renewed for a third season. He will appear in the psychological thriller film “Escape Room,” releasing in January 2019. His talent extends to the written word, too. He will adapt Rakesh Satyal’s 2009 book “Blue Boy,” a coming-of-age story centered on an Indian American queer boy, for the big screen.
“I think, for me, my responsibility is to live my life openly, and allow that to speak for itself. In a lot of ways, just being an openly queer person of color who is living and thriving is political now,” he said.
He joked in an appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”: “It’s tough being Indian and gay because Indian culture is still pretty homophobic, which is weird to me because Indian culture is also pretty gay. Just last year Bollywood released 1,100 movies. Every single one of them, a musical.”
Dodani worked on Elizabeth Warren’s 2012 Senate campaign and with RALLY, the issue-driven communications firm whose clients include the American Civil Liberties Union and Time’s Up. During the 2016 election, he teamed up with progressive advocacy group MoveOn to organize Laughter Trumps Hate, a political comedy tour. “It was a necessary but exhausting experience, I will admit,” he said. “But I want to do more such creative stuff that relates to these issues. A part of me really just wants to stay positive and play the role of someone who is keeping it light and providing humor and relief.”
It’s a good thing then he’s a series regular on “Murphy Brown” because the Candice Bergen-led reboot dives into current issues, including #MeToo, DACA and fake news. It’s what drew Dodani to the show; he remembered how topical and culturally relevant it was from when he watched reruns with his mother. “The show is a nice opportunity to work on something that tackles the hard stuff but with humor involved,” he said.
This humor comes in different forms, whether through not-so-subtle digs at a Fox News-esque right-wing media outlet called the Wolf Network, where Murphy’s son works, or Pat forcing Murphy to join Twitter, inevitably leading to a war of words with Donald Trump, with whom she once went on a date.
His alter ego on “Murphy Brown” may be a social media whiz, but for Dodani, meaningful discussions are more powerful than tweets. “In the last two years, it’s become Trump’s Twitter, and I choose not to engage with it. I think having actual conversations in real life with friends, family, co-workers and people you meet day to day is way more effective for political discourse.” Dodani is loud and clear, making an impact in his Twitter-free zone with his work, on and off-screen.
This article appears in KORE’s December 2018 issue. Subscribe here.