Outsourcing has moved a lot of American jobs to India, but on TV it's actually bringing more jobs to Studio City. The new NBC comedy Outsourced has set up studio space at the CBS Radford lot, at the corner of Radford Avenue and Ventura Boulevard
The show stars Ben Rappaport and Diedrich Bader as Americans running Indian call centers for American companies. A cast of Indian American actors joins them as the local staff of the call center.
The Radford lot provides a sense of history to the show's young actors. "It's awesome," Rappaport said. "You know, Gilligan's Island was there, Gunsmoke. We're right across the alleyway from where Seinfeld was shot. It's just like a real magical feeling walking onto that lot."
Parvesh Cheena plays one of the call center workers, but he is a California local. Working at the Radford lot is convenient for him. "It's close to my apartment," Cheena said.
Sacha Dhawan, who plays the operator Manmeet, just moved to Studio City from the United Kingdom. Like Cheena, he's settled in near his studio. "I've moved over here to start shooting, and I live in Studio City now, and I can jog to work in about 20 minutes," Dhawan said. "I love it. We did a lot of work at Universal Studios, which is quite a big lot. What's great about Radford is it's small, it's intimate and it's just right for the show and it's very close to where I live."
You probably remember Bader as Oswald the delivery man on The Drew Carey Show. That show filmed on the vast Warner Brothers studio lot in Burbank. Bader is enjoying the more close-knit feel of Radford.
"Warner Brothers is a lovely lot," Bader said. "It's huge, and there's so much happening there with different movies and stuff like that, so there's a combination of different shows there that you might not find at CBS Radford, where it's more television, at least from my experience. But it's very homey and charming and it's kind of small. They've expanded, but it has a small sort of feel to it."
Already, Bader has discovered the treasure troves of television lore buried within the walls of CBS Radford. "There's been a lot of great shows that shot there," Bader said. "Seinfeld was there, so there's a great history to it. I love that, because I'm a studio geek. I love walking around and seeing what sets they're constructing. That's one of the reasons I love Warner Brothers so much because there was always so many new things happening. There's a sign that says Elaine's [still at Radford]. I'm not exactly sure why that's there. I don't know but it's nice to have that vibe. That was certainly a fantastic show."
You are quite likely to see the Bader family shopping around Studio City. Diedrich and his wife, Dulcy, have already discovered places to eat and shop. Dulcy will hit Levine Custom Framing and then take the kids for treats at Gelato Bar.
"They have a great sorbet place, actually great gelato and sorbet," Dulcy said. "It's across from Vitello's on Tujunga. We have a frame guy that we love. He does a brilliant job framing, named Steve Levine, so we go there, and our kids love to frame things now so we always take them to Gelato after."
The Bader family plans to continue exploring Tujunga Avenue, so look for them on the street. "We like the Tujunga area," Diedrich said. "We like that little strip there. They're nice shops and restaurants in the middle of that kind of stuff. It reminds us of Larchmont, where we're closer too."
Though new in town, Dhawan has already discovered a local eatery he likes. You may see him there on mornings before work. "There's a really nice little place I go for breakfast called Studio Café, which I like," Dhawan said. "It's right near CBS. That's great for breakfast."
With the studio located on what is often referred to as "sushi alley," co-star Cheena prefers to dine after work. "There's a late-night sushi place across the street, too," Cheena added.
So Outsourced is set in Mumbai. How exactly do they recreate Mumbai in Studio City? Producers sent a crew to film actual locations. The studio actors get inserted into the backdrops with special effects.
"We were doing it on green screen," Rappaport said. "So it was me and Rizwan [Manji] sitting in the rickshaw, and there was a guy behind us with a 2-by-4 shaking the rickshaw, checking his texts every once in a while."
Even the Indian actors are American or British. Few of the cast have actually been to Mumbai. "I'm from Chicago," Cheena said. "Then we've got a couple of New Yorkers and some Brits, too. I think now you're just seeing a lot of us on one network also, which has been great. NBC's been a good home for a lot of ethnic diversity."
The Americans bring the culture clash to the call center, and therein lies the comedy. Meet Bader's character, Charlie, an American who's been in Mumbai for years, but hasn't quite adjusted.
"I love Charlie because he's the guy who really says what everybody is thinking," Bader said. "He's one of those types, and it's not exclusively American, like a French will want to go and hang out in the French community when they go to, say, Germany or something like that. I remember when I was a kid in France, there'd be a Mickey D's there, and I would think, 'Why would an American come all the way here and go to Mickey D's? ' Well, a guy like Charlie would be that guy. He would be that guy that would be at McDonald's going, 'I just want what I want. Give it to me. I want it hot.'"
He even brings peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with Cheetos to work so he doesn't have to eat Indian food in the cafeteria. "He just tries to replicate his world wherever he goes, and for him, it's really just a job, but it's not without interest. But the interest is mostly that he gets paid."
You'll meet all the characters of Outsourced when the show premieres this fall. Once they're famous, we'll see how long they can roam Studio City freely. For now, they're excited to represent a new culture that most TV audiences haven't seen before.
"A call-center job back in India is a really highly prestigious job," Cheena said. "There's a whole different culture of people where they had to open, depending on which time zone you're working for, you have to have like your lunchtime, your after-work kind of bar thing. My mom was back in India when I found out [I got the part], just visiting, and I called right before I got on the plane, and the whole family at the wedding just freaked out and erupted, and they're excited."
Outsourced premieres Sept. 23 on NBC.