Michel Steger who plays the role of Navid Shirazi on the hit popular series 90201 talks to Nikhil Taneja about his experience in India and bollywood plans.
You played the role of an Indian director, Vikram, in the movie, The Cheetah Girls: One World. How did that role happen?
It sometimes works for the story when the actor playing the role isn’t familiar with that space, so he/she can interpret it in his own way. It could be a personality aspect, or in the case of The Cheetah Girls, the role of a person from a different nationality. That’s what made me take up the role.
The movie was shot extensively in India. What are your memories of shooting here?
(Enthusiastically) Oh, yeah! It was just amazing to explore the beautiful Indian culture first hand. Going to India was magical! The food, the culture, the architecture, the people... it was great exploring all of that. I went to a lot of weddings, interacted with a lot of the local people, made a lot of friends. I loved exploring the city palaces of Rajasthan under the pretext of work (chuckles).
Did you watch any Indian movies while you are here?
Oh, yeah! I love Shah Rukh Khan! I have seen many of his movies. When I was shooting in India in 2008, everywhere I went, I saw posters of Hrithik Roshan’s period film. I couldn’t see the movie, but I was very impressed with the trailers. Aishwarya Rai is quite popular here with a lot of American people. In fact, among actors, her father-in-law is also well known, though I forgot his name. I’d love to do a Bollywood movie with these guys!
You seem to have researched Indian culture well – you’ve not had any trouble pronouncing Indian names. Did your research also help you in your current role of an Iranian in the TV series, 90201?
(Smiles) Thanks. Well, yeah, I’m a first-generation American, so I had friends from several cultures while growing up, including Indian and Iranian friends. In a sense, I used my life and my experiences as ‘research’ for the roles.
Do you feel it’s a stereotype to have an ‘Asian geek’ on an American TV show?
Definitely not, because in high school, you have people of all kinds of ethnicity. And as opposed to a geek, I think Navid represents an everyman. He’s a nice guy, and a struggler, who feels the whole world is on his shoulders.
How similar or different were you from your character, Navid Shirazi, during your high school years?
We were similar because even I was kind of a social outsider, since my family is also not from the US. So I was always trying to feel connected with the culture, absorbing the American life. We are different because Navid matured much faster that me! He’s faced many obstacles including seeing his girlfriend through rehab. I had a much simpler high school experience.
Critics have felt that there’s too much sex in the show, considering its about high school kids.
The show is a drama of high- end students, and the writers have to get people to watch it. So, of course, they push the envelope, but that’s necessary to understand how high school kids react in stressful situations.
But Navid’s character is sober, quite unlike the rest.
(Laughs) Well, if the writers want me to go crazy, I’d love that! But honestly, I’d like Navid to get more into journalism and raise important issues like healthcare and world issues, so kids who watch the show realise that they need to be responsible too.
What memories do you have of watching the original Beverly Hills 90210, while growing up?
You know, every guy, who had a TV, learnt how to talk to girls and pick them up, by watching the show. Watching it was like doing homework!
You and your wife went to high school together. What does she have to say about the show?
It’s funny because she comes from an affluent background, so she used to have 90210 kind of parties in high school, while I used to serve people from 90210 in those parties! And now, I’m on the show. She finds it quite funny that I’m reliving my high school now.
So, when do you come back to India next?
(Laughs) Oh, I’m already planning a vacation! The last time, I couldn’t visit the South, so I’d love to do that.