In new TV series, Russell Peters stars as Toronto cop in Mumbai
Indo-Canadian comic Russell Peters is among the world’s most popular stand-up acts but now, as he makes his debut as the lead in a scripted television series, he appears to have made the transition to the small screen as smoothly as that between the setup and punchline of one of his gags.
The show actually has India as the backdrop, as it is mostly set in Mumbai and is about a Toronto police constable who is suspended for messing up a case and finds himself doing some sleuthing while visiting his father in India.
Called simply The Indian Detective, the four-part series has already premiered in Canada, where it attracted 1.6 million viewers for the first episode, making it the biggest bow for a Canadian show in the country in two years. On December 19, it will be available to a larger audience, including viewers in India, when it is released globally by Netflix.
In an interview with Hindustan Times, Peters expressed satisfaction with the reception so far: “I’m very happy with the show, and the people that tuned in to watch it seem to be very happy with it as well.”
Peters plays Constable Doug D’Mello, who finds himself elevated to the status of detective by his father, Stanley (Anupam Kher), while he is in India and gets involved with the investigation of the murder of a swami.
His character is one that takes the thriller genre and puts the sitcom sensibility into it, as Peters said, “I think they based it around me being a wisecracking guy from Toronto, which kind of made sense. It was a much easier thing for me to do.”
While he has often appeared on TV, on comedy specials and as the host for major awards ceremonies, now he gets to head a cast. “This is the first time I’ve played the actual lead and buoyed down the entire show based on my name,” he said.
The show’s writer, The X-Files veteran Frank Spotnitz, at first asked Peters whether he should write the jokes for the detective’s dialogue.
“I said, ‘Don’t write jokes, Frank, that’s not what your forte is. Your forte is storytelling and writing dramatic sequences, so you focus on the stories and all the intricacies of that and I’ll read your script in my voice and add funny where I feel necessary’,” Peters said.
The cast is boosted by the presence of Canadian actor William Shatner (Captain Kirk from the original Star Trek), as billionaire property developer David Marlowe. Peters, like many others, was a fan of Shatner while growing up.
“The guy’s such a legend that the first day we were shooting together, I was watching him as opposed to acting with him. I would be staring at him like a fan. Then he stops his lines and looks at me and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, what’re you looking at?’ and I realise I had lines I’d forgotten to say because I was just staring at him all the time,” he recalled.
While Mumbai is the setting, much of the show was filmed in South Africa, with desi-origin actors from that country playing Mumbaikars.
“The director (Sandy Johnson) is Scottish so he didn’t know whether they were sounding proper or not. So, I would have to pull him aside and say, ‘Hey, that doesn’t sound Indian at all.’ He said, ‘Ah, nobody is going to notice.’ I said, ‘Yes! A billion people will actually notice’.”
While Peters now divides his time between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the show’s success does not mean he will shift showbiz priorities, as he said: “Stand-up is what I make my living at and stand-up’s what I’ve been doing for the past 28 years. And that’s what puts me in this position.”
Peters was listed among Forbes’ top 10 grossing US comics last year and was featured among Rolling Stones’ 50 Best Comics of All Time.
So, as The Indian Detective streams on to devices worldwide, Peters will start his next stand-up world tour in early 2018, which is also likely to include an India stop in the fall. That is called the Deported world tour.
“The name’s very appropriate especially given the times we’ve living in,” Peters said.