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‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ star Nikesh Patel on reimagining the rom-com

This summer, Hulu released a 10-part miniseries based on the 1994 romantic comedy “Four Weddings and a Funeral.”

The show with the same name is helmed by Mindy Kaling and follows the professional and romantic lives of four American friends in London around five big events — four weddings, and a funeral.

In the series, British actor Nikesh Patel plays Kash Khan, an investment banker of Pakistani heritage. His romantic interest is Nathalie Emmanuel, of “Game of Thrones,” who plays Maya, an American political consultant. This casting of non-white stars as leads in a Hollywood romantic comedy, Patel says, is “groundbreaking.”

Patel says it was the show’s dedication to inclusion and new voices that attracted him to the project.

“It’s a cast that represents the world as it exists today and in a way that I think is different from the film.”

NewsHour Weekend’s Pavni Mittal spoke with Patel about his American debut, the modern take on the 1994 movie and how the success of films like “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Black Panther” has opened doors for him.

Read an excerpt of the interview with Patel below, or watch the full video in the player above.

So, “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” That’s a familiar name. Do you want to talk about that?

Patel: The film is really iconic especially being a Brit. But as soon as I started finding out more about the fact that this was going to be 10 hours of television, it’s not a reboot. It uses that same sort of time structure as the original film. So it tells a story over those five events but with more time to explore these characters. And crucially finding out that Mindy Kaling was going be at the helm and she wanted to tell it in a way that sort of reflected the world as it was today, it was really exciting.

And how do you modernize the story? How does it reflect love in 2019?

Patel: I mean, one of the obvious ones is the casting of it, the way it looks. You know it’s a cast that represents the world as it exists today and in a way that I think is different from the film. The film came out, I think, 1994. So in some ways I feel like the film is almost a period movie in terms of its depiction of London as it was then.

At a time where there’s lots being made of what makes us different and trying to divide us and drive wedges between people and sow hate, this is going the other way and saying that anyone who’s watching any of these characters will hopefully identify a lot with them because love turns us all into idiots, you know, and kind of makes your head spin and makes you make foolish decisions. I think that’s a very relatable quality.

How does the multiculturalism add a new dimension to a genre that’s as old as it gets?

Patel: Mindy used this really interesting phrase, which I’m going steal, when she was promoting “A Wrinkle in Time,’ which is about the fantasy genre, and she talked about as a child she loved that genre but it didn’t really love her back. And I think there’s something about the rom-com that holds true for a lot of people as well.

Also, the fact that two of the leads in the show, myself and Nathalie Emmanuel’s character — normally those two shades of brown there don’t get to be in a love story together.

How do you make sure that the character you’re playing is not caricature because you have lead Indian origin characters before?

Patel: Fundamentally as an actor, I’m looking for someone that’s three-dimensional, someone that has believable flaws and drives to them. And I think you learn to spot quite early on if something is written as a bunch of like kind of checklist issues or topics.

When you see movies like “Crazy Rich Asians” or “Black Panther” doing as well as they did and becoming viable firms financially, what does that do to you as an actor and someone who does have to navigate stereotypes?

Patel: This is an industry where they’re constantly looking for new ideas, new ways to tell stories. But actually the success of those films that you mentioned and you know various others kind of says, well look, there are all these stories out there and there is the talent out there to make them, so you know you ignore that at your peril.

This transcript was edited for brevity and clarity.

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