First generation Indian-American actor Arshad Aslam has made a name for himself in the entertainment world with appearances on Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous, Greek, Raising Hope, and How I met your Mother. Aslam has also teamed up with a nonprofit organization, Straight But Not Narrow, for the release of his new single, “Someone You Love.” In an exclusive interview, Aslam spoke about working in Hollywood and what its like transitioning to music.
Q: How did you get into acting?
Aslam: I’ve been acting since I was eight years old. At the time, there were no real Indian roles. So I had to put it on the back burner. I was in college and I was like, “What am I doing here?” I loved being in school, but I needed to get into acting, I needed to pursue it again. I ended up sending out my headshots and my resume, and a week later I had nine appointments with different agents. That is how that started.
Q: You have done a bunch of television appearances and then landed your first recurring role on Greek. What was that like?
Aslam: It was very fun. I was lucky enough to have already worked with one of the cast members on a different project. We were really close friends, so going into Greek was a real fun experience. It was the first time I actually got to go to set over and over and over. To be there with one of my best friends was awesome. The experience of being a character that actually gets to keep showing up was fun. It was really exciting for me.
Q: How do you prepare to work on various sets, whether it’s a one-time role or a recurring role?
Aslam: It’s terrifying! [Laughs] It’s not terrifying because obviously you are prepared for your scenes and what not, but you are stepping onto someone else’s territory. Everyone already knows each other, everyone has their inside jokes and their own relationships, and you walk on set and you don’t know anybody and you are waiting for that first person to say hi to you. Eventually, the ice starts breaking and everyone will be nice and start speaking to you.
Q: After Greek, you did a bunch of projects and then you starred in Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous. What was that like?
Aslam: Zach Stone was such a fun experience. Even the show itself was different from anything else on TV at the time. It was very real—it wasn’t a sitcom. It was very real and everything was about breaking the fourth wall, so we get to see the cameras. It was something very different and I don’t think many actors have to deal with breaking the fourth wall.
Q: When your name comes up, “Indian-American” actor always follows it. Is that something that bothers you?
Aslam: Definitely not. I feel like, being a first generation, it’s exciting. It’s exciting for the Indian community. I am happy that I get to be one of the few who are kind of representing our culture right now. I do take pride in that and I hope that eventually the walls will break down more, not just for Indian’s specifically, but for all minorities. There are so few roles and, in reality, America is a melting pot. I do not mind that title because hopefully I will be able to help change what’s going on.
Q: You recently made the transition into music. Is making music something you have always wanted to do?
Aslam: I have been singing for a long time. I have a memory of me being five years old and having the thought in my head that I wanted to have a song and I wanted it to be on the radio. That’s where that comes from; a very early age. At five, I was making little mixed tapes off the radio. I wanted to be a singer and it slowly went away because dancing and acting became the priority. When I was in college, I decided I was going to pursue it. I just started writing and eventually I got in with a producer and then I started putting music out and it sort of took off from there. I put out an album, it’s 14 tracks, and I am very proud of it and the response is good.
Q: What is the song, “Someone You Love” about? I know the proceeds are going to charity.
Aslam: The song is about believing in yourself when an outside force is bringing you down. I read an article about a boy who committed suicide because he was harassed and bullied for being gay and that is what really inspired the song.
Q: Where can people follow you and get information about your upcoming projects?
Aslam: The best place would be my website, which is just my name, Arshad Aslam—www.ArshadAslam.com—or my Facebook Page, which is www.facebook.com/ArshadMusic. The Facebook page is where I am the most active.
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