Rati Gupta has been winning the hearts and adoration of fans since she joined the cast of The Big Bang Theory as Raj Koothrappali’s fiance Anu last year. With the series coming to a close, fans of the show are dying to know what happens to our favorite nerds and the women who love them.
Rati hails from Indiana and got her training as a dancer, graduating from Northwestern University with a dual major in dance and psychology. She made the move to Los Angeles about a decade ago, appeared in videos for Lupe Fiasco and Flo Rida and migrated from dance to acting. She got her first role in MTV movie Worst Prom Ever.
She also plays Rake on the Seth Rogen and Josh Hutcherson produced HULU comedy series Future Man, and will appear in the upcoming Netflix drama series Unbelievable alongside co-stars Toni Collet and Merrit Wever.
Rati also writes and performs stand-up comedy. In fact, she has been selected as one of the names on the Emerging Screenwriters Top 100 List, as well as being a three-time champion of The Moth StorySlam. Her debut one-woman-show Not Another Teen Solo Show was nominated and named one of the Top Three Performances of the New York International Fringe Festival by Backstage.
Rati Gupta spoke with Monsters and Critics about her early life and dance background, how she made the switch to acting, how she joined the cast of The Big Bang Theory, the fun way she celebrated landing the part of Anu with her Future Man cast-mates, what she likes to do for fun, what’s next for her and more.
Monsters and Critics: Now, you were born in Indiana. How did you deal with those cold winters?
Rati Gupta: Heavy jackets, lots of layers. Also, I just never went outside. When you grow up in that kind of climate, you don’t notice it. I went to college in Chicago, and I still went out in the winter in mini skirts and I was fine. Now, if I attempted to do that, I would die. So when you live in, you’re used to it. It’s very different than when you don’t.
M&C: I get it. I’m from California originally. And you become a wuss going from New York or Sacramento, where I’m from, to LA, when it’s beautiful all the time.
Rati Gupta: Yeah. You get spoiled, for sure. Man, when I go home now, even if it’s in the 50s, I’m in my snow boots. I am heavily layered up. And my family is all like, ‘Are you going skiing? What are you doing?’.
Rati Gupta talks about her beginnings in dance
M&C: So I know you’re a dancer as well. Were you always interested in acting and dancing?
Rati Gupta: I was always interested in dancing. I didn’t even think about acting until I was already in Los Angeles. So dancing was always a dream. I wanted to dance with Janet Jackson. I wanted to become her choreographer and therefore her best friend.
That was the trajectory that I wanted my life to go on. And after studying about a year in LA, kind of hustling in the dance scene, I just thought, let’s try something else out while I’m here, so I took an acting class and the rest is history. So it’s weird how life spins around like that on you.
M&C: It does. I mean, you were still interested in performing, so you just changed it up just a little bit.
Rati Gupta: Yeah. Instead of going to auditions in booty shorts and heels, I go to auditions wearing quirky office attire, so slightly more comforting or comfortable, I should say, and it’s still creatively satisfying. It’s funny because my dance background has actually come in handy working on the show.
In the Halloween episode, I was wearing that gigantic sandwich board constitution costume. And Steve Holland, the showrunner, he wanted me to spin in it while I was walking across the room and delivering a punch line. And I was like, oh, and I was in heels and I looked…okay, I can do this. And I twirled and everyone was like, ‘That was awesome.’ It was in the trailer for the episode. So yeah, it’s come in handy just being able to know how to move well, I guess.
M&C: What kind of dance classes did you take?
Rati Gupta: My forte was kind of hip-hop, jazz funk kind of style but I studied everything: ballet, tap, modern, African. I did a lot in college including body percussion. Just as a cheerleader in high school, I have done everything. But the style that felt the best on me was always kind of Janet Jackson music video kind of choreography. That was what I’ve always gravitated to.
M&C: I believe you studied psychology and pre-med at school. How did you tell your parents, ‘I think I’m really going to focus on dance?’
Rati Gupta: So I was actually a dance major as well. So psychology and dance are my majors. Pre-med is technically not a major. It’s just like a set of requirements. So I was originally a psychology major. And then at Northwestern, everyone’s an overachiever, so everyone always chooses a second major. Literally, if you’re not double-majoring, people look at you like, ‘What are you doing with your time? What are you doing?’
So my parents knew I was a big dancer. I was in a dance company in college already. I joined one freshman year. And so I was kind of like, ‘I’m already taking dance classes. Maybe I’ll just add it as my second major.’ And I definitely stopped going to my big psychology lectures and kept going to my dance classes. So just all the signs for me internally were pointing to like, ‘This is the direction that I truly want to go in, is more on the entertainment side and less the science side.’
So, I mean, I kind of like tiptoed the idea to my parents gradually over time. So by the time I actually told them, ‘I’m going to move to LA,’ they’re like, ‘Okay.’ They were mostly ready for it. They knew what was coming. And it’s worked out fine. The Big Bang Theory is one of their favorite shows. So up until now, my brother was definitely the favorite child, but now I think I am because I’m on their favorite show. So it worked out just fine.
M&C: And the show’s about science. So, they technically got it.
Rati Gupta: Yeah. I mean, I’m not playing a scientist on the science show, but whatever, I’m still on it. That’s good enough.
M&C: What was your first professional acting gig?
Rati Gupta: It was a movie for MTV, a TV movie called Worst Prom Ever. And that was in 2011. I played the class gossip named Nikki. She was a stoner and a party girl and went to prom with her best friend because she’s too cool for school that way. I love that gig. We shot in New Orleans. The cast was great. So yeah, it was a really cool first TV job to have.
Rati Gupta dishes being on The Big Bang Theory
M&C: So here’s what I’m guessing you’ve been asked about a lot, but how did you first learn about the role of Anu?
Rati Gupta: I was on set of Future Man, the Hulu show that I was shooting all summer, and I got to audition while I was at lunch, hanging out with my cast mates. And I had to go through the whole audition process for this other job while I was still shooting Future Man. So it was a little stressful because I was working on the scripts while I was on set. But as soon as I read the script, I just knew. I was like, ‘This is me. I know her. I get her.’
The whole thing felt so easy for me and then reading for Steve Holland, the showrunner, I wasn’t nervous. If anything, I was just kind of anxious, like, ‘Okay. Just give me the job already,’ like, ‘This is me.’ So it was exciting to finally get that call. And I was, again, on the set of Future Man about to shoot my final scene in my final episode for that show when I got the call from my agent.
I was being walked to set on this beautiful canyon in the LA canyon country when my agent called to say, ‘You got the job.’ And so it was super poetic, the same day that I finished one job to get the next. That doesn’t happen to an actor. That’s the dream scenario to go right from one job to the next, and here I was kind of living that dream. It was pretty great.
M&C: I’ll bet. How did you celebrate getting the part?
Rati Gupta: I’m really close with my castmates on Future Man. The cluster, as we’re called on the show. So they’re all with me when I got the phone call, and we all celebrated. And then we got really high later that day [laughter]. We celebrated together. It was a fun night.
M&C: What do you like best about playing her?
Rati Gupta: I love that she just never apologizes. I think she just knows who she is, and she says what she wants. She says what she thinks and that’s it. Take it or leave it. And I think that’s a really great and fun characteristic to play as a woman.
I don’t think that exists on television as often as it does in real life. So it’s great to be able to play that tough of a chick because there are so many instances where a character has to wash back what she says or tiptoe around a guy’s feelings and things like that, and Anu just doesn’t.
She just says, like, ‘No, this is where I’m at. Yes, I talk to my ex-boyfriend. What?’ She lays it out there and that’s it, and I think that’s a really powerful stance to have and really awesome to play.
M&C: And she’s even the one who proposed, in quite a romantic way, which was cute.
Rati Gupta: Yeah. That was the best part of that episode, I thought. I was so excited to blur the gender roles like that. That was a really cool thing to have on television, I thought.
M&C: I think so too. Now, how did it feel joining a close-knit group of actors that have been celebrated for a long time?
Rati Gupta: Intimidating, for sure, but they welcomed me with open arms. They, from the very beginning, were so warm and friendly and Mayim and Melissa, especially, I think they know what it’s like to be the new girl on set, and so they, within a few days, felt like my big sisters on set.
So it’s great. Kunal was incredibly reassuring and not literally held my hand, but held my hand emotionally through that first episode because it was really hard for me, certainly in that first episode, that first scene, especially, just because both me and the producers were still trying to figure out this character and how she’s being played, and so there was a lot of notes back and forth, adjustments constantly throughout that episode, and Kunal, every step of the way, was like, ‘You’re doing great. You’re fine. Don’t worry about anything. You’re doing great.’
And so it was really nice to have him there as a force of solidarity and just a rock to depend on while I’m going through this rollercoaster of an episode.
M&C: This cast actually seems like a nicer group of people than a lot of other shows out there.
Rati Gupta: I haven’t had a thoroughly bad experience on a set, but this cast and crew — and I include the crew because most of the crew also has been here for at least five years. It’s a family. They are so great and friendly. Everyone says, ‘Good morning,’ when you’re just walking by on a freaking Thursday at 9:00 AM, and you walk in and you just feel this warmth, and it’s incredible.
I mean, when I saw all the crew members get into the rehearsal for the flash mob that happened last week, I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ Everyone got into it and I was so impressed. And that’s just how dedicated they all are to each other. And I don’t think that’s common. I think that’s a rarity to find, for sure.
M&C: Do you have any details on the finale?
Rati Gupta: I’ve got nothing. I’m sorry. I have no idea. If I did have something, I couldn’t say anything. But I don’t have anything, so I still can’t say anything. We don’t get the scripts until the night before we’re first shooting an episode. So the actors are quite in the dark.
M&C: So the finale has not taped yet? [Note that while this interview took place a little earlier this year, the situation was still the same just a few days ago]
Rati Gupta: The finale has not been written. Yeah. They write in order so I think they’re working on episode 19 or 20, maybe, right now. So yeah. It hasn’t been written. I think they know what they want to do, but we don’t know what they want to do, so no idea.
M&C: Tell me about your character on Future Man.
Rati Gupta: She is the polar opposite of Anu. So Rake is the carefree chill one of the five members of the cluster. Everyone has their own five distinct personality traits. So Hatchet, for example, is the disciplinarian. Thimble is the nurturer. Lathe is the homemaker and Rake is just kind of off in her own world, always drinking post-apocalyptic beer and just keeping things chill.
She’s carefree. And I think that is the polar opposite of Anu as she has all the cares in the world and wants to make sure everything is going according to plan and all those things. And Rake was just like, ‘Whatever.’ So very different types of women, very different types of marriages and relationships that they are in because Rake is in a polyamorous marriage. Anu is not [laughter]. But both very interesting types of women to play for sure.
M&C: What about your upcoming Netflix project?
Rati Gupta: So, Unbelievable is an eight-part drama series, I think. It’s based on this ProPublica article called An Unbelievable Story of Rape that came out in 2015. And I remember reading it when it was making the rounds around the internet and just being so astounded and affected about just how terrible sexual assault victims are treated by law enforcement and how unnecessarily difficult it is to get justice. And so when I saw that the show picked up and I was presented with this — it’s a very small part — but just to be a part of this project in any way and help tell the story and elevate this issue in some way just felt really important to me.
So it’s going to be really great. Toni Collette and Merrit Wever are in it. The cast is incredible. The story is insane and very emotional. But it’s something I’m really proud to have been a part of.
M&C: I’m glad. I look forward to seeing that.
Rati Gupta: Yeah, it’s pretty great.
Rati Gupta dishes on her next projects and personal life
M&C: Do you have any plans to return to dance?
Rati Gupta: Not currently. I still take classes every once in a while, but nothing on the professional side. I kind of just keep it as this fun hobby that I use to feed my soul when necessary.
M&C: So you won’t be on Dancing With the Stars anytime soon?
Rati Gupta: Never say never. But it might be a little unfair to have someone with extensive dance history on the show. But they’ve done that before. So I don’t know. We’ll see.
M&C: It would be fun to see you on that show.
Rati Gupta: Well, thank you.
M&C: What do you like to do for fun?
Rati Gupta: I cook a lot. I watch a lot of Food Network and food television’s top chefs. I’m obsessed with food. So kind of experiencing in my kitchen is my Zen. It’s kind of how I relax. Cutting vegetables is relaxing for me, which I think is very strange.
I think most people find that to be an annoying chore to do on weeknights. But that’s how I relax. So I cook a lot. That’s kind of a big hobby, I guess.
M&C: What are you reading and watching these days?
Rati Gupta: I love The Food Network. And the book that I just started reading is called Educated, by Tara Westover.
M&C: I just heard about it from some friends.
Rati Gupta: Yeah, I just got it. I just started reading it, but I fell asleep after because I started too late. But it was on Obama’s list of books that he was reading, or his recommended reading list for the year. I trust his judgment on almost everything. And so, yeah, I just got it. But I am hardly far along so I can’t really talk about it. But yes, that’s what I’m reading.
M&C: All right. What’s something you want to do but haven’t done yet?
Rati Gupta: Oh, man. On like a professional level or like a personal level?
M&C: I’m always asked that one. Whichever you prefer, but both would be great [laughter].
Rati Gupta: On a professional level, I can kind of go back to your previous question. I would love to do something that involved both comedy and dancing. I don’t know what version of Step Up for that at this point, but maybe Step Up eight or nine. I would love to do some sort of show or movie where I got to dance.
So on a professional level, that’s kind of on the same wish list. And on a personal level, oh, I don’t know. I’ve always wanted to do one of those around the world plane tickets and just kind of like country-hop for a year. So, yeah, something like that. Something travel-related. I’m a big travel junkie.
M&C: Where’s your favorite place that you’ve been?
Rati Gupta: Oh, tough question. I was in Iceland last year and I loved it. It’s an incredible country. So many interesting things in such a tiny place. The people are amazing. I had such a great time. It’s just a wild environment. So that’s on my top places.
And then, also, Bali. I went to Bali with a friend of mine a couple of years ago. And, again, it’s such a tiny, small island. Every part of that island is a completely different vibe. And I had so much fun there. Again, the people are great. The food is great. So those are the two places recently that I went to that I loved. And I would totally go back.
M&C: Is there somewhere you haven’t been where you really want to go on your bucket list?
Rati Gupta: Brazil. Brazil has been hanging out on my list for years. And it always seems to elude me when I’m trip planning. I don’t know why. But the energy of Brazil just feels so exciting. And I love Latin American, South American cuisine. So I feel like I would just go nuts when I get to go there.
M&C: Is there anything you’d like to add about your family?
Rati Gupta: I love my family. They’re great [laughter]. They are obsessed with the show. And they’ve always been super supportive of me in my career. Like when I landed the show, it felt like not just a prideful moment for me in my career, but also for them.
My nephew, he’s nine, and the Big Bang Theory is his favorite show. He wanted to have a Big Bang Theory-themed birthday party a couple of years ago. And my cousin was like, ‘Oh, I don’t think we can do that. That’s not really kid-appropriate.’
I have a photo that my cousin sent me of his reaction when she told him I was going to be on the show. And it’s the funniest picture of him. He’s just bug-eyed and with like the biggest smile. And like now he is talked about at school. Everyone knows his aunt is kind of famous and on the show. And it’s just great that my family got to kind of enjoy this ride with me because they are such huge fans of the show.
M&C: Oh, that’s wonderful news. Do you have any pets?
Rati Gupta: I had a golden retriever growing up, but I don’t have a dog right now. I want to. I just needed to be in a place where I can take care of it as much as I would want to.
M&C: And right now, you’d rather just work constantly for now?
Rati Gupta: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve got a lot of other things on my plate. I mean, having a pet is like a child. It’s another living being you have to take care of. So you want to make sure you have that time and energy to do that.
M&C: And how do you like people to connect with you?
Rati Gupta: Instagram and Twitter, I’m on constantly and healthily enough. So I am on the internet if anyone [laughter] wants to find me there.
M&C: What are your social media handles?
M&C: Oh, that’s cool. Did someone steal your name on Twitter?
Rati Gupta: Well, Gupta is like the most popular Indian last name. And so, by the time I got a Twitter handle, @ratigupta was already taken. So I was like, ‘Well, whatever. I am the Rati. So we’ll just go with that.’
M&C: That works very well. What’s next for you?
Rati Gupta: It’s pilot season right now. So I’m kind of hustling right now. So we’ll see. I don’t know yet.
The Big Bang Theory airs on Thursdays at 8:00 PM, ET/PT on CBS.