Interview: Rohan Mirchandaney
Remember the Peanuts gang? Well, in Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, they’re all grown up and having a rough time of it – Charlie Brown, Schroeder and Linus have been reimagined as CB, Beethoven and Van, while CB’s dog has just been put down for killing a little yellow bird. The satirical show is opening at Boutique Theatre this Friday.
You were on Big Brother. I’m not a big reality TV person so I’m not sure how much you’re recognised or pigeonholed. Do you think people think ‘Big Brother’ when you audition or appear in things?
To be honest this is something I had to contend with before accepting the offer to be a contestant, I had chats with many acting friends, casting directors and my agent deliberating if this could potentially be something that would hinder my career as an actor. They all pretty much said ‘Go for it!’, ’Have fun!’ & ‘How many people around the country get to say they did something like this?’
Being an actor is definitely tough, but being an Indian actor in Australia is significantly more difficult. At the stage of auditioning I was hoping going on the show would be an avenue to develop a following & a name for myself that would mean more to the industry than small credits and a headshot. Ultimately I wanted to last long enough to be able to pack my bags & head over to LA where being on Big Brother in Australia would be irrelevant.
After leaving the show I’ve tried to remove myself from wearing it as a badge and prolonging the 15 mins of reality fame by focusing my internet presence on being strictly actor/Rohan related. When I am involved in a project I am able to bring some following and generate interest in the project which I’m grateful for. When I do audition or appear in things I don’t mention Big Brother it if I can help it, though I’m confident and sure over time people will see less Big Brother Rohan & more Rohan the actor.
Do you think that that helped or hindered your serious acting career?
Great question. To be honest neither. Now I know that’s an interesting way to look at it, but what I was intending was to last as long as possible to assist my career, although there was always the possibility of having a complete adverse effect where I would always be known as that ‘reality person’ trying to maintain their public image. By not lasting long in the show it may have worked to my advantage as it allowed me to shed that image immediately and go back to concentrating on being an actor, while at the same time gaining me a small national support group predominantly online who are interested in the projects I attach myself to and encourage me to succeed such as with my new comedy YouTube webseries that just launched recently at www.doobienights.com.
What drew you to Dog Sees God?
I love pushing boundaries both generally and personally as an actor. I haven’t had an opportunity to play an emotional character on stage sharing intimate scenes before, let alone with another male. The American accent required for the play was also something that forced me to work on my own every day developing it stronger not only for the performances but for when I do head overseas eventually.
Teenage life is something I’m all too familiar with, many of the day to day events that occur in the story I can relate to and have been involved in as well. But more importantly with the social issues that plague our media today regarding sexuality, bullying (both online and in schools) and identity, it is a great story to tell and hold a mirror up to the public showing them just how life is for some people especially our youth. Speaking of, I’m actually an ambassador for the Bully Zero Australian Foundation. More information can be found here http://www.bzaf.org.au/.
Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang have been part of many children’s lives. Did you read them growing up?
Unfortunately I was never really exposed to the many adventures of Charlie Brown and his friends, I was more a TinTin lover, both the cartoons and the comics. I’ve only come to appreciate the work of Charles M Schultz recently.
Even so, is it a strange experience knowing that the characters you and the other actors are playing are directly inspired by cute comic book characters?
Yeah it’s totally an interesting experience! I see it similar to how actors play biographical characters in films. Since the characters in Dog Sees God are slightly older versions of themselves I was able to bring a lot of creativity to my personal understanding of how Beethoven developed over time while trying to stay true and maintaining the essence he had as a child. It may taint these characters for those fond lovers of Peanuts. These characters can’t be unseen!
This show gets really dark from what I understand. Do you think that is part of its appeal?
I think it forces us to look at society, not just American culture, but our own and touches upon issues that many of us don’t necessarily concern ourselves with and shy away from. It does look at a more gritty life and to be honest a more three-dimensional honest look at how life really is for adolescence. Even the Peanuts characters can go through the same social issues we do and if it takes something like that to affect us as an audience and bring more light to this issue then I say let’s see more of it.
Dog Sees God is interesting in that it’s won a decent amount of awards but is quite unknown. Why do you think that is?
I have to be careful in not generalising too much when I answer this! For me I don’t think theatre is included in the many entertainment mediums in young peoples lives. As our society slowly shifts away from real human interactions and more towards screen based communication and entertainment which can be more cost effective (I’m totally talking about pirating movies here haha!) there is less desire to actually make the effort to see a play also because it can’t be discussed globally nor watched on a mass scale. Plays have a limited run in a set location unlike film and TV which can be seen whenever and wherever someone is in the world. I’m sure if Dog Sees God was turned into a film the story would become quite large and very well known.
And for a general acting question, how did you approach your character, Beethoven?
I approached Beethoven from a very internal place, I saw the contrasts with the other characters in the play and focused on this completely, image wise, behaviour and manner of speaking, I wanted Beethoven to be different to further highlight his alienation. I wanted Beethoven to have values that he stuck to so he can always find solace in the fact he is a good person and he does live a decent life. Although I haven’t experienced many of the events in Beethoven’s life I have a good understanding of it and hope I did him justice helping him out on his search to find his rightful place in the world.
For tickets, head to the Boutique Theatre page.
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