In our Alumni Q&A series, we caught up with Kapil Talwalkar ’15, one of the stars of NBC’s Night Court, to discuss how to prepare for certain roles, venturing outside your comfort zone, and why you should always bug your teachers (within reason).
Tell us a little bit about your professional background.
My first professional gig was a play at East West Players in Downtown Los Angeles. It was directed by Jennifer Chang who had cast me in the play Fortinbras the year earlier at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. From there I got representation and started auditioning. After probably over 200 auditions I booked a pilot for ABC called False Profits. It, unfortunately, did not get picked up to a series. I did book several pilots after that. One, in particular, was a VR pilot called Operation Othello with Viola Davis, Mary Chieffo, and David Corenswet. It also didn’t get picked up. My big break finally came when I was cast in Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist on NBC. My character on that— Tobin— was super fun to play and it helped the world see my comedy chops. And that subsequently helped me book work since the show ended. I did a season-long arc on the Charmed reboot for CW. And currently, I’m a series regular on the new Night Court on NBC.
What are you currently working on professionally?
I’m in between seasons for Night Court. So I’m trying to keep myself busy with music, some theatre, and an indie film, before production starts on another season of Night Court.
What was your best USC experience?
My best USC experience was performing as Lt. Munoz at the Bing Theatre in City of Angels, directed by the wonderful John Rubinstein. I learned so much as an actor from that show and working with John was a dream come true.
What do you miss about college, SDA specifically?
I miss the community; the excitement backstage before shows; attending and supporting shows your friends are in. It’s a very family-oriented mentality that is sometimes missing in professional gigs. I miss that.
Was there a class or professor that was particularly meaningful or influential during your time at the School? Why?
Lora Zane was the first teacher that opened my eyes to what it was like to really “let go” when you’re working. She taught me how to do the work at home and then just trust that all the moments will live in my body when I perform. Eric Trules was fantastic, too. His clowning class taught me to be fearless and comfortable with the “ugly” parts of myself.
What (if any) productions did you work on?
I worked on many, including Flyin’ West, Fortinbras, City of Angels, Getting Married, Isaac, I Am, Anna in the Tropics and The Way of the World. I also directed Bad Habits by Terrence McNally.
What helped you transition during the time between graduation and your first professional roles?
Mentors at USC. Mentors I found while working on my first East West Players show. They helped make the adjustment less daunting. But at the end of the day, part of the discomfort is good. It builds character.
Is there any difference in preparing for a role like Neil on Night Court (which is set in the world of law) than in preparing for other roles?
Adjusting to the multi-camera sitcom is challenging. You have to find a balance between allowing nuance and making bold choices. But for the role in particular I watched the original show to see what Charles Robinson did in terms of the day-to-day duties. I also researched the role of a clerk in a courtroom and watched videos of court sessions to understand the behavior.
What lessons from your SDA training have you applied to your professional life?
Always be on time for your professional commitments. Never put down your castmates or the production. Put in 110% of the time to do homework on your role. Show up with a good attitude.
What can students do during their training to prepare themselves for the professional world?
Make sure to get as much as you can out of the instructor. Some students feel scared to ask questions. Bug the teacher (within reason) and use the resources provided to get the most out of the class. Try not to get defensive when getting direction or feedback.