For twelve seasons, audiences around the world tuned in to watch the quirky and endearing characters of “The Big Bang Theory.”
Among the ensemble cast was Kunal Nayyar, who brilliantly portrayed the lovable and socially awkward astrophysicist, Rajesh Koothrappali.
As the curtains closed on this iconic sitcom, many fans were left wondering: What became of Nayyar after the final bow? Did he fade into obscurity or did he continue to shine in the limelight?
In this article, we delve deep into the post-“Big Bang” journey of Kunal Nayyar, exploring his career moves, personal milestones, and the legacy he’s building beyond the walls of Caltech’s cafeteria.
Nayyar was born on April 30, 1981 in London. His family were immigrants from India. When he was three years old, Nayyar and his family moved back to New Delhi, India.
He attended St. Columba School and played on the badminton team. In 1999, he attended the University of Portland in Oregon where he studied finance. While working toward his degree, he acted in several school plays.
Nayyar later decided to become an actor and went on to attend Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he received a Master of Fine Arts in Acting.
In 2006, he starred in the play Huck & Holden where he portrayed a student from India who was anxious to experience American culture.
Also in 2006, he co-wrote a play called Cotton Candy that premiered in New Delhi. His prime-time television debut was when he made a guest appearance on the CBS drama NCIS.
Nayyar played Youssef Zidan, an Iraqi terrorist, in one episode in Season 4 of the show.
The Big Bang Theory
In 2007, he landed his most notable role as Dr. Rajesh “Raj” Koothrappali on the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory.
Raj works in the physics department of Caltech, where his area of expertise is particle astrophysics. He often tried to portray himself as someone who came from humble beginnings in India but, in actuality, his father was affluent.
For the first six seasons of the show, Raj suffers from selective mutism and social anxiety. This prevented him from conversing with women he wasn’t related to.
This was only alleviated when he drank alcohol or took experimental anxiety medications. Raj would also become more overbearing and obnoxious while on his medication.
Big Bang Theory was his first audition
What made Nayyar achieving the role on the popular show so striking was that it was his first ever audition. Nayyar auditioned for the show in the hopes that the job would help him pay his bills.
On The Things, Nayyar discussed how he came to realize that his role on The Big Bang Theory was much bigger than simply a paycheck–
"I was so young at the time, I was just happy to have a job. I was not self-aware enough to realize the gravitas of the situation. It really began to hit me in Season 3 and Season 4. Season 4 was huge for us because we went into syndication and were playing on three or four channels five times a day! That’s when I truly got my first taste of fame."
Almost got cut from the show
Nayyar’s role on the show was put in jeopardy early on when CBS attempted to have him removed from the show behind creator Chuck Lorre’, back.
In the book entitled “The Big Bang Theory: The Definitive, Inside Story of the Epic Hit Series” Lorre recalled, “Apparently, while I was flying across the country, a CBS executive determined — unilaterally — that Kunal wasn’t right for the role, and we would recast that part…”
Fortunately for Nayyar, showrunner Chuck Lorre went to bat for him with the CBS executives and he remained on the show for its entire duration.
In 2014, Nayyar and his co-star Simon Helberg negotiated for a bigger payday along with other cast members. Nayyar and Helberg saw their pay per episode increase from $100,000 to the mid six-figure range.
Fortunately, contracts were finalized just in time, as Lorre was so frustrated by the drawn out process, which held up production, that he was in the midst of writing a script that did not include Nayyar or Helberg’s characters.
In the first season, Nayyar earned $40,000 per episode. By the end of the show, it is estimated that he was earning between $600,000 and $800,000 per episode.
In 2015 and 2018, Forbes listed Nayyar as the third highest paid television actor. In 2018, he was tied with his co-star Simon Helberg, who both allegedly earned $23.5 million from the show.
Other Acting Roles
In 2016, Nayyar lent his voice to the animated film Trolls. The movie, which starred the voice acting of Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, Russell Brand, and Gwen Stefani amongst others, is about two trolls who set out to save their village from destruction.
Nayyar played Guy Diamond, a glitter troll with an auto-tuned singing voice.
Nayyar played convicted serial killer Sandeep on the Netflix production Criminal: UK in 2020. Nayyar acted in the final episode of Season 2.
Think Like a Dog
Also in 2020, Nayyar played Mr. Mills in the family comedy Think Like a Dog. The film also starred Josh Duhamel and Megan Fox.
Mira, Royal Detective
Nayyar used his voice acting skills once again to voice the character Naveen on the Disney animated series Mira, Royal Detective. The show’s protagonist, Mira, is the first South Asian lead in a Disney Junior show.
What is Kunal Nayyar doing now?
Kunal is still very active as an actor and can still be seen in a variety of movies and television.
Mosty recently in February 2022, Nayyar starred alongside Uma Thurman in the Apple TV+ crime drama Suspicion. Thurman plays a woman whose son gets abducted by British travelers.
Nayyar plays one of the travelers who proclaims he is innocent of the crime.
Also in 2022, Nayyar played A.J. Firky in The Storied Life of A.J. Firky, both serving as lead actor and executive producer for the film.
The film, which was released on October 7, 2022, follows A.J. Firky, who is trying to deal with the grief following his wife’s death and keeping his bookstore afloat when a mysterious package arrives.
Nayyar is set to join Carey Mulligan and Paul Dano in the upcoming Adam Sandler film adaptation of Spaceman set to air on Netflix.
The film is about an astronaut who realizes life on Earth is falling to pieces and must seek the help of an ancient creature lurking inside his spaceship.
Nayyar is also set to produce and lend his voice to the Reel FX Originals animated film Diya.
The movie follows Manolo, a bullfighter who goes on a marvelous adventure on the Day of the Dead. The film also takes inspiration from Indian folklore.
In 2015, Nayyar wrote his biography entitled “Yes, My Accent is Real and Some Other Things I Haven’t Told You.” Entertainment Weekly called the autobiography “hilarious and inspiring.”
Bought Nicolas Cage’s house
In 2019, Nayyar bought a home that formerly belonged to actor Nicholas Cage. Nayyar paid $7.5 million for the Hancock Park home. The Tudor style property has two stories and five bedrooms.
In 2012, Nayyar married Neha Kapur in New Delhi in front of 1,000 guests.
Kapur is the former Miss India. In 2021, Nayyar and Kapur celebrated their ten-year anniversary.