June 22, 2022
For Nik Dodani, the details matter.
Lanky, queer, and Brown haven’t, historically speaking, been top of Hollywood’s casting criteria. But the soft-spoken, bespeckled 28-year-old tries to bring these elements into his performances when they’re relevant. “I approach characters from the outside in,” he said. “I like to think about what they wear, how do they wear their hair, what accessories are they wearing, how do they physically fill a space. You can learn so much about a character’s inner life by how they present.”
These considerations, in Dodani’s case, can be as simple as a name. He recently wrapped filming on The Parenting, a horror comedy where he stars, opposite Brandon Flynn, as part of a couple who invite their respective parents (Parker Posey, Brian Cox, Edie Falco, and Lisa Kudrow) to spend a weekend in the woods.
Dodani’s character, who is adopted, was initially called Graham before he suggested “Rohan” to director Craig Johnson. “I started thinking critically about what it means to be a Brown kid with a white family,” Dodani said. Even such a seemingly minor amendment is the kind of nuance that Dodani feels can make a difference to the story. “When you have a bigger role, you really get to have more to play with. But even when you have smaller roles, they’re still full humans; you just have less clues on the page.”
Dodani has been gracing our screens for nearly a decade. He’s played the sardonic sidekick in the film adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen, a potty-mouth dating aficionado in Atypical, and Ogie, the nerdy auditor in the Broadway musical Waitress. But throughout it all — including a comedy bit about being Indian and gay in 2016 that drew mainstream Indian coverage — Dodani has always been unapologetically himself, pushing Hollywood to keep up and adapt.