Nik Dodani

Nik Dodani’s career as an entertainer is steeped in not just generating success and tackling new roles for himself but also to help bring people who, like him, have had to fight for better representation, compensation and opportunity within public spheres.

The out gay Indian-American star is set for a major year in 2024 with starring roles in Lee Issac Chung’s tornado-laden blockbuster sequel Twisters and horror-comedy The Parenting, reuniting him with Alex Strangelove director Craig Johnson.

In addition to that, he’s also slated to make his directorial debut with Blue Boy, an Indian-American gay coming-of-age dramedy based on Rakesh Satyal’s award-winning 2009 novel.

Dodani’s 2024 docket speaks to how his star continues to rise since his breakthrough role as Zahid in Atypical, but he doesn’t limit the power of that star to just himself. He uses that heightened profile to advocate for the continued diversification of Hollywood along racial, ethnic and sexual orientation lines and lift up fellow South Asian voices within film and TV.

“Diversity isn’t casting one or two people of color and calling it a day. It is creating whole ecosystems and pipelines of talent and worlds of imagination that will eventually lead to a more diverse industry,” he told Teen Vogue in 2022.

“Authenticity and diversity and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords for me. Those words directly impact my livelihood, so I’m thinking about it all the time … I really do take the long view, because if I didn’t take the long view, I think I’d probably quit.”

Dodani co-founded The Salon, an organization aimed at mentoring South Asian actors, writers, directors and other media professionals, in 2019 in part to provide them with opportunities for advancement that historically weren’t present in Hollywood. It also connects emerging creatives with established South Asian entertainment figures in a way that utilizes the value of representation more proactively.

“This is a trite notion at this point, but what we see on screen is really important for the culture, and it affects millions of people, right?” Dodani said. “It’s how people form identities when they’re kids — by what they’re watching. If we don’t have the right stuff onscreen, we’re truly raising less-textured generations.”

This message strikes an especially personal chord for him, and perhaps informs his passion to change entertainment circles on and off the screen.

“I spent most of my childhood wishing I was white,” Dodani told Homegrown. “I swore off everything Indian—from Bollywood, to music, to speaking Hindi. Everything except the food, really. Internalized racism is a real piece of s***. It was only when I left Arizona and went to college did I start seeing my own race and heritage.”

While that experience informed his humor early in his stand-up career, digging into the systemic issues that created those thoughts helped build Dodani into the advocate he presently represents.

We’re proud of Dodani for building a library of work for the next gay Indian-Americans; the ones that may be dealing with the same identity struggles he did.

He is also creating structures for the advancement of populations that Hollywood historically othered, type-casted, or outright ignored. And he is doing that while showing the world an uninhibited image of his own queerness, charm and fearless ability to make us laugh. 

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