Movies & TV

Never Have I Ever's Adam Shapiro Talks Quirky Humor, Season Two, and More

Plus, the actor explains why the show is exactly what we need right now.
IMAGE IAN PHILLIPS
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Adam Shapiro loves comedy. From TV to theater, he's explored every part of the genre. Still, he says, it never gets old. "Comedies are always fun on set because you've got to get through. You've got to get through a whole scene that might have 50 jokes in it, and no one in the crew can laugh, and nobody on camera can laugh," he says.

In one of his recent shows, Shapiro plays a teacher named—wait for it—Mr. Shapiro in Netflix's Never Have I Ever. The show is a different kind of comedy, however—one untold. The coming-of-age offering is a refreshing take on growing up in an immigrant family, with witty and timely humor.  The actor talks to Esquire Philippines about his love of acting, working with Mindy Kaling, and Never Have I Ever.

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ESQUIRE PHILIPPINES: How did you get your start in acting?

Adam Shapiro: I did what a lot of people do, and I did high school musicals and things like that. Then, I went to college to study politics. And, it turned out, I really only was attracted to doing the speeches. So, I started doing sketch comedy and theater in college, and the day I graduated from the University of Maryland I moved out to Hollywood, and just thought I'd give it a shot. My first real on-camera experiences came doing lots of commercials for a bunch of years.

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ESQ: What draws you to a new project? 

AS: With TV, it's fun because you know you're playing that role. So, you already know how your character would say these things, but you have no idea what the next episode's gonna bring. So, TV is really fun for that reason, and exciting and also kind of nerve-racking. With a film or a play, when you pick up a script, whatever draws you to it is the thing that makes you ultimately want to take the role, but with TV you're saying yes to a role. Then, every time you get a new script you have no idea what you're going to be doing in like three days on set. So, it's really exciting. I think with TV you're originally just super attracted to the pilot and then all of a sudden you're like, oh, wherever the writers take my character I'm going to go and I'm going to have like three days to prepare. I think that's so much fun.

Photo by IAN PHILLIPS.
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ESQ: How did you get involved with Never Have I Ever?

AS: Mindy Kaling and I have known each other since I played a guy she was dating on The Mindy Project. And, we've been friends ever since. She then wrote this role, basically, after me. It's called Mr. Shapiro, and it's like I'm playing my dad. I have my dad's name and he's a teacher and my mom's a teacher, and she called me and said I have this role and you got to play it. When they were shooting, I was shooting a different show called The Good Lord Bird with Ethan Hawke which actually just premiered on Showtime. She was like 'We're gonna work it out, the timing, and you can fly back to LA and start shooting on Never Have I Ever, then you can wrap on The Good Lord Bird and come finish with us.' The timing worked out and I got to reunite with Mindy Kaling which any person with a brain would want to do, because she's hilarious and the best. Unfortunately, because I was away shooting something else, I missed all the table reads and I didn't really get to see, meet the rest of the cast that wasn't in the scenes that I was in. So when I watched it on Netflix, I was watching just like a fan. An,d I was just as blown away as a lot of the fans were. I just became obsessed with the show. I knew that the classroom scenes would be really funny but I didn't realize like my heart would be like torn out of my chest by the scenes at home, and it's just such a good show. I can't—as a fan—I can't wait for season two. And, as an actor, I can't wait to get back on set.

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Photo by IAN PHILLIPS.

ESQ: What is it like working with Mindy Kaling?

AS: She's hilarious and cool and smart and everything you would want in somebody that you're working with—especially when that person's also writing for you, and making you look really good. I'd say you can't beat it.

ESQ: How did you prepare to step into Mr. Shapiro's shoes?

AS: Well, they were like this is your role, just do it the way you would do it. I just started having fun with it and I love the role. I've played a lot of teachers. I love doing that I grew up with teachers. I was a nanny. I was a camp counselor. So, I'm so used to being kind of the youngest guy on set. It's funny, to all of a sudden, be the older guy there and everyone's younger and that's the kind of energy I love. I love the young actors that are on the show. It's such a fun environment to work in. Young actors are so playful and, you know, and we laugh almost after every single take.

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Photo by IAN PHILLIPS.

ESQ: How much of Mr. Shapiro do you see in yourself?

AS: A lot of parts of myself, especially as I get older and now I'm a dad. All of a sudden, I'm becoming that guy. He's like, 'Wait, no, I swear, I was cool when I was your age, I swear I'm cool.' But, it's like now you're just 40 and you're a dad and you're not that cool anymore. I think so much of Mr. Shapiro is a part of my own personality and my own experience right now. On a serious tip, the class that he teaches and the subject that he teaches is the most important thing that's going on in our country right now, and I think it's really timely, and I think we could probably do a lot with it in the second season in terms of like the types of things that the kids are learning.

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ESQ: The show itself is timely. Could you tell me about that?

AS: The one thing everybody says about the show is how refreshing it is, and how refreshing the two actresses are, and how they've never seen a show with someone like her in the lead. It's exactly what we need right now, and the humor is so timely and so new. I think everything about the show is like a cool glass of water. It's just hilarious, it's heartwarming, it's refreshing, and it's telling stories about people that don't always have the stories told about them. I think that this show just happens to be at the forefront of a big wave of news stories that Hollywood is going to be telling and it's exciting.

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ESQ: What can people expect from the next season?

AS: I have no idea—that's the exciting part about the show. None of us actors know anything about what season two is gonna bring. All I know is we text all the time amongst each other, and we're constantly just like freaking out that we're gonna see each other soon. But, I have no clue what's gonna come from my character and what's going to come for all the characters in season two. But, if it's anything like season one, it's going to be ridiculously good.

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This interview has been edited.

In this story: Photographs by Ian Phillips • Styling by Kimberly Goodnight at Media Playground PR • Grooming by Robert Bryan at Exclusive Artists Management using MAC Cosmetics • Produced by McCormack

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Paolo Chua
Paolo Chua is the Associate Style Editor of Esquire Philippines.
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