Office politics and the entangled professional relationships of co-workers can get a bit interesting when someone is hiding as many secrets as April Carver (Italia Ricci). In the ABC Family drama series CHASING LIFE, April has not only found out that she has leukemia, she also found out that her father may have a second secret family. These are the kinds of things that would make any one’s life a bit crazy, but then add in an illicit office romance and a competitive co-worker, and April’s life is crammed full of drama. Fortunately for April, her ultra competitve co-worker Danny Gupta (Abhi Sinha) has a bit of a golden heart. Danny may sense that April has secrets, yet he only thinks it is all work-related. Imagine his surprise when he finds out what is really going on in April’s life.
In a recent exclusive interview, star Abhi Sinha talked about Danny’s curiosity and where his inquisitiveness may lead. He also teased that he is working on adding another romance to CHASING LIFE’s budding love-triangle.
CHASING LIFE is a remarkable show. It feels like a masterpiece for young television right now, particularly addressing such serious issues in such a deft way. It is so very nicely done. So drew you to the role of Danny and the show?
ABHI: Actually when I went in and read for the role of Danny, I was one of the few people that did not read him a certain way as a lot of other actors read him as a gay character and mine was one of the few takes that saw him differently. Then in terms of the overall script, it was very emotional and I have known people who have gone through that experience.
Did you get a sense from the get-go that Danny was going to bring the comedy element to the show?
ABHI: For sure. He definitely provides a lot of the comic-relief.
Danny provides such a nice outlet for April’s character. She needs to be able to laugh and to be able to do that in her work environment, which can also get incredibly stressful.
ABHI: For sure. She is dealing with so much in her world, in her personal life and relationships and with her health and I think the audience definitely connects with a lot of that and if you don’t have that comic-relief it would be a little hard.
What is it like when you and Italia [Ricci] do those kinds of scenes with the banter over the cubicle walls?
ABHI: (Laughs) That’s kind of our whole relationship with their interaction with a cubicle wall between them. Mostly, it’s just Danny always trying to one-up April. He really respects her more than anyone in the office, but at the end of the day, they are competitors and the cubicle just provides this nice platform for them.
Would you describe Danny and April as friends or strictly competitors because they have to go after the same kinds of stories?
ABHI: In the pilot, they are not close friends. It’s all strictly professional and about one-upping each other and trying to get the best of one another. But, without giving too much away, the characters sort of evolve over each episode.
It was interesting to see how Danny insinuated himself into April’s personal life, like he got into her desk drawer and started investigating that license plate number.
ABHI: It’s pretty rude. It’s an invasion of personal space. But that’s definitely Danny Gupta. He is sort of the antithesis of most Indian characters that you would see on TV, who are kind of conservative. He definitely goes all out with himself and other people — even crossing boundaries at times.
He also encouraged April to pursue an interoffice romance. One would have thought he would have frowned on that.
ABHI: (Laughs) Definitely. We also discussed that when we were working on the pilot: did he have any romantic interest in April? For me, it felt like he might have initially, but now as things stand, it is strictly professional.
Is Danny “Team Dominic” or does he not care one way or another?
ABHI: It’s really funny. In the room where we do all the table reads there’s basically two halves of the wall: one reads Team Dominic and the other reads Team Leo — kind of playing on the love-triangle — and after episode 3, I took this picture of myself and hung it up on the wall in the middle and put Team Danny by it. (Laughs) Maybe we can get the writers and producers to evolve that triangle.
Danny seems to be the investigative sort and you would think he would pick up that there’s something going on with April’s health. Will he start to see the signs?
ABHI: I don’t want to give too much away, but I know in an episode down the line, he may or may not find out, and he may or may not have a certain reaction to it.
We would love to assume he does find out, at least we would hope so. April and Danny work so close and it would be nice to see them grow a little closer over something that serious.
ABHI: It is going to take time if Danny is going to find out. It has taken 3-4 episodes for April to just find the courage to tell her own family.
We have seen Danny crossing the boundaries and getting involved in April’s life when he can, whether it is on a professional level or not so professional level. Is he going to start digging a little bit into April’s other sister, the one she ran into at the cemetery?
ABHI: Absolutely. For Danny, he doesn’t understand quite yet the severity of April’s situation. So if she’s going to extra limits to get information on this girl, Danny wants to know why. Because to him, it could just be her one-upping him at the job. To him, all of this is Boston Post related. He has no idea that something much deeper is happening with her health and her personal life. So I definitely think he’s going to want to dig in deeper and find out what she’s up to, because he doesn’t want to look bad either.
And all this happening under his very nose! What type of secrets might Danny be hiding? Are we going to find out any of his secrets?
ABHI: Danny’s secrets would definitely not be on the same level as April. It might be something like he’s writing his own novel on the side. Just typical Danny stuff.
Are we going to see Danny pursuing his own investigative research on other stories so that we get to see what he does at the office?
ABHI: Everything he does, he sort of keeps to himself; and at the same time while doing that, he’s going to make everyone in the office know that he’s on top of them and knows what they are up to. But I think first he wants to figure out what’s going on with April, like why she’s gone to extra limits to find this girl, Natalie. He doesn’t understand why April is researching her. But he wants to get to the bottom of it. So he wants to figure out what’s going on with her first and that will help him a lot more.
So he’s going to follow in her shadow a little bit and then take what she’s discovered?
ABHI: (Laughs) Absolutely. He’s a control freak. He wants to control everything.
Since Danny seems to be uninvitedly integrating himself into April’s life, is he going to cross paths with some of the other people in her life, like Beth (Aisha Dee) and Leo (Scott Foster)?
ABHI: Absolutely. It might be brief, but he’ll definitely have some interaction with them. I can’t how far down the line it will be, but it will be sooner than later.
So you finally got a chance to work with the other half of the cast working on the show then.
ABHI: (Laughs) It’s fun. You kind of forget when you live in your own world at the Boston Post in a cubicle all day, so when we branch out and go to location or I get to work with another actor it is nice and refreshing.
Your castmate Richard Brancastisano said that Aisha was the one was trying to get him to crack up and break character. Has she tried that with you?
ABHI: That’s so funny coming from Richie since when I’m doing my scenes, Richie is the one that starts trying to make me break. (Laughs) So he’s really stealing that from Aisha.
So what are your kinds of favorite scenes to work on?
ABHI: I have been fortunate enough in this role where 99% of my scenes are comic-relief. I’m providing the comedy and I think that’s really fun. I just get to kind of drop into my own space be an actor when I get to do that. I’m not always funny, but a few times I get to be and that is really nice.
This is an unusual show. It’s about cancer and I imagine that Danny is going to be swept up into that storyline a little bit. Is he ready for the more serious side of things?
ABHI: I think he is. As an actor, when I was going in for some of the more serious scenes that you’ll see down the line, I was a little unsure of how it might come out and how it feels. It’s not like the relationship between Danny and April that we’re used to seeing. But after filming the scenes, it was really nice. It was a nice change of pace and it showed this evolution of the character who you only saw as infringing on personal space and kind of mean sometimes.
Digging a little deep, what do you most admire about your character Danny?
ABHI: I really admire the fact that he doesn’t hold back. He says what he thinks. At the same time, he is a good person. He has a good heart. He not only has respect for April, which he doesn’t not share for a lot of people at the Boston Post. But he has a kind of love for her. He really likes her as a friend. He knows that if he’s not running that office one day, there is no way that anyone else except her will be. So I admire that about him. In terms of the character and for me as an actor, I’m really proud of the fact that I can play an Indian character on television that is probably not your stereotypical Indian character. That for me is really cool.
What can you share about your other projects like the film “Cyber”?
ABHI: “Cyber” is a movie coming out in January 2015, produced by Michael Mann. It’s about cyber warfare between China and the United States, and my character in that — I play a computer forensics expert who is assisting in an FBI investigation. Other than that, I’ve got this film that is out right now on video-on-demand called “After the Dark,” which stars James D’Arcy and Sophie Lowe. It’s about high school students in Indonesia and it’s about their last day in class and they take this cerebral though-experiment that turns into an adventurous expedition. It’s a cool movie.
Are these your flip-side? They seem like more serious roles.
ABHI: They are. I would definitely say that. I don’t know how much of a character I play in “After the Dark,” but in “Cyber,” the character is much different than Danny Gupta in CHASING LIFE. Danny is very clean-cut, he wears suits, he’s very intense and likes to control people. But in “Cyber,” the character is much more sporadic, neurotic and has crazy hair because he hasn’t been able to take care of himself. He has a beard because he’s been too busy to shave. So it’s a nice 180, definitely.
Do you pick your projects with the thought of “I just did a comedy, now I want to do a drama”, or do you just pick up whatever the project is that comes along?
ABHI: I pick up whatever project that the producers of that project allow me to be a part of. I’m not very picky at all. It is fortunate to be able to say that I have played characters that have a good range — both comedies and dramas. For that, I’m am lucky.
I’m glad you came to CHASING LIFE. It is a powerful show, but also a fun show. So it is cool you get to be a part of that.
ABHI: Thank you. I appreciate that you’re a huge fan. It is nice to see that dichotomy of being a drama and yet still having a lot of comedy throughout.
I was a little worried when I read the premise, but then I saw how it was portrayed and I thought, “Okay, these people have figured out how tell a beautiful story in a way that we want to watch it.” That is the best thing.
ABHI: I was worried when I was telling people the premise of the pilot that they would go, “Oh wow, that sounds like a bummer.” But then I would tell them that it’s funny and they have to watch it.
You’re also lucky that the film “The Fault In Our Stars” came out coincidentally at the exact same time that CHASING LIFE debuted. So it is interesting that they both took a lighter touch to a very serious topic, which is nice.
ABHI: (Laughs) I don’t believe in coincidence. I think there was a higher power that knew. They were planning something. It’s all too fortuitous that they came out the same week.
Are there any teasers you would like to offer about what is upcoming for Danny and April?
ABHI: There is an episode that is primarily just Danny and April coming up. That’s all I can say about that. I don’t want to give anything away that will get me in trouble. (Laughs)
To see how mixed-up in April’s life Danny finds himself as he continues to snoop and wonder what scoops April may be hiding from him, be sure to tune in for an all new episode of CHASING LIFE on Tuesday, July 8th at 9:00 p.m. on ABC Family Channel.