Fans of the Netflix dramedy series Atypical, which debuts its second season on September 7, know they probably shouldn’t rely on actor and comedian Nik Dodani for sex or dating advice. The openly gay Indian-American plays a dorky, would-be Casanova, Zahid, who dispenses frequently dubious guidance to autistic teenager and BFF, Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist).
Dodani also played a straight bro buddy to the closeted gay title character in Alex Strangelove and this fall he’ll portray another type of advisor in CBS’s eagerly awaited revival of Murphy Brown as Pat Patel, a social media-savvy millennial.
NewNowNext caught up with Dodani—he’s newly single, guys!—for the scoop on Atypical, Murphy Brown, and the worst dating advice he’s ever received.
So what’s in store for Zahid on this season of Atypical?
Season one was all about Sam trying to start dating and having sex, and Zahid was his love coach through all of that. This season, it’s all about Sam trying to find independence in other parts of his life, like applying for college, figuring what he wants to do, and navigating his crazy family. Zahid is on that journey with him and coaching him throughout.
Will he steer Sam in great or terrible directions?
A little of both, in true Zahid fashion.
How do you compare to Zahid as love guru?
Oh my gosh, I’m terrible at giving dating advice and people shouldn’t ask me anything. I always try to match my friends up and it never works out.
Have you actually destroyed a friendship in the process?
(laughs) Fortunately, no friendships have been harmed in the making of my life but definitely some awkwardness has occurred and personality clashes. I’ve stopped trying, honestly.
You also played a straight bro wingman in Alex Strangelove. Is that your niche?
Yeah, apparently people like when I do that. That was also really fun and the most fun set I’ve been on. It was like a summer camp.
What’s the worst dating advice you’ve ever received from a friend?
It wasn’t one specific piece of advice, but the general attitude of ’act like you’re not interested in them and that will make them more interested in you.’ I fucking hate that because the game of it all is not very fun. I’m more of a direct, forward person and if that ends in heartbreak, so be it.
You played a guy who goes out on a date with a gay Trump supporter in a hysterical sketch video last year. Has that ever happened to you in real life?
Not me, personally, but I have spoken to a lot of gays who have dated since the election and ’gays for Trump’ is very much a real thing. It’s a strange reality. I have no patience for it.
What can you tell us about Pat, your role on Murphy Brown and how he, as he says in the promo video, brings ’the olds’ into the 21st century?
Pat Patel is the director of social media and technology, and my job is to put the ’brown’ in Murphy Brown. Kind of be the voice of younger folk and talk about Twitter and social media and how it impacts the news world and media landscape today.
So kinda like a heightened douche version of someone from Buzzfeed? And how will Trump and the downside of social media figure into the show?
I think that would be a pretty accurate description, yes! I don’t want to give anything away, but we definitely talk about how Trump has impacted the news media and what that means for the truth and journalism. I personally love to shit on social media and Twitter, especially. Delete Twitter is my message to America. It’s toxic and scary and pointless and there’s Russians and trolls.
What is your dream role? Put it out there in the universe!
I don’t know if this is the end-all dream role, but I would love to do a movie like Weekend and play the gay romantic lead in a sexy, fun, romance movie. I love playing Zahid so much, but I definitely would love to do other things, too. Especially a queer character. I have wanted to play a gay character for a while and I’m excited for that to happen.
Conversely, what kind of role would you decline to play?
I’ve only turned down one offer, and that was to be in a Grindr ad! It isn’t quite on brand for lack of a better word. It was good money, too, but really not my speed.