TO say Kunal Nayyar looks up to his wife would be an understatement – he barely reaches the beauty queen’s shoulder when she puts on stiletto heels for the red carpet.
But the Big Bang Theory star, who measures 5ft 7in (170cm) – three inches less than former Miss India Neha Kapur – has no reason for “short man syndrome.”
Towering astride the entertainment industry as one of the world’s best paid actors, the 35-year-old British-Indian has become one of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood.
“I feel like the tallest guy in the room,” he tells AFP in an interview to promote his latest project, a starring part in DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls alongside Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick.
“Maybe I’m the short guy who got the beautiful woman, I don’t know. I have no qualms about it. She’s not only a beautiful person, she’s also an amazing human being.”
Nayyar has good reason for his easy self-confidence, having seen his salary bloom from US$100,000 per episode to a reported US$800,000 for his role in The Big Bang Theory, known by its dedicated fans as “BBT”.
He is making around US$22 million a year, according to Forbes, making him the world’s fourth highest paid television actor, a short distance behind three of his fellow cast members.
There has been much speculation over whether season 10 of BBT will be the last, and while Nayyar says he’s “not ready to say goodbye yet,” he is already looking forward, with plans to star in Bollywood.
‘Humanity is love’
Outside of the show, he recently took on a starring part in Jesse Eisenberg’s acclaimed play The Spoils and has a successful book – “not a memoir” – in stores, called “Yes, My Accent Is Real.”
Trolls, inspired by the fuzzy-headed dolls popular in the early 1990s, is set for release in the US on November 4.
Ostensibly for children, it follows Poppy and Branch on their mission to rescue their friends from the Bergens, giants who believe the only way to lift their melancholy is to eat the cute, colourful trolls.
Nayyar plays one of the captives, an endearing little troll called Guy Diamond who refuses to wear clothes and farts glitter as a means of spreading joy.
When he talks about the film’s message that “humanity is about positivity and love,” he comes across like his character – disarmingly animated.
“It’s a film for both kids and adults and the music is incredible … And the world looks beautiful – the hair on the trolls, the glitter on Guy Diamond, the quality,” he enthuses.
Born in London and brought up in New Delhi, Nayyar moved to the US at 18, initially to pursue a business degree at the University of Portland, Oregon.
‘Good overcomes evil’
He was already on BBT when he met Kapur on a trip to India and married her there in 2011, in a lavish six-day ceremony involving white horses and 1,000 guests.
The couple were dubbed Beauty and the Geek, irritating Nayyar, who admits he gets frustrated by the media conflating him with Raj, his shy, nerdish character on the sitcom.
Trolls comes out four days before America gives serious consideration to electing Donald Trump, a populist presidential candidate who has polarized the public with his rhetoric on Muslims, Mexicans and immigration.
“As an immigrant, I am beginning to seriously worry – if Trump gets elected does that mean I could get deported and no more Raj?” he tweeted a few days before his interview with AFP.
But the actor – again, like his troll character – is an optimist at heart and clarifies that he was being “glib.”
“I think the world is becoming a smaller place and I really do believe in the bottom of my heart – and this may sound trivial to some people – that good always overcomes evil,” he tells AFP.
“That’s why the universe, the world, is where it is today. A lot of bad things have happened in the past, in many different generations. Our parents survived world wars. I think we’re going to be okay.”