"I've already gotten so many messages on social media saying, 'I'm so excited to see a family that looks like mine on network television,'" Sircar tells TooFab.
After more than a decade in the business, Tiya Sircar has landed her first leading role on a broadcast network sitcom opposite Zach Braff in "Alex, Inc." playing Braff's practical and patient wife, Rooni.
It's a role that's important to her for several reasons, with Sircar telling TooFab, "It's something that I've been working towards for the last decade, and I've been a fan of Zach, you know, I was a huge fan of 'Scrubs,' I was a huge fan of 'Garden State,' so it's definitely not something that I anticipated."
After a breakout role in "The Good Place" that saw her character literally break bad, the Indian-American Sircar is proud to represent multicultural families on network television. "Alex, Inc." is based on the popular "StartUp" podcast, telling the story of a family man who throws away his career to chase his dream of launching a podcast company. He's a dreamer with more ambition than sense at times who needs someone to keep him grounded, and that's where Sircar comes in.
The role and her performance stand out for a couple of reasons, though. It would have been easy to create this role in the standard sitcom trope of the put-upon wife who basically yells at her infantile husband and is the resident party-pooper, but that's not what series creator Matt Tarses and Braff -- who serves as director and executive producer -- were going for. Instead, they built a relationship between Braff's Alex and Rooni from the ground up, and that work pays off in a couple that feels real from their moment of shared intimacy to their fights when Alex does something irresponsible.
The other way Alex and Rooni stand out from their peers on television is something that's handled with beautiful subtlety; they're a multicultural couple. "I don't know if I've seen a character that's quite like this one where who she is isn't shied away from, but it's also not focused on," Sircar said. "I love that she's just a normal gal living a normal American life. Just one element to her is that she just happens to be Indian-American."
And that rare distinction is not something that's lost on Sircar. "There are so many multicultural families in America and there are so few represented on television and I'm excited to be a family like ours on TV," she said. "Aside from specifically that Alex is Jewish and my character is Indian-American and Hindu, just to have a multicultural family on television and have multicultural kids is so great."
"Our show hasn't even aired yet and I've already gotten so many messages on social media saying I'm so excited to see a family that looks like mine on network television and I can't wait to watch," she continued. "That's just so gratifying and makes me feel really good.
"The significance of playing a South Asian character that's a lead role in a network primetime television show is certainly not lost on me," Sircar continued. "I feel so privileged to get to be a part of this shift that's happening. It's so exciting and I'm thrilled."
Working alongside Braff has also been like a masterclass in television production for Sircar, who's been able to watch him as a producer, director and actor on their series. "I had no idea what to expect of him as a director and I have just been so impressed by how well versed he is," she said. "It's incredible to watch him go from one to the other in the episodes he directs. It's seamless, he just jumps from one side of the camera to the other."
Watching him work has inspired Sircar to consider expanding her own repertoire. "I've been told that I might make a good producer because I am very Type A and I'm kind of a control freak, so I've been told that that might translate well into producing, so I would certainly be open to trying my hand at that," she told us. "I've never been given an opportunity to direct, but man, I would love to try my hand at that. Anything is possible and who knows what the future holds, but I would definitely like to try either or both."
BREAKING BAD FOR "THE GOOD PLACE"
Before getting her big leading break with "Alex, Inc.," Sircar was one of the more memorable characters through two seasons of Mike Schur's twisted "The Good Place." She got to portray both the good side and the very bad side with Eleanor/Vicky. "It's honestly one of my favorite jobs I've ever had, "she admitted. "It's also, as a viewer, one of my favorite shows."
One of the reasons the role was so much fun was because of how it got turned upside down after the big twist in the Season 1 finale. "When Mike Schur sat me down right before Season 2 and kind of spilled the beans on what was going to be happening, I was thrilled," she admitted. [SPOILER WARNING: The first season ended with the reveal that the four human leads were actually in The Bad Place the whole time, and the rest of the people -- Sircar included -- were demons hired to help torment them.]
"It just kind of got more and more heightened and ridiculous with the stuff [Vicky] says and her behavior just increasingly becomes crazier throughout Season 2," Sircar said.
The season ended with Vicky betrayed by Ted Danson's Michael and encased in a cocoon. "If there's a way out of that slime cocoon, Vicky will find a way out of there because you can't keep her down. If there's a way out ... if anyone can find it, it's her and I so hope that happens because it's just so much fun to play that ridiculous character. She's a lot of fun and so far from who I am in real life, so it's really fun to kind of go to the crazy places and play a megalomaniac."
TELEVISION FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
In the era of "peak television," it can be hard to stand out, but Sircar thinks "Alex, Inc." has a secret weapon in its arsenal. "One of the things I really like is that it's a family comedy," she explained. "We worked really hard to make it a show you can watch with your kids. There's a ton of great television right now, but there's not so much of it that's really good and really smart and really funny that you can also watch with your children.
"It's kind of like a 50/50. We've got the family element, we've got the workplace element and sometimes those worlds overlap and sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't so that kind of provides some of the comedy. There are serious moments where there's real emotion happening and they're tackling what so many families in America are trying to do, which is raise their kids right and make the mortgage payment. In the meantime, Alex is starting his own company and trying to go after this dream he has which I think is so admirable. I feel like it's funny and hopefully you'll get lots of laughs out of it, but it's also got a lot of heart. I hope people love it."
"Alex, Inc." premieres tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET on ABC.