Nik Dodani is one of the breakout stars in Netflix’s original scripted series, Atypical. The show is based around Sam, an 18-year-old on the autism spectrum, who decides it’s time to find a girlfriend, the journey sets Sam’s family on their own life-changing paths as Sam seeks more independence.
Nik plays Zahid, Sam’s best friend and unofficial advisor in the love department. He’s a suave, goofy, lovable guy with a secret soft side that he only shows when it matters most. Recently, Atypical was renewed for a second season and I couldn’t be more excited! I spoke to Nik on season two and the importance of the representation of mental health in pop culture.
Atypical just got renewed for a season 2 congrats! What originally drew you to the show and the character of Zahid during the casting process?
Thank you! We’re all super excited. I was initially drawn to the show by the way it so artfully told Sam’s story, balancing the light and heavy moments in every scene. And Zahid was just so weird, but at the same time really caring, and I loved him immediately.
Do you share any similarities with your character or have anything you admire about him?
Zahid and I are very different people, especially when it comes to dating and romance and sex. I admire his confidence in that realm. He should probably (definitely) tone it down sometimes, but it can be charming.
Do you have a favorite line from the show or from Zahid?
My favorite Zahid line is, “I love love. If you tell anyone I’ll kill you.”
Zahid gives Sam “interesting advice” when it comes to dating and love, what advice would you give Sam when it comes to love and dating?
Don’t listen to Zahid.
You have an incredible delivery in your comedy. I would always be cracking up with Zahid on screen. What’s your secret to great comedy?
I have no idea, I’m just thanking the gods that people laugh.
I absolutely love this entire cast. What has it been like to work with all of them?
It’s been so much fun. We’re such an odd mishmash of weirdos and goons, and I love weirdos and goons. I’ve made some good friends from this show.
Atypical has been getting a lot of buzz good and bad what are your thoughts on the importance of the show?
I’m excited and anxious to see how the show impacts the cultural conversation around autism in the long term. A lot of folks really relate to Sam and his family and I hope that ultimately has a positive impact. Some folks don’t like the show, but I think that this tension can be a good thing in that it will lead to some much-needed public conversations about autism, representation, and community in general.
We are a website that uses the power and importance of fandom in pop culture, in order to connect youth and young adults who may suffer from a mental illness. When people can connect and relate to something they tend to feel less alone. What has the community of fans been like around the show?
The community of fans around Atypical has been so loving and enthusiastic, it’s overwhelming sometimes (in a good way). It makes me so happy to see teens who are relating to and finding solace in Sam, Casey, Zahid and the others.
How do you stay mentally happy and healthy both in and outside of work?
I surround myself with good people, I make sure to make time for myself, I see a therapist. But the truth is, I’m not always happy and healthy, and I’ve learned that it’s important to allow yourself to feel those negative things as well, without judgment.
Now I binged this show in one sitting and I have to say it is incredible to see such a heartfelt show take on a serious topic but still be funny it is such a rarity to see these lines blur on screen. What are you looking forward to in the second season of Atypical?
I can’t wait to see what shenanigans Sam and Zahid get into and am so ready to see Casey be more of a badass. I’m anxious to see how Elsa and Doug move forward and I really want Julia to punch Miles right in his stupid little face.
Anything you would like to see from Zahid in season 2 that he didn’t get to do in season 1?
I would love to see more of Zahid’s sweet, awkward side that he tries so hard to hide from people.
Are you into anything nerdy right now? TV show, comic book, video game?
So many things! I just binged all of Rick and Morty in two weeks, so that’s top of mind. I love it so much.
Have you been sorted into a Hogwarts house? If not, what house do you think you belong in?
To end, what is next for you in your career?
I just finished shooting a movie called Alex Strangelove that I’m really excited about. It’s a hilarious Ben Stiller-produced film by Craig Johnson about a teenager struggling with his sexuality that’ll come out on Netflix sometime next year. And I just started shooting a dope thriller called The Maze that will also come out next year.
Zahid will return in the second season of Atypical and I couldn’t be more excited! Season 2 is set to air in 2018 but for right now you can binge all 8 episodes of season one on Netflix now. Make sure to follow Nik on twitter @nikdodani.