Actor Danny Pudi plays the role of Brad Bakshi in “Mythic Quest,” which chronicles the rabid dysfunction behind the scenes of a massive online video game. The series is currently in its second season and is earning rave reviews. Bakshi is the game’s head of monetization/office villain.
Born Daniel Mark Puri, the son of Indian and Polish immigrants, he made his mark on TV with the portrayal of nerdy film student Abed Nadir, “a lonely, fantasy-living but harmless community-college student” on the critically acclaimed comedy series “Community,” by Dan Harmon.
Getting the call about the role on his birthday, Pudi told Medium, “We were out to dinner and I got the call, and I was, like, shaking. I think I dropped the phone in my chili. I wanted the role so badly. … Maybe we shouldn’t tell anyone that it was my birthday, though. I’m trying to keep my age a secret. I’m trying to pretend I’m 15. Ha!”
Good thing he picked up the phone, because his breakout role as Abed, a favorite of fans and TV critics alike, earned Pudi a Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series nomination at the 2011-13 Critics Choice Awards. Variety also named him one of “TV&’s Top 10: New Faces for Fall” in the series’ first season.
According to starz.com, Pudi, who worked alongside rising star Joel McHale and comedy legend Chevy Chase, “not only held his own on the show, but became a standout.” And, when the show “secured a place as one of the jewels in the crown of NBC’s Thursday night comedy line-up, Pudi found himself in the enviable position of starring on a hit series and awaiting further opportunities to comically shine,” added starz.com.
Once a little-known improv actor, honing his signature bone-dry comic delivery with the famed improvisational troupe Second City in Chicago, Pudi quickly established himself as a highly sought-after actor in film and television.
Pudi’s parents divorced not long after he was born and his father left him with his mother Teresa Pudi. He grew up in Chicago, raised by his single mother and grandparents, where he spoke Polish around the house because none of them spoke English. Exposure to both cultures made him fluent in both Polish and English.
“It was crazy,” he says of his childhood to the New Haven Register. “There was constant activity around the house, constantly people were coming in and out, a lot of relatives that I didn’t know,” adding, “Every holiday, and almost every week, was like a new experience. I feel like I grew up in this fairy-tale setting. It was great.”
Speaking to The World about his childhood, Pudi, who didn’t look like most of the kids in his neighborhood said, “It was rough because I don’t look Polish. And so, I was always, like the one kid who had to explain why he’s there — your purpose. And as a kid, that’s kind of tricky because you’re searching for identity, and one of the biggest things you want to do is just blend in. But when people are constantly like ‘What? You’re brown. What are you doing here? How do you speak Polish?’ And I’d be like, ‘Well, my dad’s from India, and you know he has a big mustache like you do and your dad, so we’re on the same page.’”
Reminiscing about his childhood, Pudi tells The World that his family frequently had distant relatives and friends using their house as a landing pad to start a new life in the U.S. The first time Danny Pudi saw “Monty Python,” he thought it echoed the nature of his household. He thought, “that was kind of like my upbringing — everyone taking themselves real seriously — which they have to as immigrants coming to America. You know, the first thing you want to do is get settled in and build — build a little empire — but at the same time, you can’t help but acknowledge that there’s 50 of us living in the same house, we’re brown, but we’re Polish, and everyone has giant mustaches!”
Humor has been an integral part of Pudi’s life, with his childhood a treasure trove of funny moments. Talking to The World, Pudi recalls that after school, he would watch television with his grandmother, whose favorite shows were “The Love Boat” and “T.J. Hooker.” And because she didn’t speak English, he would translate for her. “Everything turned into just a really weird comedy,” Pudi says. “Everything turned into “Monty Python” when I would explain any kind of drama to my grandma about what was happening with William Shatner!”
A Comic at Heart
But it wasn’t until college that Pudi seriously began to consider a career in comedy. According to his bio, after graduating high school, Pudi attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In his junior year, Danny was awarded the first Chris Farley Scholarship Award. Named after the late comic actor and Marquette graduate, it was given to students who displayed exceptional creativity and positive use of humor. In 2001, he graduated college with a degree in Communication and Theater. He then returned to Chicago where he was accepted into the Conservatory Program of the famous improvisational comedy troupe The Second City.
A comic at heart, Pudi is a founding member of Siblings of Doctors, alongside two other Indian comedians named Ranjit Souri and Rasika Mather, who perform sketch comedy and improv at various comedy festivals around the country. His LA stage credits include “Huck & Holden” (Black Dahlia Theatre), NBC’s “Diversity Showcase” (FalconTheatre), “Token City” (Comedy Central Workspace) and the staged readings“Loyalties” (Pacific Resident Theatre) and “Air Guitar High” (Pasadena Playhouse).
In 2004, Pudi married his college sweetheart Bridget Showalter whom he had met in his freshman year at school. She worked as a teacher while he worked as an actuarial recruiter. The newlyweds left Chicago the following year in 2005 for Los Angeles, so Pudi could pursue an acting career.
After bagging a few commercial spots, Pudi began picking up guest spots on series such as “The West Wing,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Greek,” His career got a boost with a supporting role in the raunchy direct-to-DVD sequel “Road Trip: Beer Pong” (2009). But it was not until he joined the ensemble of “Community” that put the actor on the map.
Speaking of his career, Pudi tells The World that he has found his ethnicity plays a part in the roles he is offered. Says Pudi: “I’ve played one Raj, four Sanjays, Mahir, Arash, Abed, Saffa — that was a good one. I’m trying to think if there’s anything… and Josh.” He believes that his roles with stereotypical Indian or Middle Eastern names are an attempt to “explain why he’s there,” just like when he was on the playground in Chicago. He tells The World: “I get it. […] It’s not like, you know, 250 million Americans are like me. […] I feel like people feel like there has to be an explanation for why that character exists. And I think ‘Sanjay’ is an easy way to sort of be like ‘oh I get it, this character is Indian.’”
Pudi made his directorial debut in 2014 with ESPN Film’s documentary short “Untucked.” The documentary, which explores the iconic “untucked” jersey designed by player Bo Ellis and worn in 1977 when Marquette University won its first and only national college basketball championship, premiered in January 2015 at the Sundance Film Festival.
His additional feature film credits include the European feature “Vijay and I,” co-starring Moritz Bleibtreu, Patricia Arquette and Michael Imperioli, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, as well as indie films “After the Sun Fell,” starring opposite Neal Bledsoe, and “Larry Gaye: Renegade Male Flight Attendant,” alongside Marc Feuerstein, Stanley Tucci, Marcia Gay Harden and Henry Winkler.
When “Community” came to an end in 2015, Pudi had a steady amount of work lined up. He played Sami Malek in the 2016 comedy movie, “The Tiger Hunter” which co- starred Jon Heder and premiered at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. The film follows a young Indian man who relocates to 1970s Chicago to become an engineer. Making the rounds on the festival circuit, the film has received rave reviews for Pudi and won Best Picture at the prestigious Carmel International Film Festival.
Pudi has also guest starred in “Star Trek Beyond” in 2016. Pudi followed up those gigs with voice work in “Smurfs: The Lost Village.” In addition to film roles, Pudi remained focused on TV work. He reunited with “Community” co-star Ken Jeong on “Dr. Ken” along with appearances in “Angie Tribeca” and “Better Things”. The actor then received a starring role in the short-lived sitcom, “Powerless.” His additional television credits include guest-starring roles on “Better Things,” “Royal Pains,” Hot in Cleveland,” “The Bill Engvall Show,” “TripTank,” “Chuck” and “ER.”
In 2011, he made a special crossover appearance in “Cougar Town.”
On the film side, Pudi voiced Little Boy Blue in 2011’s “Hoodwinked Too!”, “Hood vs. Evil” as well as roles in “The Guilt Trip”, “The Pretty One”, “Vijay and I”, and “The Knights of Badassdom.”
Pudi can also be heard voicing Huey in “DuckTales”, a role he first got in 2017. The actor also voices the role of Tiny in Netflix’s animated series, “Harvey Girls Forever”. Pudi, then finished off the decade with movie roles in “Good Girls Get High” and “Babysplitters” before attaining another steady gig in Apple TV’s “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet”(Feb 2020), where Pudi stars as Brad Bakshi in the video game workplace series created by “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia” vets Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney.
Other than that, Pudi has voiced Sanjeev Joshi in the Disney Junior series, “Mira, Royal Detective.” The former “Community” star was also seenin “The Argument” (2020), a drama film directed by Robert Schwartzman. Pudiportrayed a character named Brett among a cast that also includes Maggie Q, TylerJames Williams, Dan Fogler, and Emma Bell. The actor also starred as Miller in theDisney+ adaptation of “Flora & Ulysses”, which also involves Alyson Hannigan andBen Schwartz.
According to his bio, Pudi is an avid runner, having completed many marathons and also enjoys playing Yahtzee, vacuuming and drinking coffee. He currently lives inLos Angeles with his wife and two children – twins, a son named James Timothy and a daughter named Fiona Leigh, who were born in January 2012.