‘United States of Al’ – How Adhir Kalyan met his co-star



Finding chemistry in the parking lot

Adhir Kalyan

Adhir Kalyan didn’t need a chemistry read to know he clicked with his “United States of Al” co-star Parker Young. He’d already met him in the parking lot.

“(I) had just so happened to watch a show called ‘Imposters’ that he was on, so he was fresh in my mind …,” the 37-year-old South African actor explains. “He arrives in the parking lot with his massive truck that has got mud just splayed three quarters of the way up the truck. And he gets out of this truck and I just think to myself, ‘I think this is the guy. I don’t know who else I’m reading with today but I think this is the guy. He just feels like Riley.’

“And so we ended up chatting and running the scene a couple of times before his chemistry test,” he continues, “and we just from the very beginning had an easy rapport. Anything I was able to offer up to him in a scene he received and returned.”

In the half-hour sitcom, which premieres Thursday, April 1, on CBS, Kalyan (“Rules of Engagement,” “Aliens in America”) plays the title character, an Afghan immigrant brought to America by U.S. Marine Riley (Young), for whose unit he served as interpreter during the war in Afghanistan. Now on American soil, both struggle with the surroundings – Al trying to understand an alien culture and Riley adjusting to civilian life. And both men reacquainting themselves with each other in the new setting.

So it’s a fish-out-of-water comedy but with some serious notes. For his part, Kalyan admires the bravery it took for real-life Afghans to work with American troops and against the Taliban during the war.

“To know that these interpreters made the choice to work with U.S. forces,” he says, “knowing full well that that could possibly mean that not only their lives but the lives of their families could be endangered because they believed in serving a greater purpose, I think was something that really resonated with me.”


Adhir Kalyan

Full name: Adhir Kalyan

Birth date: Aug. 4, 1983

Birthplace: Durban, South Africa

Family ties: Wife is “General Hospital” actress Emily Wilson; mother is Sandy Kalyan, member of the South African Parliament

TV credits include: “Aliens in America,” “Nip/Tuck,” “Rules of Engagement,” “Second Chance,” “I Love Dick,” “The Guest Book,” “Arrested Development,” “The Goldbergs”

Movie credits include: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” (2009), Fired Up!” (2009), “Up in the Air” (2009), “High School” (2010), “No Strings Attached” (2011), “Killing Them Softly” (2012), “Buttwhistle” (2014), “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” (2015), “Square Roots” (TV, 2016), “Brothered Up” (TV, 2017), “Making Friends” (TV, 2018), “A Nice Girl Like You” (2020), “Chemical Hearts” (2020)

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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