‘The Internship’: Aasif Mandvi on the perks, quirks at Google HQ
Aasif Mandvi is no Google honcho, but he does play one in the new Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson comedy “The Internship,” opening this week. In doing so, the 47-year-old actor and “Daily Show” correspondent got a first-hand look at the unique culture of the search engine giant, which allowed the production to spend two days filming at its campus in Mountain View, Calif.
On a recent phone call from his home in New York City, Mandvi shared what it was like going inside the Googleplex. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)
Have you ever worked as an intern?
I only interned briefly at a law firm once, and I was terrible. I think I lasted a day. There was a class-action suit, and they asked me to read a 400-page document on valves, and I wanted to blow my brains out, so I left. That was my only experience as an intern.
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Tell us about your character, Chetty. He’s kind of a lovable taskmaster.
I think part of that is because ultimately with Google involved in this film, it almost feels like all the characters ultimately have to be lovable. In a normal movie, I think Chetty would probably get a pie in the face or a bucket of paint would fall on his head and he’d get his comeuppance or something. But in this movie he turns out to be a nice guy in the end because it’s Google and everybody at the end of the day is nice and friendly.
How true to life is the film’s portrayal of Google culture?
I had never heard of this term “Googliness” before, and I thought they made it up for the film, but actually it’s true. The people at Google really do refer to this idea of Googliness. It’s this sort of weird confluence of corporation and religion.
How involved was Google in the film?
They were very much hands-on in terms of allowing access to their facility. Because otherwise [the movie] would have had to make up some fake [name], like Boogle or something. It wouldn’t have worked. The idea that Google actually let them use all of the real Google stuff, and the facility, and use their logo and use the sort of language of Google was very important, I think.
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What was it like shooting at the Google campus?
It’s a little bit like working in a large playground. Just like in the movie, at Google there actually is free food everywhere. You can eat constantly. Wherever you go, there is free food — under your desk, whatever you’re doing.
You’ve got this giant cafeteria, and there’s all kinds of food from all different parts of the world. But the two places that were the most packed were the counter where they were serving Indian food and the counter where they were serving Asian food — all Indians on one side and all Asians on the other side. And there’s like five white guys eating pizza in the corner. Basically it was like, this is the world of technology.
In the past you’ve joked about playing your share of cab drivers, doctors and terrorists. How did playing a Google employee compare?
It’s just a reflection of what the world is. The fact that Chetty is Indian I think is a reflection of what is happening in the world. India is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. Like I said, even when I went to the cafeteria, most of the people working at Google were Indian and Chinese. So I would just say, you know, if you’re white, be careful. The world is changing.
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