Making Guru Moves with Nick Cannon

If you’ve watched Nick’s video for his viral hit song “Me Sexy” then you’ve seen his personal “valet” Guru Venkatesh but what you don’t know is just how Guru Potula became the Jerome to Cannon’s Day.In an interview with the Daily Bruin, Potula tells how he went from the student stage to the world stage.Pumping himself up prior to an audition by jumping and sprinting in black slacks and a purple shirt with Britney Spears blasting in his ears, Venk Potula was surprised to see a limousine pull up alongside him.Potula said the back window rolled down to reveal actor and “America’s Got Talent” host Nick Cannon, who told Potula he was so funny he wanted him to be in his next movie.“When Nick Cannon pulled up I was just focusing on my audition and had no clue what this moment would mean for my life,” Potula said. “It’s such a Hollywood story.”Potula, a first-year theater student at the time, received a call from a casting director several weeks later asking him to be a featured extra in Cannon’s film, “School Dance.”This job extended into a bigger role last spring when the producer of “School Dance” called him to perform in Cannon’s new music video for the song “Me Sexy.”Potula plays the role of Guru Venkatesh, a personal valet whose job is to ensure Cannon looks good at all times. Potula reprised the role in a promo for “America’s Got Talent” and a live performance of “Me Sexy” on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”“School Dance,” starring Kevin Hart and Wilmer Valderrama, is about a student who tries to ingratiate himself in a popular dance clique at his new high school.Dancing throughout most of the film, Potula, now a third-year theater student, was initially supposed to be in only one scene. However, Potula said when he started dancing in his scene, everybody on the set laughed so much that Cannon invited him to be on set every day.In addition to gaining experience working on a professional shoot, Potula said the best part of his time on set was getting the opportunity to hype dance, something he enjoys doing outside of acting.“There’s always that one guy on the dance floor who’s super into the dance and it makes you feel good to see him,” Potula said. “I try to be the guy who gets the crowd going.”Despite the experience being positive overall, Potula said it convinced him never to do extra work again.Required to be on set for 12 hours a day, sometimes just to shoot one scene, Potula said the work felt unfulfilling.“Being an extra is not satisfying as an artist, because you don’t get the opportunity to research a character and get into the moment,” Potula said. “I don’t need to be on million dollar sets, as long as I’m able to really get into character.”Based on the similar on-stage relationship of musicians Morris Day and Jerome, Potula’s character, Guru Venkatesh, brushes off Cannon’s suit while he performs and holds up a mirror for him to check his reflection.Guru Venkatesh is similar to Potula’s role in “School Dance” in that he dances to hype the crowd.Alex Slama, a former UCLA theater student who saw Potula perform in concert with Cannon, said Potula has a strong stage presence.“When I saw my friend on stage, I could see he has a contagious and hectic energy,” Slama said. “(Potula) is very confident and secure in his work.”Potula said this interaction with an audience made him especially enjoy the character.“There’s something about being with a live audience that’s similar to the thrill from acting on stage,” Potula said. “I’m happy when I make somebody else feel, whether they’re laughing, crying or excited.”Potula said that being around celebrities like Cannon and Hart on these shoots felt alien at times since their world was so different from college life.“They’re having conversations about modifying their million dollar cars, so there are a lot of times where I’m just standing and feel like a stranger,” Potula said.For this reason, Potula said he likes to mix up his work by doing amateur projects with fellow acting students. While their productions lack the resources of a professional shoot, Potula said they make him feel more comfortable.One such project is an online sketch comedy series set to be released next quarter. This series is produced by Potula and written by Nick Rapp, a fourth-year theater student.Rapp, who acts alongside Potula in these sketches, said Potula has a comedic style that people love to watch.“His comedy style is fearless and he doesn’t take himself too seriously,” Rapp said. “He can do a serious role like a doctor and then, right after, dance like a clown.”Even though Potula involves himself in many comedic roles, he said he is drawn to more serious roles in theatrical works.Potula said he believes that these jobs are more difficult for him to get since he is short and of Indian descent. He said, in his experience, Hollywood seems to be mostly based on looks, and he worries he may be destined to pay his bills through comedy.Although Guru Venkatesh is one of these stereotypical Indian characters, Potula said that, for the moment, he does not worry about being typecast.“I’m not in a position right now where I can worry about typecasting, because I just want to be a working actor, so anything is game,” Potula said. “I’m not worried about my career because I know if it’s going to happen, it’ll take some time.”

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