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'The Big Bang Theory''s Kunal Nayyar talks Raj, 'Rings,' and Stephen Hawking

Kunal Nayyar, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco in "The Big Bang Theory."
Kunal Nayyar, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco in "The Big Bang Theory."
WBEI/Michael Yarish, with permission

"The Big Bang Theory" wraps up its seventh season with an episode in which Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Penny (Kaley Cuoco) have to deal with the repercussions from getting engaged. How will they tell their parents and where will Sheldon (Jim Parsons) live? We all know he isn't good with change.

Then Mrs. Wolowitz’s injury is a major headache for Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), and Raj (Kunal Nayyar) and Emily (Laura Spencer) take it to the next level.

At a press conference to promote "The Big Bang Theory," Nayyar was asked how much he was like his character Raj, who up until this season had the embarrassing predicament of getting tongue-tied around women.

In real life, Nayyar married former Miss India Neha Kapur on Dec. 22, 2011, so he definitely has Raj beat in that arena. And he holds a B.S. in Business from the University of Portland and a Masters in Fine Arts from Temple University in Philadelphia, rather than a degree in astrophysics.

But there are certain things the writers do take from Nayyar's life and apply to the character. Earlier this season, for example, the guys made fun of the way Raj pronounces the word moustache [he says moostache]. The idea to steal that for the show came about following a night when he was hanging out with Helberg and the writers.

"Simon and I always make fun of each other. We have a great dynamic. They always make fun of the funny words that I say. That was born out of that," he says. Then he adds, "I get calls sometimes from the writers saying, 'If you were in a bowling alley in India, what would you eat? Or, what is a funny festival you celebrate? Or, what do you guys do for Christmas in India?' It is fun to have that collaborative process."

Unlike Raj, the London, England-born actor, who was raised in New Delhi, India, is not a huge fan of "Star Wars," but they do have common ground when it comes to "Lord of the Rings." Being a Tolkien fan Nayyar says is the nerdiest thing about him.

"When 'Return of the King' came on, I cried in the opening sequence when the music started playing. 'The Hobbit,' too. I cried in both of them," Nayyar says. He also says he is nerdy about sports … if that makes any sense.

And finally, the two men are alike in their respect for Stephen Hawking, who guest starred on "The Big Bang Theory."

"It was amazing when we had Stephen Hawking on the show even though it wasn't shot on the set," Nayyar says. "Jim [Parsons] got to be in that scene, but Stephen Hawking did come to the set and watch a run through. It was amazing. That I felt was the heights -- just to meet Stephen Hawking."

In addition, Nayyar really appreciates the positive feedback positive feedback he gets from parents, who watch "The Big Bang Theory" with their kids.

"All the time, parents come up to me and say, 'You inspired my child to be a physicist,' which is much nicer than, 'You inspired my child to be a stripper.' I don't judge," he jokes.

"The Big Bang Theory" airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

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