Getting cast alongside Sacha Baron Cohen in a major studio comedy is a big deal for any up-and-coming actor, but Jason Mantzoukas says he wasn’t shocked that he landed his breakout role of nuclear scientist Nadal in The Dictator. ”Looking the way I look, whenever anybody’s looking for a light brown funny guy, I get the call,” says the actor, 39. ”I’m 100 percent Greek, but I look like I could be Indian or Middle Eastern or Hispanic. If it’s ethnic, they’ll try and put me in it.” Mantzoukas — who’s best known as the homicidal (and, as it happens, Hispanic) Rafi on FX’s The League — also writes for and produces the Adult Swim series Childrens Hospital and cohosts the comedy podcast ”How Did This Get Made?” He began sharpening his improv chops in the late ’90s as a member of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, but he owes a good deal of his performance in The Dictator to a postcollege stint studying music in North Africa, where he picked up a smattering of Arabic. ”There are little phrases I remember,” he says. ”I’m allergic to eggs, so I know how to ask, ‘Are there eggs in this?’ In the movie, I speak a mix of Arabic words, Greek words, and gibberish. But for an Arabic speaker, it’s going to sound like ‘Gibberish, gibberish, gibberish, eggs.”’
Posted May 18 2012 — 12:00 AM EDT
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