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Aasif Mandvi Talks Acting, Writing, Working Out—and Eating

From his long-standing relationship with peanut butter to pulling pranks on his trainers, Mandvi opens up to Men’s Fitness.

Aasif Mandvi has seriously expanded his IMBD profile as of late. He’s juggling multiple acting gigs, writing a script for Showtime, traveling a ton (he was in Vancouver working on a new show when we spoke to him—more on that later), written a book (you can buy it here)—and he still manages to work out and eat—mostly—right (the exceptions being his love of kebabs, tacos, sugar, and peanut butter). Read on to catch up with Mandvi.

Men's Fitness: Tell us about some of your recent and upcoming projects that you're most excited about.

Aasif Mandvi: I've got this pilot that I'm shooting right now for TBS called World's End, that's written by Jonathan Ames and it's based on an Icelandic show. It’s about a mental institution and it’s very darkly comic. We've got all these weird quirky characters in it.

And then what I'm also really excited about is that I have a pilot in development at Showtime. I'm starring in and co-writing it with a guy named Dave Holstein who I was a writer on The Brink with on HBO. He and I wrote this pilot and it's a comedy again, about a sort of mediocre cartoonist who draws a political cartoon and then he ends up getting a fatwa. And the fatwa is the greatest thing that ever happened to this guy, all of his dreams come true the minute he gets a death threat. It's very funny, again it's really dark, it's political. It's satirical.

And then I have also with TBS, my web series Halal in the Family, that came out a year and a half ago now. It's being developed into an animated series. It's about the first sort of, Muslim-American family, animated sitcom. It's going to be a bit like South Park or Simpsons or King of the Hill.

I'm writing and acting, it's good. I'm glad—it's about time that brown people got a chance to sort of create projects and put them out there and tell stories about that are not white, you know?

MF: Are you kind of enjoying the writing versus the acting any more or less or do you kind of like that you're able to do both?

AM: I feel really fortunate that I can do both. I've always done both, I've always been a writer and an actor. It's great when I can be on a really fun acting gig like World's End, which is such a great part because I play the doctor—the guy that runs the institution and you never really know if he's sane or crazy. It's a really fun and really great character so it's nice to do that. And it's also great to develop a show and create a character and write a character that comes from a place of something that I want to say in the world. You know, satirically, that has my voice in it.

MF: Ok, switching gears: Tell us about your workouts.

AM: I loved doing a daily bootcamp class when I was in LA. But then my knees just couldn't do all the pounding that was required. So, I ended up getting a personal trainer and going to the gym. I feel like I'm not competing with other people, you know?

MF: So what kind of things are you doing with your trainer? Can you walk us through a session?

AM: I do an hour session, three days a week. I try to do as much cardio as I can. I've done the rowing machine and the treadmill but I also like to do high intensity interval training and doing a lot of push-ups and burpees. I like doing different things and so my trainer is great in terms of having me sort of switch it up. We do a lot of stuff with the medicine ball and also just with dumbbells, like walking lunges.

MF: As a funny guy, do you ever pull any pranks or mess with your trainers?

AM: Yeah I had this trainer in New York for a while, a great guy, Stanley Noel. He was my trainer in New York and I would pull a lot of pranks on him, but it was mostly not in the training. He would always post pictures of himself working out, so I would just give him shit on his Instagram a lot.

I've learned my lesson [not to pull pranks in the gym] because sometimes I will goof around in the gym, and I've had this happen where I'm trying to show off or goof around and I'll hurt myself. And I remember a couple times that happened and my trainer was like, ‘see this is what happens because you're being an idiot right now and that's why now you have a pulled calf.’

I feel like I'm the guy who always has the pained expression on his face. Other people I look at in the gym are working out and they're sweating and stuff, but I always look like I'm just constipated. I never have a good look on my face in the gym, it's just never good. And I don't know why that is.

MF: How do you fit working out in to your busy schedule? You're writing, you're acting, you're traveling, how do you manage to fit that in?

AM: It's hard, I have to make it a priority. I have to do it in the morning. If I try to move it to four o'clock in the afternoon I'll never do it. So if I can get it out of the way in the morning, it's much better for me and it also starts my day really well—with a kind of energy and stuff.

Sometimes, especially when I'm traveling, like right now I'm in Vancouver and I don't have a trainer here, but there's a gym. And it's like 'okay, I have to get to the gym, I gotta make sure.' My trainer in L.A. gave me a workout to do when I'm on the road. She's great, this woman Tanja Djelevic, she actually used to be a trainer for the Swedish version of "The Biggest Loser". But, it's hard to get motivated when you're by yourself—without somebody going like, 'And again, and five more.'

So I have to try to listen to that voice inside myself. Also when I'm on the road I try to be really careful about my diet. If I'm not working out as much at least I'm not eating badly, you know?

MF: Speaking of healthy eating, what is your diet like?

AM: I tried to be vegan for awhile, but now I eat more meat and vegetables; and fruits and nuts. I try to avoid gluten. I'm one of those annoying people. I'm not really gluten intolerant. I try to avoid it to avoid the carbs. I guess it's more of a Paleo diet, but I'm not entirely anything. I just kind of eat what I feel like is right for my body, you know?

MF: What are you favorite foods?

AM: I'm a huge sugar addict. I love sweets, so that's a constant battle. I love kabobs. So that's a constant battle. Because I can't eat red meat like eight days a week because I will. I'll just eat kabobs every day if I could. Indian food is my comfort food, so that's a battle. I can't just be eating big bowls of rice every day.

So it's always trying to eat more fish, trying to be more on the pescatarian side of things. I'm trying to reduce the red meat to just one or two days a week at the most. And the sugar, trying to keep the sugar down as much as possible. You can't look this mediocre easily. It's hard to look this mediocre.

I'll eat corn tortillas instead of wheat tortillas, you know? Because I love tacos. I eat peanut butter all the time. That is the one relationship I've had in my life that has lasted the longest. Me and peanut butter will always be together. I don't eat it every day but on average I do. Sometimes I'll eat it six times a day. And again, peanut butter is filled with a lot of fat, right? So, I gotta be careful with that.

MF: Is there anything else that you would like to share with Men's Fitness readers?

AM: Maybe you can let people know that I wrote a book: No Land's Man, and it's available on Amazon or wherever Men's Fitness readers buy their books. And it's great reading on the treadmill because they're short stories. Or, you can read it while you're on the elliptical. Each story is specifically designed for the exact time of a workout.*

*Not actually.

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