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He's On The List

He's On The ListTufts graduate Sendhil Ramamurthy is finding stardom as a determined geneticist on the hit NBC drama "Heroes."

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [02.09.06] One of the biggest surprises on television this year has been the hit NBC drama "Heroes," which has garnered both critical praise and a rabid fanbase as it explores how ordinary people across the world discover they have extraordinary abilities. Tufts graduate Sendhil Ramamurthy is a member of the show's award-nominated ensemble cast, playing a scientist who may hold the answers to their questions.

Ramamurthy (A'96) did not plan to become an actor; it was actually a drama course that he took at Tufts to fulfill a requirement that propelled him onto his current path.

"I was a history major who was pre-med, and then I ended up doing this," he said on NBC's Today, where he and show co-host Meredith Vieira (A'75) discussed their shared status as Tufts alumni. "But I'm playing a doctor on TV, so the parents are happy."

After leaving Tufts, he studied acting at New York University and spent six years acting in England before breaking into television, where he had small parts on "Grey's Anatomy" and other shows before landing his role on "Heroes."

Ramamurthy plays Mohinder Suresh, an Indian geneticist whose deceased father had compiled a list of individuals exhibiting genetic markers that may represent the next phase of human evolution. Suresh's goal to find all of the individuals his father had identified spurred the series' current tagline: "Are you on the list?"

"I just love the seeking quality of my character," Ramamurthy told the Buffalo News. "He's always out there seeking the truth. There is always this thing—avenging your father's death and the whole mythology behind it—that I find fascinating."

Ramamurthy, who works alongside fellow 1996 Tufts graduate Joe Pokanski, a writer for the show, told the newspaper that his role wasn’t part of the original plan for “Heroes.”

"It was kind of a fluke," he told the News. "When I went in for this part, it actually was written as my father. The character was 55 years old. The father who died was the original character. I thought it was a mistake."

But Ramamurthy's audition made an indelible impression.

"[Show creator] Tim Kring liked the audition and he actually went back and rewrote the entire pilot," Ramamurthy told the News. "He changed the character to be the son of the [older] guy."

He is also the show's narrator, another role that was created for him.

"He has one of the most beautiful speaking voices on the planet," Kring told the News of Ramamurthy, who speaks in a British-Indian accent in the show. "There was no narration originally. It wasn't in the script. It came because of him."

This year, "Heroes" received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Dramatic Television Series. It has already been renewed for a second season.

"I'm not surprised by the popularity. I'm surprised that it got on the air," Ramamurthy told the News. "To its credit, NBC took a chance and it paid off hugely."

It appears that many of Heroes’ viewers share Ramamurthy’s affinity for the heroic tales he read in comic books as a kid.

"My favorites were not so much the guys that had super-abilities but the guys who exerted themselves, like Batman," Ramamurthy told the Ottawa Citizen. "Those are the guys I was kind of inspired by, everyday people who, in a way, were a merry band of misfits. Which we are, too."

While Ramamurthy was initially disappointed that his character didn't have a superpower like his castmates, he's grown to embrace his status.

"Now I'm glad that I'm the only main character that doesn't have one," he told the News. "I can separate myself from the pack."

But while Mohinder Suresh does not exhibit any superpowers right now, anything is possible.

"You never know," Ramamurthy said on Today. "You never know."

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