Hey Karan!: An evening with ‘Jessie’ star Karan Brar

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Television star, Karan Brar, was dared by audience members to recreate his former co-star, Debby Ryan’s, iconic meme face during the virtual Q&A on March 24. Photo provided by author

As proud members of Generation Z, there is not a Husky on campus who didn’t grow up watching Disney Channel. As many die-hard Disney fans can tell you, it felt like a party every day when watching “Jessie,” and that’s exactly what Karan Brar brought on his virtual Q&A with the Student Union Board of Governors on Wednesday night. 

The event was moderated by Parth Patel, president of the University of Connecticut chapter of Asha for Education, an organization that partnered with SUBOG to bring Brar to the UConn student body. Best known for his role of Ravi Ross on the hit Disney Channel series, “Jessie,” and its subsequent spin-off, “Bunk’d,” Brar was asked a wide range of questions about his life and experiences in the entertainment industry, especially from such a young age. 

“My favorite part about being on ‘Jessie,’ or working in sitcom in general,” Brar said, “is just the ability to make people laugh. I think there’s something really magical about it, and I know that sounds super cheesy, but I grew up watching sitcoms.” 

Brar admitted that he hopes “Jessie” will be remembered in the same way he remembers the beloved shows of his childhood. 

“I think what people don’t realize is that when you’re on Disney channel, you get stigmatized as being a disney channel kid, only being capable of doing a certain set of things and only having a certain skill set. It takes a lot of time to prove that you can actually do things outside of that.”

Karan Brar

While “Jessie” was certainly his breakout role, Brar admitted there is a difficult transition every child actor must make if they seek to continue acting in the future.  

“I think what people don’t realize is that when you’re on Disney Channel,” Brar said, “you get stigmatized as being a Disney Channel kid, only being capable of doing a certain set of things and only having a certain skill set. It takes a lot of time to prove that you can actually do things outside of that.” 

In light of last week’s deadly spa shootings in Atlanta, Georgia, Brar was asked to discuss his Asian American heritage and its impact on his career. 

“I think just being Asian American you inherently feel disconnected with your roots,” Brar said. “I’ve had to struggle with that. But at the same time, I’m trying to really make eye contact with my culture and understand where I come from, where my parents come from, and also make eye contact with American culture and melding those two together and understanding what I am in the middle of that.” 

His roles on screen have been a double-edged sword in many ways. While many Indian and South Asian Americans have reached out to him, excited to see people like them on  television, he recognizes that stereotypical performances can hurt ethnic communities in the long run, so he is determined to hold himself accountable as he continues in the entertainment industry. 

Parth Patel is president of the UConn chapter of Asha for Education, an organization that seeks to raise money for the education of underprivileged children in India. Patel moderated the Q&A event starring Karan Brar. Photo provided by author

Brar is a strong advocate for mental health awareness, especially for fellow members of the Asian and South Asian communities, as there is still tremendous amounts of cultural stigma around mental health issues. 

“Speaking from my experiences, in India, mental health really doesn’t exist,” Brar said. “Being depressed or being anxious is not something real or tangible, it’s just being sad or worried. I know that I’ve had to deal with that challenge with my parents as I’ve gone through my journey of going to therapy.” 

Brar did admit he has several projects in the works to look out for, but unfortunately he could not divulge any information on  them at this time, but he did say that he’s looking forward to taking a seat in the producer’s chair in the next couple of years. 

And of course, Brar explained that his career thus far would not have been possible without the support of his late co-star, Cameron Boyce. 

“My best friend, Cameron Boyce,” Brar said, “was someone who … challenged me to be [not only] a better actor, but also a better person every day. I think that’s what helped me the most in my craft.” 

For more information on all the upcoming events SUBOG has to offer, follow live updates on their Instagram account, @subogatuconn.  

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