My­ers Park grad Ravi Pa­tel in ‘Long Shot’

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Carolina Living - BY LAWRENCE TOPPMAN Arts Correspond­ent

When we last saw Ravi Pa­tel four years ago, he was look­ing for love in the doc­u­men­tary “Meet the Pa­tels.” He found it soon af­ter­ward, mar­ry­ing ac­tress Ma­ha­ley Hes­sam and fa­ther­ing a daugh­ter named Amelie.

Now he should be look­ing for a clone.

The My­ers Park High School grad­u­ate, whose par­ents live in Bal­lan­tyne, has his high­est­pro­file screen ex­po­sure in “Long Shot,” play­ing an ad­vi­sor to pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Char­l­ize Theron. He’s on the TV se­ries “Amer­i­can House­wife” and has roles in three up­com­ing films: “Emmett,” “But­ter” and “Won­der Woman 1984,” about which he’s mum un­til it opens in June 2020: “(Warner Broth­ers) re­ally doesn’t want you to say any­thing in ad­vance.”

Mean­while, he’s pre­par­ing an In­dian Net­flix se­ries about stand-up com­edy, de­vel­op­ing a CNN travel se­ries and help­ing to run This Bar Saves Lives, which sends a food packet — a peanut paste full of vi­ta­mins and nu­tri­ents to treat mal­nu­tri­tion — to un­der­priv­i­leged kids each time some­one buys a snack bar. (The web­site re­ports 11 mil­lion pack­ets have been given away.)

It doesn’t sound ironic when he says “I am get­ting a lot stricter about my time, be­cause I want to spend more of it with my wife and child. I gen­er­ally don’t work more than 10 to 12 hours a day now.” It sounds as if, on a brief hia­tus from toil, he has in­vented a 30-hour day.

SUR­PRISED BY SUC­CESS

Pa­tel was busy be­fore he and sis­ter Geeta codi­rected “Meet the Pa­tels,” a gen­tly comic look at Vas­ant and Champa Pa­tel’s at­tempts to find an In­dian bride for their 30-some­thing son.

He’d al­ready be­come a jour­ney­man ac­tor af­ter earn­ing a de­gree in economics and internatio­nal stud­ies from UNC-Chapel Hill, work­ing briefly as an in­vest­ment banker, and start­ing the poker mag­a­zine All In. He’d scored small roles in movies (“Trans­form­ers,” “Ho­tel Cal­i­for­nia”) and re­cur­ring parts on TV se­ries: “Ex­tra Money,” “Past Life,” “The New Nor­mal.”

But that doc­u­men­tary gave his wry, hug­gable screen per­son­al­ity a higher pro­file. At 40, life has be­come so hec­tic he makes most phone calls from his car, and his voice­mail re­ply says “I rarely check voice­mails.” (Vas­ant de­murs: “He never checks them. Bet­ter text him.”)

It’s no sur­prise that our phone in­ter­view fades as he goes in and out of traf­fic and lob­bies and el­e­va­tors, that it has to be in­ter­rupted briefly and ends with him say­ing, “Call me back if you need to. I don’t mind phone tag.” Through all in­ter­rup­tions, he sounds cheer­ful and calm and slightly sur­prised by his own suc­cess.

Many things have fallen into his lap lately, oc­ca­sion­ally with­out ap­par­ent ef­fort.

Patty Jenk­ins di­rected him in “Five,” an an­thol­ogy film for Life­time in 2011; she helms the “Won­der Woman” fran­chise, re­mem­bered him and “reached out to me. I was cast be­fore I knew what the role was. I’d work with her on any­thing, but ‘Won­der Woman’ is a no-brainer.”

LONG SHOT

“Long Shot” came al­most as eas­ily: “I don’t au­di­tion a ton at this point. Not that I’m be­ing of­fered a mil­lion things, but I’m so busy pro­duc­ing and do­ing un­scripted stuff and have the gra­nola bar com­pany.

“I didn’t want to go, be­cause I had an­other meet­ing and was not do­ing so well that day. I didn’t pre­pare and im­pro­vised a lot, be­cause I didn’t know the words my char­ac­ter was sup­posed to say. I went in and out and thought, ‘What­ever.’ But a cou­ple of weeks later, I was told I was the first per­son cast af­ter Seth Ro­gen and Char­l­ize Theron. We spent 31⁄ months 2 film­ing in Mon­treal and Colom­bia, and it ended up be­ing a cool gig.”

Mean­while, Star­bucks signed a con­tract to sell This Bar Saves Lives in ev­ery store, dis­play­ing the snacks in the same place for easy vis­ual ac­cess. Pa­tel founded that com­pany with ac­tors Kristen Bell, Ryan Devlin and Todd Grin­nell six years ago.

“This is the most im­por­tant time of the com­pany’s growth, with other big ac­counts lin­ing up,” he says. “I just spent 21⁄ 2 months go­ing to the of­fice ev­ery day, be­cause we have a new CEO, and there are a lot of lit­tle de­tails to the tran­si­tion. My phi­los­o­phy in gen­eral is to part­ner with smart peo­ple, then re­move my­self from the process.”

IN THE WORKS

His In­dian roots led him to the yet-un­ti­tled Net­flix show, a scripted half-hour about a young fe­male co­me­dian that will be shot at the end of the year. Pa­tel says the In­dian stand-up cir­cuit has been ac­tive for per­haps 12 years: “It’s like what the un­der­ground hip-hop scene was in the States in the 1980s, a hip place to be but also a plat­form for emerg­ing voices.”

Mean­while, he’s em­bark­ing on a CNN travel se­ries he de­scribes as “‘Meet the Pa­tels’ meets ‘Parts Un­known’ (the Emmy-win­ning hit with the late An­thony Bour­dain). It will be up­lift­ing and fun and ex­plore cul­tures around the world. In ev­ery episode, I will travel with some­one I love and bring up a ques­tion that re­veals some­thing about life. It’ll be a buddy com­edy that cre­ates the cul­tural voyeurism th­ese shows do well and works in some phi­los­o­phy.”

Speak­ing of some­one you love … she’s not In­dian, right? How did she go down with the Pa­tels?

“We met around the time the doc­u­men­tary was on the fes­ti­val cir­cuit in 2014, and my par­ents took to her right away. She’s half-white and half-Afghan, just a loyal, fam­i­ly­ori­ented, lov­ing per­son. When we had Amelie (who’s now 3), they be­came ob­sessed with their grand­daugh­ter. We’re pretty ob­sessed with her, too.

“My wife’s mom and my mom are big per­son­al­i­ties, al­ways mul­ti­task­ing and help­ing a mil­lion peo­ple. They’ve kind of cre­ated a grand­daugh­ter who’s a com­bi­na­tion of them. She gets up in the morn­ing and goes goes goes, and she’s boss­ing peo­ple around. Ac­tu­ally, I have a tir­ing sit­u­a­tion at home.”

This story is part of an Ob­server un­der­writ­ing project with the Thrive Cam­paign for the Arts, sup­port­ing arts jour­nal­ism in Char­lotte.

PHILIPPE BOSSÉ Cour­tesy of Lion­s­gate

Ravi Pa­tel, left, ap­pears in “Long Shot,” a ro­man­tic com­edy fea­tur­ing Char­l­ize Theron and Seth Ro­gen. Pa­tel is pic­tured in a scene with O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Tris­tan D. Lalla, right.

PHILIPPE BOSSÉ Cour­tesy of Lion­s­gate

Ravi Pa­tel, left, plays a key ad­vi­sor to Char­l­ize Theron in “Long Shot.” Pa­tel is pic­tured in a scene with (front left) June Diane Raphael, Seth Ro­gen and Theron. “I was told I was the first per­son cast af­ter Seth Ro­gen and Char­l­ize Theron,” Pa­tel says.

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