On the CBS sitcom Mike & Molly, Nyambi Nyambi plays Senegalese waiter Samuel, who works at the diner frequented by police officers Mike (Billy Gardell) and Carl (Reno Wilson). Having come from an impoverished background in Senegal, Samuel has little patience for the everyday troubles of the show’s main characters. Nyambi, whose family came to the U.S. from Nigeria, began his career on the New York stage, and Mike & Molly is his first major TV role. Here he talks about getting cast in the part, adjusting to working in TV and developing the character of Samuel.
What can we expect to see in the final episodes of this season?
Everyone knows that [Mike and Molly are] getting married, so the wedding’s coming up. And with the wedding comes the bachelor party. Some things to look forward to.
Does Samuel get to be part of those events?
Yeah, I’m there. They’re like family to me now.
How did you get cast in the part of Samuel?
First of all, I was broke. That was first and foremost. I was doing theater, coming up in the theater and starting to do really well. But with my student loans and stuff like that, I had to make a change as far as income. So I told my agent, “I love the theater, but it’s time to upgrade to film and television. If I’m going to continue doing theater, I’ve also got to do film and TV.” [I went] for my audition to be put on tape at Warner Bros., because they were sending the tape to Los Angeles. We did it, and it was great, and we forgot about it. I just let it go. I said, “All right, that’s that.” Being that it was my first on-camera audition of the pilot season, I didn’t hang my hat on it. I just had fun with it. When I did the audition, I was like, “You know what, I’m celebrating my family. This is me playing one of my uncles.” Because my family is Nigerian.
I got a call saying that I had booked Shakespeare in the Park. Two days later, I get a call, and this is now almost a month after I’ve auditioned for Mike & Molly. I get a call from my agent saying, “You remember that Mike & Molly that you auditioned for like a month ago? Well, they want to fly you out and test you.” I went, “What?! They wanna what?” As soon as I heard that, I was on cloud nine. Anything that happened from that point on was just gravy.
[At the audition], I said, “Do you have any questions for me?” And [producer Chuck Lorre] said, “No. I love your instincts. Just do what you do.” And hearing that was golden. When I started, I was like, “All right, he just gave me license to do anything I want.” But of course, within the lines. When I started, the laughs that were coming out of these guys brought me so much joy. I’d never heard laughter like this. I’ve heard laughs, but the way these guys were laughing was amazing. I wanted more. After all of that was done, after we all finished, literally 15 minutes after the test, I got the call saying I got the job.
Were you inspired by your relatives in developing your character?
Yeah. Growing up, you go to Nigerian parties every single week. I was born here, but I’m first-generation [Nigerian-American], and my parents hung around with other Nigerians. I have uncles here. Growing up, what I used to do was whenever we left those parties or when we had the parties and those people left us and went home, I would do impressions of different family members. I would do the loud uncle, the drunk aunt, the slow-talking cousin, the know-it-all uncle. When I got a chance to do this, it was me celebrating my family.