Rahul Kohli is Converting His 'iZombie' Costars to Gaming

Rahul Kohli is Converting His 'iZombie' Costars to Gaming

Rahul Kohli from the CW's iZombie Getty/Maarten de Boer

The British actor and gaming addict talks Nintendo, the Switch and playing 'Overwatch' on set

The British actor and gaming addict talks Nintendo, the Switch and playing 'Overwatch' on set

Rahul Kohli got his start in the theater and on British TV shows like Eastenders, but you'll no doubt recognize him as the adorably geeky medical examiner, Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti, from the CW's Rob Thomas-helmed iZombie – a loose adaptation of the popular Vertigo comics series of the same name. His primary job is to ensure that the show's undead hero, Olivia Moore (played by Rose McIver) has a shoulder to cry on and fresh brains to eat, all while trying to science her up a miracle zombie cure.

Season 3 of the horror-themed comedy crime-procedural drama starts on April 4. Glixel spoke to him about how games fit into his shooting schedule, Super Mario rage, his thoughts on Nintendo Switch and converting the iZombie crew to gaming.

What's your first big gaming memory?
Super Mario World was probably the one that I started and finished to completion. I think I was six or seven years old, I remember playing, I got to this bonus level. I have this vague memory of it and I screamed "Fuck." When, I think, I lost my last life. Grandma was there and my mum and dad and there was this big shitstorm and I lost the console for six months.

So, that was Super Mario World and then it was Donkey Kong Country. Then obviously onto the Nintendo 64 and then Goldeneye and Mario Kart were probably the most defining games for me. Like I said, I think my Super Nintendo was what got me, was my first drug. You know what I mean? It was like weed.

I'd socially play and then Nintendo 64 was like crack. When Ocarina of Time and Goldeneye and Banjo Kazooie and all of that. That's when it really became an addiction.

And that was it? You've been gaming ever since?
I wouldn't even say there were months that have gone by where I wasn't playing something and I think that's pretty much the case since I've been about seven years old. It's just the first thing I pack when I have to go to a new place. I always have to have some sort of game with me, whether it's portable, a console, my laptop. It's the only thing I know really.

I actually wanted to start a career in video games. I had no intentions of becoming an actor at that point. I wanted to go into game developing, more so on an artistic level, because I could draw. But, somehow found my way into acting and video games just stayed as a hobby. Except when I worked at Gamestation for a few years.

I do have a career in games, and from your Twitter I'd say you play games as much as I do...
It's because I don't do anything else. Where you see the cracks is when the other actors on set are talking about the latest movie or TV show that I should be watching. I couldn't be more out of touch.

Video gaming is such an active hobby and I find film and TV very passive. They happen whether you're there or not, you know? I tend to fall in and out of concentration levels, whereas with gaming, it requires my attention.

And when I get home from work and I've done 17 hours filming, I still want to have a little bit of time to myself. If I put a film on, that's it, I'm in bed. Whereas gaming gives me two or three hours to clear my mind. So, that's how I get it done. I play every night, I guess.

The Switch is something that I've invested in, purely out of being a fan of gaming, not Nintendo or wanting the console.

TV filming schedules can be really intense. That must've changed your gaming habits a bit
Not even close. Honestly, I think I've never played this much. This is the most I've ever played. It's become something that I rely on, so it's become therapeutic for me. iZombie was my big break into acting, but I'd been acting for seven or eight years prior to that. There was a lot of free time. Gaming back then, I loved it and I did it a lot. But, it had a different kind of connotation to it, because I was this unemployed out of work actor living at my parents house.

So, when you stay upstairs playing video games eight hours a day, it looks bad, right? So there was a guilt with it. And now that I'm doing a show that's still pretty successful and I'm looked upon by my friends and family as (air quotes) successful, now I can do it unashamedly. I can binge three days and not shower and it's like "Oh, but he's in a hit show, so it's fine."

Do you game on set? Do you try and take either a handheld or a console?
It depends on the day, because I use to be a bit strict about my process and the things I need to do to play the character. So, I rarely broke out to do something like that. This year's the first year. I guess it's because for the first few years I really had to be switched on. It was a new job and I was unproven. And in the third year, I could still do my job, but I could chill out a little bit. I didn't have to be Daniel Day Lewis every day.

Razor sent me, I think it was last summer, they sent me one of their new Blades, their laptop. And I started bringing that into work. I was playing Overwatch on their Wi-Fi, which was giving everyone slowdowns, but I never confessed to it.

Because of the way it works you might get an hour in your dressing room or you might just get four minutes so something linear with a storyline just isn't compatible.

You can't be shouting "I've just got to finish this bit of Uncharted."
Or, I'm in the middle of a Final Fantasy boss battle. So, it was anything that's got that quick arcade pick up and play. I think Malcolm [Goodwin, who plays Detective Clive Babineaux] my co-star, he had a retro Super Nintendo in his trailer with Mario Kart and stuff, which I picked up for his birthday.

I'm very fond of Malcolm. He's much older than I am and he was a super hardcore gamer. It upsets me when someone was really into it and grew out of it. Because you know how good it is and you stopped for whatever reason, you decided that you've moved on with it. So, he's never returned to it. So, I've been trying to give him nostalgia, trying to trick him into getting back into it.

I saw you tweeting about the Nintendo Switch. Did you pre-order?
I did pre-order, yep. I pre-ordered the same night. Even though I don't want it. That is an addiction, right? I got it. I'm not particularly happy with Nintendo. I haven't been for the last few years. I felt shunned by the Wii and I've supported them from pretty much the jump. I loved the GameCube. They had one of my favorite games of all time on the GameCube. Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. Then it just felt like – I know it's not necessarily true, but it's kind of how it felt at that point – like "screw you guys. We want to appeal to the families."

And that's fine. I get that. And it was a success. And seeing my dad playing Wii...what was it, Wii Sports? Yeah. It was fun. But, everyone knew that that's not the market you can count on. My mum had that Wii mat, whatever the hell it was. And it's like great. She wanted it for Christmas. She saw some celebrity in the commercial. Never touched it. And I was like "cool."

The Switch is something that I've invested in, purely out of being a fan of gaming, not Nintendo or wanting the console.

Have you managed to convert anyone else? Do you ever manage to bring out the PlayStation at parties and be like "guys, you need to see Uncharted"?
So, Rose McIver who plays the lead in iZombie, I think Crash Bandicoot's the only game she gives a shout out to. Her brother was a gamer, so she played that and she hasn't really touched it since. So, I had this ploy. I think I brought her round one night for tea, because I'm the only one with PG Tips. Right, so. She brought the Marmite and I had the PG Tips. And I started with Unfinished Swan because she's arty farty. I looked at all the books she reads and she does tapestries and I was like "I can get her on this one." And she really took to indie titles, so what started off with Unfinished Swan turned into Surgeon Simulator. We did Octodad, I Am Bread and she absolutely loves these innovative indie titles.

And then what really bought everyone round like Aly Michalka [iZombie's Peyton Charles] and David Anders [iZombie's Blaine DeBeers], everyone started coming around and bringing their family even, when it was the VR. Because I invested in the VR.

I was going to ask you about VR, seeing as you seem to buy everything.
I've always been interested in VR. When I was at IGN, I was doing Up At Noon and my girlfriend with her big blue/grey eyes looked at one of them was like "Oh, do you have a VR system here?" This was years before it was out and they let us play the HTC Vive.

I had my day in VR when it launched. When it came out I was on my own and I did Batman: Arkham VR and I did all the other stuff and then I don't think I've been in it since. But I show it to everyone. I have the same routine. I put them into PS Worlds, the shark. And then they go and do the training shooting range on London Eye, and then they go straight into Batman.

My dad's face was priceless. I took it home for Christmas and I've never really seen him be super enthusiastic about much and after he did the PlayStation VR, he smiled the whole time. He absolutely loved it. The best endorsement ever. I think everyone can feel that we're on the verge of something great.