With a name like Nyambi Nyambi, you may not expect to hear that the “Mike and Molly” actor is a native Oklahoman.
“I like to say I'm Sooner-
Soon, Nyambi plans to add his name to the list of OU graduates in his family.
“I've always wanted to get a degree from the University of Oklahoma because it's just what we did in my family,” he said. The scholar, athlete and actor is working toward a second master's degree (his first was from New York University for acting) at OU in Leadership Administration. His coursework is through the university's online studies program.
“This is how much of an Oklahoma guy I am,” Nyambi interrupted the interview. He stood outside on a Los Angeles street, talking on his cellphone. “There is a guy wearing a Texas Longhorns hat in Los Angeles and I am fuming right now. I've just given him the Longhorns sign: the upside down horns.”
And while the “Oklahoma guy” is a huge basketball fan — he played all four years of college at Bucknell University — he admits the Thunder is not his favorite team. It's his second favorite.
“Here's the problem. I grew up an L.A. Lakers fan. Magic Johnson was the reason I played basketball,” he said.
He wasn't a SuperSonics fan at all. So when the team became the Oklahoma City Thunder, “I found it very conflicting.”
He didn't want to be a fair-weather fan of the Lakers, he said, and the fact that Kevin Durant formerly played for University of Texas helped him reconcile his allegiance.
“You know, we Sooners don't like anything that comes out of Austin,” he said. “That made it easier for me. As long as the star player's from Texas, they can be my second favorite team.”
A performance of Martin Luther King Jr.'s “The Eulogy for the Martyred Children” speech sealed the deal for Nyambi.
“We call it in the acting world ‘catching the bug.' This light hit me. I later found out it was the spotlight ... you know, the actual light,” he joked. “But really it was like something otherworldly was happening. It was an awesome, awesome feeling.”
Nyambi decided to pursue his newfound passion at NYU. There, he studied classical acting techniques and found success on the stage, sharing billings with Al Pacino in the “The Merchant of Venice” and Mandy Patinkin in “The Tempest.”
Even though he was broke — “really broke” — Nyambi remembers his life right after graduating, living in New York City as a struggling actor, as a time of great joy.
“I knew something great was going to happen and that this situation I was in was just a season,” he said.
Sure enough, a string of good luck landed Nyambi in L.A., with a comfortable role in “Mike and Molly,” the first sitcom he ever auditioned for.
In the show, Nyambi acts alongside Emmy Award winner Melissa McCarthy and comedian Billy Gardell who play the lead characters, Molly Flynn and Officer Mike Gibbs.
In “Mike and Molly,” Nyambi plays “Samuel,” a waiter in the diner that Gardell's character
Though his current job is a departure from serious theater, Nyambi said he loves making people laugh — especially producer Chuck Lorre.
“Chuck has this very unique laugh. It's every laugh you've ever heard, put into one man,” he said, remembering the first time he heard that laugh during his screen test for the show.
“It was just amazing. I wanted more. What happens if I do this? There's that laugh again. What if I do that? There's that laugh.”
Fifteen minutes after his screen test, Nyambi said he got a call saying he'd landed the job.
That was two years ago. Today, Nyambi lives in L.A., loves his job and knows he “hit the jackpot” with his career.
The second season of “Mike and Molly” winds down in mid-May with the title characters' wedding episode.
The show airs at 8:30 p.m. on CBS and has been renewed for a third season.
Nyambi looks forward to continuing his acting career with a goal of one day opening his own production company. And he plans to visit Oklahoma as often as possible to see his Sooners play.
I like to say I'm Sooner-
I'll be Sooner-