Actor easily goes from South Bay to Hollywood 

Twenty-two-year-old Sunkrish Bala’s acting career has gotten off to a good start, and he’s the first to say so.

"It’s very lucky and serendipitous that it happened so soon," the well-spoken, great-looking Bala says, talking about his co-starring role on the new ABC series "Notes From the Underbelly," which moves to its new time slot, 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, this week.

Bala, who grew up in San Jose, plays a guy who’s embarking on parenthood. Being a 2006 graduate of UCLA, Bala isn’t much like his character Eric, an obsessive-compulsive husband and businessman in his 30s.

"The age thing was a challenge," Bala says in a recent interview at The Examiner offices in San Francisco. Eric is the oldest character he’s ever played, someone he didn’t really know before he got this job. Bala also says he’s not necessarily the target audience for the sitcom, which centers on the trials of being a parent.

He did have to convince some of his friends — he still lives in his Westwood college apartment — that the show was a good deal. Now that he’s worked on it for a while, he says its focus is broader than it first seemed: "It’s more about relationships you have when you reach a certain stage of your life."

The fact that Bala is of Indian ancestry didn’t have much to do with his being cast in the part, but some lines have been written to reflect his background.

Yet Bala got his start in show business writing and playing parts associated with South Asian culture. When he was just in high school, he and friends formed an Indian-American theater company called A’Shore, which produced plays that were performed across the Bay Area, including San Francisco.

Among his first major roles was in the film "American Blend" in which he played the son of an Indian man and American woman. He worked on the movie while he was a student in the theater department at UCLA, a time when he could learn as much by performing as by writing papers, he says. The part enabled him to get his Screen Actors Guild card, and from there, guest spots on "Huff," "Criminal Minds" and "Will & Grace."

On "Grey’s Anatomy," heplayed a guy who has a one-night stand with Meredith and ends up at the hospital not long after — with an erection that won’t end.

"They hold auditions with fake scripts," he says, explaining that he didn’t realize what he’d be doing on the show until after the part was offered to him.

"I immediately called my mom and told her," he says, adding that he was glad the show aired on a holiday week when many of his relatives were out of the country. Just he and his mom watched it together.

He says his family is threatening to sell the San Jose house he grew up in — something that won’t make him happy. "I miss the Bay Area so much," he says, planning his stop at the 24-hour Naan ’n’ Curry in the Tenderloin.

Seemingly untouched by the insincerity of Hollywood, he says, "I think I haven’t been invited into all of that. I’m very much a Northern California person."

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Leslie Katz

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