Karan Soni on His Unlikely ‘Deadpool’ Hero: Dopinder the Cab Driver

The much-anticipated Deadpool sequel is sure to be full  of what fans love: more action, more mutants, more pop culture references. And most importantly, more Dopinder, Deadpool’s taxi driving sidekick. Watch the opening of this trailer. It starts with Dopinder listening to his radio while Deadpool does his superhero duties. The cabby audiences saw for all of five minutes in the first Deadpool movie, who got crisp high fives instead of cold hard cash, is back. The man scorned by his lover who got his revenge, Deadpool-style, returns for a second chance to be a hero. We got a chance to talk to the actor who plays Dopinder — Karan Soni — and he gave us the inside scoop into playing Deadpool’s number one driver.

MELISSA: So I heard in a couple of interviews, you talk about how Deadpool 1 is almost felt like an indie film because producers  who weren’t coming onset, people were really chill about it, etc. What’s the difference between going from that to Deadpool 2 that’s definitely a blockbuster and you know that while you’re filming?
KARAN: Yeah, that’s a good question. It was quite interesting. Deadpool 1 was my first studio movie. And I went in with all these expectations of having seen behind-the-scenes videos on DVD for years. Being like “there’s gonna be a thousand people!” And then I got there and it was kinda like we were doing a TV show. You just have limits on the day to get a scene, and everyone is kinda moving pretty fast. So to me, it was pretty easy to switch into that world.

Then doing the second one, it was definitely a difference. We just had more time to do everything. And I honestly prefer that. There were days when we would do a scene and then after lunch we would just shoot the scene again. So having the hour breaks for lunch between let you think about what you did, and then you come back and you have more time to do it again. That was really fun. And the action is obviously much bigger. I get to be a little bit a part of the action. and that really made me feel like being a little kid because the set was everything I thought it was going to be the first time. There was just like all these extras, and explosives, and pyrotechnics, and stunt drivers. [It was] all very exciting to be a part of.

That’s fantastic. You said you were a part of the action. Did you have to do any training prior?
I don’t even get to read the script until the day before! I can’t really spoil anything, but basically, I didn’t really have to do any of that stuff. It’s more so that I’m just kinda hanging out while the action’s happening around me. There was a stunt driver that I had who did all the driving stunts and everything for me… My next goal would be, if we make a third one, I just want, like, one punch. I just want to punch a person once, and just really focus on that.  

Because the stunts stuff looks really hard. I saw Josh [Brolin, who plays Cable] and Zazzie [Beets, who plays Domino] both train. Like, they got there a month before I think I did. And they were working out every day and training. It seems like a lot of work. I’d be good with, like, one fight. Maybe like a punch and a fight and then I’ll be good to go.

Your character is a bigger part of the second movie. Did you expect, when you were filming the first one, for your character to be so popular?
No, not at all, actually quite the opposite. When I got the job I auditioned for the movie with dummy sides so I didn’t know if it was a superhero movie or what it was. Then a few months after I got the job, they told me that I was gonna be in the Deadpool movies. And I didn’t even know what Deadpool was!

So I quickly read the script, and I really liked it. And then I tried to buy the comics and go through those. I learned very quickly that my character’s not in the comics. So while doing my little Google research for the first movie, I learned what a rabid fan base the comic had. But I think I was just a little bit nervous they were gonna be like “who’s this guy taking up screen time,” when there’s a whole library of characters that exist. So I was more so just nervous that, I don’t know, that people would be mad that I was in it. But that’s just me. I’m always going to the negative, over thinking…

So I was very happy and surprised and just, like, grateful that people really liked the character. And then, especially when I read the script for the second one, I feel like if people really like my character from the first one, they’re gonna love the second one because I loved the stuff that I got to do the second time around. And again, I was surprised when I read the script, ’cause kinda my storyline in the movie is that I’m begging more responsibility from Deadpool at the beginning. Like I’m ready to step it up and be more than a getaway driver. And [it] really wonderfully parallels my personal experience as the actor on the movie. ‘Cause I love what I got to do in the first one; but I felt ready to do a little bit more. I was ready to show more of the character and that’s kind of what they allowed me to do.

And then in the next one, you’ll ask for even more with your punch.
The next one will be like “I think my name needs to be in the title with you” so…

DD –Dopinder/Deadpool!
Yeah that’s what it needs to be! And one punch.

So with that, what have your fan interactions been like? You said there’s a huge fan base. How are you interacting with them? are they running up to you on the streets and all of that?
Yeah, I get a lot people coming up to me asking for high-fives. Which has been another pleasant surprise. Like, when we filmed that part of the movie, I remember being like “no one’s gonna latch onto this,” [but] people really like high-fiving me. And so that’s really nice and fun ’cause I’m not a germaphobe so I’m fine with doing it.

But a year ago, I had my favorite fan interaction. I hesitate to say favorite. It’s the most memorable one, and you’ll know why. Basically I was at an airport in Alabama and I was at the urinal. And next to me, the guy did a double take while we were both using the services. And he removed his hand from down below and asked for a high-five then and there. And I said “No! Not gonna happen!” It was like “let’s wash our hands and then maybe meet me outside the bathroom and I might do this.” But there’s just no way I’m gonna do it right now.

That’s hilarious!
But I’ll never forget it.

So you’ve done a lot of improv. Did you get to improv a lot on set and in the movie?
It was less from my end. We just did a bunch of alternate lines. After, we would do the scripted version, a lot of times Ryan would have on his iPhone in the notes section, he had written lines for everyone and we would try a different line. It was more so doing that. And then once in a while, when we would finish all those lines, I’d be like “oh maybe I’ll try this or that and maybe I’ll throw in my own.” It’s not necessarily improv. It’s more so just a variety of takes where we do alternate lines, and I’d do different things. Every once in a while [I’d] throw in a little improv stuff.

I did improvise a spit which they used in the marketing material a lot. It’s my slow-motion spit, as I’m then standing next to Deadpool. I remember doing that and Ryan was very happy…

I know exactly what you’re talking about.
Every time I see something I’m like “why, there’s the spit again”

It’s a cool shot.
Thank you!

You’re repping this immigrant-Indian-taxi-driver thing. How has the response to that been and how do you feel about representing that? Sorry, that’s a heavy last question!
No, no worries. I basically feel pretty proud of it because I love the character. I do really feel protective of this character. And what I love about it is that I look at him less with his occupation and more who he is in the movie. He’s kinda like an immigrant [and] Deadpool gets every chance to make fun of him ’cause he, you know, kind of serves himself up on a platter to be made fun in front of Deadpool. But instead, right away from the get-go, [Deadpool] treats [Dopinder] like a friend, almost like a father-figure… He’s really like my mentor going into the second movie.

So I think it represents kinda like a weird, funny, positive kind of dual relationship… I was in the first movie for like five minutes so it’s hard to show a full dimensional character. The second one… I really do feel like you’re gonna see a side of the character that you didn’t see the first time, just because we had more time to do stuff… He’s almost like Deadpool’s long-lost  son in a weird way. Yeah, it’s really weird, very Deadpooly, sweet, but messed up relationship. I just love that I got to play that.

It would have been completely different if he wasn’t an immigrant and POC, because he adds something to the narrative that’s so different from all the other characters; from Weasel, from Vanessa, from all these other characters who can kinda step it up to Deadpool. [Dopinder’s] a little different. But every chance that Deadpool has to make fun of him, [Deadpool] does the opposite, which I think is really positive. Like, he really feels for the this guy and it’s reciprocated in a really weird Deadpool way. That relationship only gets weirder in the second one.

And they luckily gave my character a lot of stuff to do that was really fun. He kinda becomes more of a hero. A very unlikely hero, which I’m very excited about.

You can see Karan Soni in Deadpool 2, out in theaters starting today, May 18.