Navi Rawat talks Numb3rs

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Start with a nerdy premise: Math genius uses big brain to solve crimes. Convert premise into procedural format: One crime solved per week. Toss entire show into Friday night death slot. Voila! A big fat failure.

But no. The formula above yields CBS' crime drama, Numb3rs, a show that has beaten the odds. Now into its fifth season, Numb3rs has stayed afloat on a night that drowns most other shows, thanks to a cast of familiar, talented faces. David Krumholtz, of 10 Things I Hate About You and The Santa Clause fame, is that aforementioned math genius, Charlie Eppes. And The O.C.'s Navi Rawat is Charlie's math-genius-fiancee Amita Ramanujan. TV.com spoke to Rawat, a 32-year-old Malibu native, about her put-together character, her favorite subjects in school, and her post-Numb3rs plans.

TV.com: What can we expect from Numb3rs this season?
Navi Rawat: There’ll be more crime solving as usual, and also some different issues in terms of the personal roles of the show. We have one cast member who’s not going to be in the entire season. He’s in the beginning of the season, and will hopefully be in the end of the season, but not the middle of it.

Who is it?
Peter MacNicol [who plays Dr. Larry Fleinhardt]. He’ll be in the first three episodes, and then he’ll be absent for some episodes. Then probably reappear in the last bit of the season. And so that’ll leave room for more guest stars and different people to come in to the show. And then there’s also some different things in the family dynamics of the show. Now Charlie and Amita are engaged and trying to figure out what to do, because right now they live in Charlie’s house, which is bad. So, obviously, they had kind of hoped to work that out and work the wedding out. So, there’s some stuff on the crime end and then there’s some stuff in the personal world as well.

Who is guest-starring on the show?
Tony Hale [and] Michael Higgins. Also, I believe Fisher Stevens is back. We had Adam Goldberg come on the show. So, some fun, exciting actors that are popping into our world, which is nice.

What do you think about the show's Friday at 10 p.m. time slot?
The fact that Numb3rs succeeded against all odds is a real testament to the quality of the show and the people who work on it because Friday at 10 -- I mean, let’s face it, most everybody’s out doing other things. It’s a tough time slot, but you know I think we’ve succeeded in this.

What do you think it is about the show's topic of mathematics that people like?
I think it’s different. It’s intellectual. It’s educational at times. Now you see it more; The Big Bang Theory is obviously a huge comedy, and it’s doing really well, and that has the same nerdy slant. And Criminal Minds is another show that has some really hyper-intellectual characters. I think it’s appealing because it’s different than the majority of what you see on television. It’s smart, and it allows the viewers to learn and get educated while they’re enjoying television.

Do you relate your character Amita at all?
I like her in the sense that we’re both ambitious, we’re both passionate about our work, we’re both focused. But I’m not good at math ... She’s a positive role model for young girls and women, showing that you can be attractive and cool and also be smart and successful.

What was your favorite subject in school?
I was better at literature and history and art and stuff like that. I’m much more of a right-brained person.

What was it like to go from a saturated, drama-heavy soap opera like The O.C. to something so drastically different?
When I got Numb3rs I was actually filming The O.C. at the time, and I was excited to do something very different because at times it did feel kind of overdramatic. But having said that, now that I’m on Numb3rs, I really would like to do something that’s a bit more of a serialized show, because Numb3rs is procedural. And I’d like to do something that’s more character-oriented. I’d find it more enjoyable.

Is there a particular type of character that you’d like to play?
Before Numbers I was always playing troublemakers and bad girls. Like on 24, I played the character who’s aiding in the kidnapping of the Elisha Cuthbert character. I was a bad misanthrope on that show. And then on The O.C. I played a very confused, tormented character. And on Numb3rs, I kind of play a very together, smart, balanced character. I wouldn’t mind playing a troublemaker again.

Have you ever considered writing or directing for TV?
I would love to direct. That’s something that really, really interests me. I love working with actors, and I love watching the process. I also love photography. It’s my biggest hobby. I take tons of pictures, so I would love to direct at some point. I think it would be really wonderful [to] write as well. I have a lot of friends who are writers, and I know it takes a tremendous amount of discipline.

Do you prefer doing television or film?
I like to do both. I’ve been very blessed. I’ve worked a lot in television, and then I’ve worked in film as well. We’ll see how much longer Numb3rs goes on, but I’m hoping to do more film as Numb3rs comes to an end. I’m hoping to segue into doing more features, or if not, doing television and just doing a different kind of show. Maybe one where I [am] more of a main character.

Besides Numb3rs, of course, do you have a favorite show?
I have three favorite shows of all time. Number one is Sex and the City, by far. I’ve seen the entire series multiple times. Number two, I’m a big, big Lost fanatic, so I cannot wait for them to come back on in January ... And my current favorite show ... is Mad Men. My boyfriend and I watched the first two seasons in two nights. We stayed up one night until like 5:00 in the morning watching the first one, and then the next night until like 4:00 in the morning watching the second season ... So every Sunday at 10 o’clock, the phones go off and it’s silent and there’s an absolute focus on the show ... And I’m so glad that they’re winning all the awards and being recognized because it’s a really excellent show. It’s so well written. It’s well acted, and it’s very unique, I think.

How was your experience on FlashForward?
It’s good because ... it has like a similar kind of high concept thing that Lost does. So, that’s been fun working on FlashForward as well because I get to a really different character than I play on Numb3rs.

Do you have an actor or actress that you emulate or admire?
I love Kate Winslet. I’ve loved her ever since I saw her in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures a long time ago. I loved her in Sense and Sensibility, and I was so happy when she finally won the Oscar last year.

Numb3rs airs Fridays at 10 p.m. on CBS.

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