Unlike his Disney Channel alter ego, Karan Brar did not grow up in India. The 17-year-old spent his childhood in Seattle, where sports were number one. “In elementary school, all the guys were jocks,” he shares. As for Karan? Not so much. “I tried to find a sport that I was good at and failed miserably.”
Eventually, Karan’s dad suggested that he visit the local theatre. “One day, I went in, took a class, and really started falling in love with it,” he says. Karan scored his first major role when he was cast in 2010’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid. On the set of its sequel, he met a young actress named Peyton List, who referred him to both a manager and agency in Los Angeles. Karan met with the agents, and within minutes, they told him about a new Disney Channel series that he’d be perfect for: Jessie.
Unfortunately, Karan and his family were flying back home to Seattle that afternoon. However, Jessie’s casting director agreed to meet before they left for the airport. “I auditioned for Luke originally – Ravi didn’t exist whatsoever,” he says. “I did the audition, flew back to Seattle, and then I got four or five callbacks. Finally, I’m in the room with Debby Ryan and Cameron Boyce. Cameron and I were competing against each other for the role of Luke. We kept giving each other dagger eyes! I got a call a week later saying, ‘You booked the role of Ravi,’ and Ravi was created.”
Cameron and Karan graduated from competition to co-stars – and Peyton List, who’d helped Karan land his agent, joined the cast as well. On September 30, 2011, Jessie premiered, and Karan went from Seattle sports failure to Disney Channel superstar. “I enjoyed playing a different character and being in someone else’s shoes,” he explains. “I never went into it thinking, ‘I want to be in the lights and fame.’”
After four hit seasons on Jessie, Karan is certainly famous, and lights surround him as he films Season 2 of its spinoff, Bunk’d. But he continually downplays fame and followers, instead emphasizing the importance of passion and positivity. Karan praises his close friend, Lilly Singh, whose YouTube videos have amassed over one billion views. “Everything she does is not ‘how I can I get more followers,’” he shares. “It’s ‘how can I make them happy, and how can I make them laugh?’”
Karan wants to make people happy, and he also wants them to be happy. “I think with a lot of people in our generation, we’re focused on other people’s perceptions of us,” he explains. “But at the end of the day, you’re looking at yourself in the mirror, and you are the only person that can tell yourself that you’re beautiful and that you deserve everything in your life. It’s important that you say it – because everyone deserves a chance. And everyone deserves to know that they’re beautiful.”