'Mean Girls' standout Rajiv Surendra on the role that made him leave Hollywood: 'I felt dead inside for a long time'

Rajiv Surendra as the scene-stealer Kevin G. in Mean Girls.
Rajiv Surendra as the scene-stealer Kevin G. in Mean Girls. (Photo: CBS via Getty Images)

Despite actor Rajiv Surendra's scene-stealing moments in Mean Girls, he's been largely absent from Hollywood since the film's release in 2004. So what happened to the guy who played Kevin Gnapoor? Turns out, Surendra's journey is pretty fascinating.

Surendra is better known these days for DIY videos on HGTV's YouTube channel than acting credits. Part of the reason could be because of the "traumatic" rejection he faced missing out on Life of Pi. He dropped out of college in hopes to get the starring role in the 2012 film, but it ultimately went to Indian actor Suraj Sharma.

"I felt dead inside for a long time," he explained to GQ.

Surendra, who shot Mean Girls during his first year of college, learned the book Life of Pi was being turned into a film.

"I was determined to get that part. So I dropped out of college to go to the little town in India where the book takes place so that I could do some in-depth research. I did that for a few months and came back and was just waiting for them to start production. I assumed that it was going to happen any day now and it didn't. They lost their director and the project ended up getting put on hold so I went back to college," he recalled. The project kept getting delayed, and all of a sudden, six years went by.

"Life of Pi was attached to four different directors over the years so every time a new director [came aboard], I'd go to the library and get out all the movies they had made and research that director. I worked really really hard to try to get this part. In the end, they gave it to somebody else," he explained.

Surendra said that rejection "felt like someone had died."

"I was building this boy that was a character in a book. By the end of those years, that was a real person inside of me. Those old Tamil songs I listened to as a kid, Pi would've listened to those songs. When I got the email saying I didn't get the part, I felt like that person just died instantly. It was traumatic. I think I was in shock for a couple weeks. I felt dead inside for a long time," he continued.

Surendra doesn't have another major credit since Mean Girls. The only credit, per IMDb, is appearing in a short in 2005. After losing out on Life of Pi, he applied for a regular office job, but working in a cubicle under the fluorescent lights "wasn't for me."

"I can't do this. I'd rather not be here on earth," he said.

"In that period of feeling dead inside and knowing I couldn't work in an office, I peripherally heard about this thing called being an Au Pair, where a young person would be hired as a nanny for kids in Europe. I thought maybe this would be the one thing that would excite me. I also just wanted to leave my life. It felt like a way to escape and to be paid. I applied on a website and I got it, so I moved to Munich," he continued.

Ultimately, that didn't work out either. "Excuse me, you paid to spend four years to get your degree and now you're washing someone's underwear? What?" he quipped.

Surendra decided to start a small business doing calligraphy. He also did a pottery apprenticeship and has started to find a following online.

"Overall I find the ultimate question people need to ask themselves is: What do I want? And they need to come up with that answer on their own. In a very deep way," he said. "When you figure that out, it actually is simple to achieve it but it means you have to let go of a lot of things."

The entrepreneur recognizes living somewhat unconventionally means there's a trade-off.

"I don't have medical insurance. People always ask, well aren't you scared? And I say, not really. It's always a trade-off. I know the cost that is associated with that security. I don't want that. I don't want to be miserable on a daily basis so I can have medical insurance," he said. "To me, it's like what’s the point? What's the point in having the security of a job, an apartment, and insurance and then everyday you come home and hate your life. So you can have three weeks off a year so you can do something fun?"

So don't expect to see Surendra in Mean Girls 2, if that ever comes around: "Why ruin a good thing?" he said.