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Why Ben From Evil Looks So Familiar

Over the past 10 years or so, there's been seismic shift in the realm of television, that has essentially seen cable stations and streaming platforms become ground zero for many of the decades' best-loved shows (i.e. Breaking BadGame of Thrones, Stranger ThingsThe Mandalorian). And while many of the TV shows at the center of the so-called "Golden Age of Television" continue to originate through outlets other than the major networks, there are still a few small screen gems finding their way to the airwaves via that route.

One of the best network offerings in recent memory also happens to be one of television's most overlooked new shows. It's called Evil, and it follows the story of a clinical psychologist, Dr. Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers), who after being fired by her bosses at the New York District Attorney's office, is hired by a local priest-in-training named David (Mike Colter) to help investigate several supernatural events including cases of demonic possession and so-called religious miracles.

Essentially a whip-smart rehash of The X-Files that focuses entirely on cases of supernatural and theological origin, the series made its CBS debut in 2019. And while Evil failed to burn up the ratings charts, the eerie new series still managed to carve out a solid little audience in its inaugural season, with audiences no doubt recognizing the familiar faces of Herbers (Westworld), Colter (Luke Cage), and several other cast members.

The actor who portrayed David's contractor pal Ben (aka the third member of Evil's investigatory trinity) was almost certainly among the most recognized. His name is Aasif Mandvi, and the actor-comedian has been a regular presence on screens big and small since the mid-nineties. Here's why Ben from Evil looks so familiar. 

Aasif Mandvi played bestie to the Baudelaires on A Series of Unfortunate Events

As many of Aasif Mandvi's more high profile roles have come on television, it's entirely likely you know him from there. And of Mandvi's small screen performances, few were as high profile as his turn in Netflix's bold adaptation of Lemony Snicket's beloved and surprisingly bleak children's books A Series of Unfortunate Events.

That series follows the tale of the Baudelaire children (Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith) who, after the tragic death of their parents, are remanded to the custody of a distant relative (Neil Patrick Harris' nefarious Count Olaf) bent on stealing their parent's fortune by any means necessary. Fit with jaw-dropping visuals and a heartbreakingly humanistic narrative, and featuring a grand-standing performance from Neil Patrick Harris, A Series of Unfortunate Events was hailed as one of Netflix's best productions when hit the platform in 2017. Much of the series' praise was understandably earned for the work of its cast, which included the likes of Nathan Fillion (Firefly), Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother), Will Arnett (Arrested Development), and Allison Williams (Get Out) in its three season run.

Aasif Mandvi joined their ranks in A Series of Unfortunate Events' first season, appearing in four episodes of the series as the kindly, reptile-loving Monty Montgomery. And while "Uncle" Monty was far and away the best of the Baudelaire's would-be caregivers, his stint in charge of the orphaned kids was cut tragically short when he died in one of Count Olaf's most dastardly deeds. Short as his tenure was, Mandvi still delivered one of A Series of Unfortunate Events' strongest supporting turns.  

Aasif Mandvi played with fire and got burned in The Last Airbender

If you didn't happen to catch Aasif Mandvi at work in Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Events, it's likely you caught him in a very different sort of fantastical tale a few years earlier. Adapted from Nickelodeon's beloved animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, the tale in question followed the gifted successor to a long line "Avatars," who have mastered control of all four elements (Earth, Fire, Water, and Air), and are tasked with maintaining peace between the disparate factions of a magical realm.

The series was brought to the big screen by twist-loving genre auteur M. Night Shyamalan in The Last Airbender, which made its way to theaters in 2010 on a wave of anticipation from fans of the director and fans of the original series alike. Unfortunately, when Shyamalan's adaptation finally did arrive there was little to love, with the director delivering an ugly, tin-eared disaster of a film reviled as much by critics as it was by audiences. Even a decade later, many still consider The Last Airbender the worst film of Shyamalan's career.

If you've seen The Last Airbender, you know the film is indeed a bit of a train wreck. But as misguided as much of the action is, there are still a handful of decent performances throughout. In fact, Aassif Mandvi's compelling work as Captain Zhao (the duplicitous head of the Fire Nation) remains one of the film's few highlights, even in spite of Shyamalan's genuinely dreadful scripting. 

Aasif Mandvi fired the web slinger in Spider-Man 2

Whether you know Aasif Mandvi from his film and television roles, or his hilarious work as a correspondent opposite Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, we'd wager most of you first encountered the gifted performer during his oh-so brief, and oh-so memorable appearance in one of Marvel's biggest early blockbusters. Sadly, no, Aasif Mandvi has not yet made his way into the MCU at large. But if those persistent rumors that the upcoming untitled Spider-Man sequel will indeed feature the multiverse versions of the webslinger prove true, then it's possible (albeit unlikely) he'll make a cameo appearance. 

That's assuming, of course, that one of the Peter Parkers out there would ever go back to work for Joe's Pizza.

Yes, that was actually a baby-faced Aasif Mandvi portraying Joe's Pizza manager Mr. Aziz in Sam Raimi's near-flawless Spider-Man 2, back in 2004. And yes, that means he was the very many who, with a marvelously dramatic strip of a sticker, sent Peter Parker packing after the friendly neighborhood pizza man continued to choose fighting bad guys in New York over, ya know, doing his job and living up to Joe's 29-minutes or less delivery promise.

Even in such a brief appearance, Mandvi infused the character with such earnest sincerity that he turned what was essentially a toss-off cameo role into one of the film's more memorable supporting players. Because, well, it really did seem like Mr. Aziz was a true believer in that 29-minute promise. And he also seemed genuinely broken up about cutting Peter loose, even if the young webslinger brought it on himself.