NIH’ers Featured on Celebrity Renovation Show
Two NIH scientists recently appeared on CBS’s Secret Celebrity Renovation, a reality television series that allows actors, musicians or athletes a chance to give a surprise home makeover to someone who helped them succeed.
In the episode, which aired on Aug. 26, NCI’s Dr. Suresh Ambudkar and NIDCR’s Dr. Indu Ambudkar received a surprise deck and home office renovation from their son, actor Utkarsh Ambudkar. Utkarsh currently stars in Ghosts, a CBS sitcom about a young couple who inherit an old—and unbeknownst to them—haunted house.
“It was a proud moment for us because Utkarsh was recognized as a celebrity,” said Suresh. “The show did the renovation because of him and his success. It’s a recognition of his hard work.”
The episode followed Utkarsh and construction contractors as they renovated his parents’ house. He also visited friends in the area and stopped by his alma mater, Wootton High School in Rockville, Md.
The Ambudkars agreed to be on the show so a wider audience could see where their son grew up and learn more about who he is.
“We also wanted to see how his world works behind the scenes as an actor and how a show gets produced,” Suresh said. “We don’t know much about it, except that he acts and we sometimes visit his sets.”
Filming took place over a few days in spring 2022. At first, production looked “chaotic,” Indu said. Crew members flew in from all over the country to take part. Before they began filming, they all met. Then, the crew did their own jobs with little fanfare. They communicated with each other using walkie-talkies. Local contractors renovated the deck.
“The experience really showed teamwork,” said Suresh. “Even though they came from different cities, they all knew their role.”
The experience was completely different compared to what the researchers are used to. Indu is a senior investigator in NIDCR’s secretory physiology section. Her lab studies calcium signaling mechanisms in the context of salivary gland and saliva secretion. Suresh is deputy chief of NCI’s Laboratory of Cell Biology. His lab develops new therapeutic strategies to improve the efficiency of chemotherapy for cancer patients.
“As scientists, we have a conversative way we live and work,” said Indu. “Being on the show was beyond the norm, that, you know, suddenly somebody comes and builds you a whole deck!”
On the day of the reveal, they were excited. The Ambudkars knew they were getting a deck, but the final design was a surprise until the reveal. Their grandchildren attended the unveiling.
“The renovation was beautiful. They did an amazing job with the covered portion of the deck,” Indu said. “The show gave us all the furniture. I thought they were staging it, but they gave it to us. It’s coordinated and nicely done.”
The night the show ran, they invited a few close friends over. Their friends had known Utkarsh growing up and attended many of his performances over the years. The experience was like going down memory lane.
“They thought it was wonderful Utkarsh did all of this,” Indu said.
The Ambudkars are getting used to having a famous son and enjoying a bit of celebrity themselves. Recently, Indu had a hair salon appointment. Another patron recognized her for being on the episode.
Getting the renovation from their son was something they never expected.
“We did what any other parent would’ve done—educate your children and allow them to do things they like to do,” Suresh said. “You don’t really expect anybody to pay you back.”
Nevertheless, “a new deck was very nice to get,” Indu said.
The Secret Celebrity Renovation episode featuring the Ambudkars can be seen at https://www.cbs.com/shows/video/2g8sGfnJkv6N5NTqBbPcWMzha_BY_B23/.