Aziz Ansari made history last week as he became the first ever Indian-American actor to land a lead comedy-acting Emmy nomination for his series “Master of None”. Ansari is also just the fifth person of South Asian descent to be nominated in an acting category.
“I am very happy but it is a very specific accomplishment,” Ansari told USA Today after the nominations were announced on Thursday, July 14. Ansari, who is also nominated for writing and directing “Master of None”, co-created the Netflix comedy with Alan Yang.
The 33-year-old actor plays Dev, an actor trying to make it in New York. “Master of None”, which is up for best comedy, crystallized diversity challenges in Hollywood in the show’s fourth episode, titled “Indians” on TV.
“I think every minority actor runs into that. You hear people say things like, ‘Oh, they already got the black guy.’ Or, ‘Oh, they already got their Asian lady.’ It kind of feels like, to minority actors that I’ve spoken with, once they have one (minority actor cast) they’re like, OK, we’ve placated the ‘diversity issue.’ That was coming from a real place,” Ansari said.
Casual racism has also been also addressed in the show. “If you’re a minority, you’re experiencing all sorts of casual racism all the time. And at a certain point, you just get numb to a lot of it, and you’re like, whatever.” Ansari said he he and Yang are currently busy writing season 2 of “Master of None”, which will debut on Netflix next April.
After more than a decade on the standup comedy scene, and six years on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” the actor took a leap in 2015 by creating “Master of None,” a deeply personal and biting comedy in which Ansari plays a 30-ish actor much like Ansari, albeit with much less success.
On his role in the play and how he got to do the show, he said, “I think they just really believed in me and Alan and the ideas we had for the show. We had a certain, for a lack of a better word, vision for what we wanted to do. We were really specific, and they just really trusted us and believed in us, and let us do what we want. They let us play.”
“It was crazy because it had a reach far beyond what I expected,” he was reported to have told in a CNN interview. “So many people have come up to me, from so many different backgrounds. There’s never been a South Asian person nominated in a leading role? I didn’t know that. That’s crazy.”