By this point, many people have gotten through most of the first season of Master of None. Those who haven’t are likely finding social media suddenly inaccessible (at least among the youngish demographic to which Master of None appeals), as it seems completely abuzz about the series’ every theme — stretching from definitions of success, artistry, dinner, New York existence, immigration, dating, race — and the intersection of all of the above. Last night, series creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang joined the blogosphere (do we still say that?) and social media-verse (that’s also a place, right?), to contribute to online discussions of their show via Reddit AMA, and one especially interesting takeaway was in Ansari’s response to a question about interracial relationships on the series.
One Reddit user asked, “Was it an explicit decision to have Rachel be a white character or is that just how it turned out during casting?” — given that Ansari’s character Dev’s love interests on the show are played by the likes of white actresses such as Noel Wells (Rachel), Claire Danes and Nina Ariande.
Master of None is a show that is refreshingly self-aware and exploratory in identity political matters, so the question is wholly relevant, but the fact that it seems to need to be asked also shows the burdens of how this one character’s romantic life suddenly appears like it’s speaking for a group — due to the rarity of an Indian American actor at the center of a comedy about dating.
Dev is a specific character meant to be a person and not a concept, and Ansari’s answer seemed keenly balanced: aware both of the fact that the show is both personal and singular, and that its casting choices are about making a good show with good chemistry — while also acknowledging that, especially on a show that’s already doing so much to mine current societal tensions and expectations surrounding identity for humor — these questions remain important. He responded:
So cool people talking about this kind of stuff and having all the conversations about race, etc. since the show premiered. As far as Rachel (and other love interests too), we didn’t set out to cast someone white and auditioned people of all ethnic backgrounds, and wanted to cast the person I seemed to have the best chemistry with to sell this huge relationship arc. In the end, Noel blew us away. And, for the writing, I’m pulling a lot from my own real current relationship, which is with a “white” person – so we can do interesting scenes like the scene in 109 (Mornings) about the parents (which many South East Asians have told me really resonated with them and they’d never seen an interracial relationship depicted this way in TV/film before), or the awkwardness of the beginning of 110.
For the others, there was Claire Danes, who is a friend and a fucking legend in my book, so we were psyched to collaborate. And Nina Ariande just killed us with her Cartman impression. Anyway, I’m a fan of all these conversations and there are interesting nuances in both interracial relationships and relationships between two Asian people — if we get a second season it’s definitely an interesting topic to address.
Bottom line – if we did a hundred episodes, we definitely wouldn’t have Dev date a hundred white women a la Jerry Seinfeld in the hit television comedy Seinfeld. Race and dating is an intriguing issue that Alan and I have talked about in real life. Example: Alan really did have a white girlfriend’s mom that hugged him more time in one dinner than his entire family had his whole life.