Aziz Ansari and the Master of None writing staff were hard at work this morning when they decided to take a break to watch the Emmy nominations. Good thing they did! Master of None scored four nominations: Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy, and two more nods to Ansari for writing and directing “Parents.” Vulture spoke with Ansari to get his thoughts on becoming just the fifth person of South Asian descent to be nominated in an acting category, his Golden Globe cutaway gag, and celebrating the Emmy love for The Americans and The People v. O.J. Simpson.
Thank you so much. It’s very exciting!
Did you watch the nominations live?
We’re writing season two now and we were like, “We shouldn’t watch, let’s just keep writing,” and then we were like, “Alright, let’s watch.” It was really funny: Our whole writers’ room obviously went nuts when stuff came up for our show, but everyone went nuts when stuff came up for The Americans and People vs. O.J. because we’re all big fans of those shows. I was really excited for The Americans! I feel like they haven’t gotten enough love, so that was really cool. I mean, you know, it’s a writing day, so we didn’t do too much celebrating. We’re happy and texted our friends, but we were just trying to get back into writing.
What was [co-creator] Alan Yang’s reaction like?
You know, we’re both pretty pessimistic guys. We were both like, “You know, let’s be ready for nothing to happen, let’s just be happy we get to make the show.” We were excited about our season-two scripts. Let’s just focus on that, and if it happens, it happens. So it was a great surprise to find out we got four nominations. The show means so much to us; it’s such a personal show. We really give so much and try to give it 110 percent in every way we can, so obviously it feels great to be acknowledged.
Are you gonna eat something delicious tonight?
Oh, my God, I hadn’t even thought about what I’m eating tonight! I mean, I try to eat something delicious every time I eat, so it’s not too hard to find something delicious. I’ll try.
Have you spoken to your parents?
You know, my dad’s in India and I texted him. I don’t know what the time is there. And I texted my mom, but I haven’t had a chance to talk to her on the phone.
I loved your Golden Globes cutaway gag. How did that come about?
[Laughs.] I mean Tambor wins everything, man! He just wins! He’s playing this transgender role; I’m just like making jokes and being sad. It’s kind of hard to compete. [Laughs.] It’s like, whatever, I’m going to make this book. And then he didn’t win! I’m not going to do it this time, because I was wrong last time, but he enjoyed the bit. It made him laugh, which made me happy.
We did a big look at the history of Emmys diversity, and only four South Asian actors have ever been nominated in an acting category. So you would be number five.
Wow, that’s crazy. I mean, I guess that’s cool. I don’t really think about those things. You know, this is like a cheeseball thing to say, but I’m just happy we get to make the show we want to make and have the creative freedom to make this show, and that people are responding the way they have to it. It’s been really incredible. I think the show has definitely resonated with a lot of people who are like, “I’ve never seen this perspective,” and a lot of South Asian people and people of color have said the nicest things about our show. I do feel like it’s an underdog show, in a sense. For us to get the recognition like this is really super-flattering. We’re really excited.
But it is cool to see, there’s so much diversity at the Emmys. Like, there’s no #EmmysSoWhite — it’s like the Emmys are fucking diverse. The Emmys are real. I think there’s still this kind of elitist attitude about film, and it’s like, “You know what, man? People are doing interesting stuff on TV and it’s cool to see it being recognized.” I feel like there’s more diversity in the creative side. I think people are becoming more aware of just how overwhelmingly white our entertainment landscape is. People like Shonda Rhimes and J.J. Abrams are really taking the lead and being like, “You know what, we’ve got to like push ourselves to reflect the real world.” I think it’s going to be a slow, slow change, but I think things are changing. People are realizing we’ve got to make this stuff feel like the real world.
Comedy in particular is notoriously white, especially at the Emmys. According to our research, this is the first time since 1970 that two shows — Master of None and Black-ish — with casts predominantly featuring people of color have been nominated in the same year.
Jesus. Wow. People like myself and Alan and Kenya from Black-ish, we’ve had the opportunity to create shows, and we’ve had the opportunity to create shows that really reflect our voice, and we’re not getting told to water down our messages or our comedy. We’re able to do something that really resonates with all audiences — not just people of color or people of a certain background or whatever. And I think that’s how we’re able to make good shows.
What can we look forward to seeing in Master of None?
You know, I think I’m not gonna say anything about season two. I liked how, with season one, no one knew what to expect. Everyone just turned it on, watched it, and experienced this thing. So I think we’re just not saying anything about season two.