Onto the next Aziz-cap! As a special supplement to your regular recaps of Master of None, we’ve asked New York Magazine cover star Aziz Ansari to give us the behind-the-scenes breakdown of each episode, pieced together from multiple conversations over the past several months.
Episode 6: “New York, I Love You”
This takes the term “capsule episode” to a new level. Dev, Arnold, and Denise only appear in the beginning and end, and instead we follow Eddie the doorman (Frank Harts), Maya the deaf convenience-store cashier (Treshelle Edmond), and Samuel the cab driver (Enock Ntekereze) through the travails of their daily lives, such as Eddie dealing with a building resident who’s having an affair, Maya trying to tell her husband she wants him to go down on her more, and Samuel trying to have a night on the town with his cab-driver buddies. The only through line is a fake movie called Death Castle — starring Nicolas Cage, Tyrese Gibson, and Emma Watson — that everyone in the city, from Samuel to Dev, is talking about.
This is the episode I’m not even in. Basically, Alan and I were just talking about how all these New York shows are about young, bougie people, right? They’re 20-something, 30-something people and they’re just dating and whatever. You never see the cab driver, you never see the doorman. But look at New York. You see all these people! I’m just so fascinated by, like, the guy who’s a fruit vendor, or the guy who’s looking for some cans.
We never thought about trying to do something that hadn’t been done before on TV. The train of thought was that I was obsessed with this guy who collects cans, and this other woman who worked at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Chinatown who was always mean to me in a playful way. I was like, “What if any of these people got their Master of None show? What would be your love story? What would be your funny relationship with your parents or brother? Your workplace stories? What would be your funny day that you would make a show about?” And so we did that.
You don’t see that because those people don’t end up going into comedy. You normally just see people like myself — well, not myself in the sense of ethnicity or whatever — but young, pretty well-to-do people. People who came up with some sort of means and did okay to where they were eventually able to work their way into television. You’ve got to be pretty fortunate to be able to be like, “I’m going to start doing comedy.” It’s not like it’s me, Louis [C.K.], Lena Dunham, the Broad City girls, and the guy that drove a cab.
We settled on a doorman, a cashier who is deaf, and a taxi driver. We interviewed these people and got all their stories and used that to help craft the episode, and it turned out really cool. It was really hard to write, because I write so much about my own stuff and what happens to me. All of these things, some version of it has happened to me. But there, it’s really talking to someone else and trying to learn about their experiences. The people we interviewed were telling us stories and they were so funny. We wrote the scripts and showed it to them and were like, “Does this feel right?” It was so cool. We showed it to a doorman and he was like, “This is my life! You nailed it! This is great!”
We wanted to tell stories that, if they had the opportunity that I have to do this show and talk about my life and talk about what’s funny to me and what’s the drama in my life, if they had it, what would the episode be? If a deaf person had a Master of None, they wouldn’t do like, “Oh, it’s so sad being me …” Just like I wouldn’t do a show about me doing an Indian accent being in a convenience store. That’s their version of the stereotype that they see on TV and have to roll their eyes at, you know what I mean?
Normally we see Dev’s antics, but those cab drivers have their antics too. They have their same shit where they’re trying to meet someone or whatever. The doorman has his problems, right? He’s trying to do his job and he’s dealing with the same nonsense that’s a version of what Dev is dealing with in Clash of the Cupcakes. The deaf couple, normally when you see those people on shows, it’s like, “Oh my God, this poor person!” Or it’s all about them being deaf. And when we talked to deaf people about their lives, they were like, “Yeah, it’s so annoying, anytime we see deaf people on a show, there’s sad music playing and you never just see them dealing with the same problems you see other characters dealing with.” I was like, “This is exactly what our show is about.” That’s what I say in the “Indians on TV” episode. I don’t want to do something about me being Indian, I want to do it about me being me and dealing with the same things that any character that’s a protagonist in a show would deal with.
But everyone has their version of that frustration, you know? That’s why it’s the deaf cashier and her husband having this intense argument about the guy not going down on her. I’d never seen that before! It was fun to do it about that instead of how sad it is or whatever, you know? All those people we talked to were like, “Yeah, usually it’s like this fuckin’ sad thing.” I was like, “That’s your version of the convenience store, you know?”
The main doorman is an actor. He did a table read with us and he was so good doing some other part and we were like, “Do you want to do this doorman part?” He was down and he did a great job. The deaf actress is an actress, but the woman who’s wearing the same jacket in the deaf segment [Maleni Chaitoo], she’s one of the people we interviewed. The main guy in the cab-driver segment, Enock, he’s a student who came in and auditioned. He’d never acted in anything. He was great. He was so charismatic. And the guy on the phone with Enock when he’s talking in the cab about the white girls who ruined the ending of Death Castle for him, that’s his real brother.
I just love everything we were able to do with this. When it goes silent for the deaf character, it’s so jarring and it’s so brilliant. That could never happen on network television.
And you don’t see us, the friends. That was another thing. We were like, “Hey, we wrote this episode.” And Netflix was like, “Could we get the friends in there a little bit?” We were like, “No.” And they were like, “All right, do what you’ve got to do!” But it turned out really good.
There are a couple of nuggets no one has caught. One of the characters in episode six who lives in the building with the doorman, the guy who says, “Nice purple jacket,” he’s the guy who does the play with Jon Benjamin in the finale. And you should look at the DJ when the taxi drivers go to the club. He’s the same on Clash of the Cupcakes, DJ Sweet Treats. No one’s mentioned that to me. We just threw that in to make me and Alan laugh, because I don’t think anyone else picked it up. [Laughs.]
Also, that’s Andy Samberg doing Nicolas Cage in Death Castle! I still haven’t heard from Tyrese and Emma Watson about whether they were fired up to star in Death Castle, but I hope they’re psyched. Tyrese and Emma are both friendly with me and I figured it would be a fun shout-out to give them. Nicolas Cage, I don’t know.
And Death Castle, it’s one of those things where we were in the writers room and Alan was like, “Yeah, maybe they’re going to see some horror movie like Death Castle or something.” And we were like, “Death Castle! That’s great!” And we just kept calling it Death Castle. Someone told me it sounds like a movie from the Seinfeld world, which is the greatest compliment I think we could ever receive.