Aziz Ansari is a successful Indian-American actor, comedian, author, and human being. But it’s pretty easy to see him only as the larger-than-life personality he is today, as opposed to the sum of his experiences in Hollywood. He’s not shy about the challenges he’s had to overcome, though, which according to an appearance at the first-ever New York EW Fest included being asked to audition with an accent for the role of an Indian call center guy in Transformers.
While discussing a similar scene in his new Netflix show Master Of None, Ansari recalled the audition, saying, “it was a role for a call center guy who does an accent. And I was like, ‘No, I’m not doing it. Ravi [Patel] was like, ‘I’ll do it!’ And Ravi did it, and he probably made decent money being the call center guy.” Patel joins Ansari in the main cast of Master Of None, and although Ansari says it’s not autobiographical, it does borrow heavily from his own experiences. (Most notably, his real parents play his parents on the show.)
While discussing Indians in Hollywood, he blasted the fact that their roles are always “just gas station, gas station, gas station, gas station, weird guy from Indiana Jones who eats brains, Zack Morris making some sort of curry joke” and scoffs at the idea that “the diversity thing is kind of solved now” because he and Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project) have their own shows. “Guess what? Every other show is still white people,” he said, white people who were probably never asked to fall into a relatively offensive stereotype the second they got to their auditions.
Maybe Ansari’s rise to prominence will pave the path for other thirtysomething minority actors to have their struggles with dating and relationships depicted on screen as well. But for now we’ll have to settle with his Master Of None character doing things like publicly offering to pay for a hookup’s Plan B. Progress takes time.