Aziz Ansari talks turning down Transformers & racial diversity in Hollywood
People are often afraid to get their hands dirty talking about real issues. They don't want to say anything that might offend someone else or that might be misconstrued as negative, so they walk a fine line in order to make sure they play it safe and bring no extra criticism onto their careers. Comedians don't give a shit though. They are brutally honest all the time, speaking truth to power and crossing boundaries others don't want to get into.
While speaking during a Q&A at EW Fest to promote his new Netflix series MASTER OF NONE, Aziz Ansari got into the way racial diversity is or isn't represented on the screen in most Hollywood productions, be it film or television. While some want to pretend this isn't a thing, leave it to someone who has seen opportunities not present themselves for a minority to drop some knowledge on you.
Thats a real thing that happens. When they cast these shows, theyre like, 'We already have our minority guy or our minority girl.' There would never be two Indian people in one show. With Asian people, there can be one, but there can't be two. Black people, there can be two, but there can't be three because then it becomes a black show. Gay people, there can be two; women, there can be two; but Asian people, Indian people, there can be one but there can't be two.
That feeds right into why he created MASTER OF NONE - if no one will cast you in any type of meaningful role, because you're not the default, you have no choice but to create the content yourself.
Look, if youre a minority actor, no one would have wrote this show for you. No one would have been like, Hey, how about we get Aziz to do this ten-episode show and have play this thoughtful character. At best, they would just write something thats a character based on the qualities people have seen already, like Tom [Haverford].
Now how does this all circle back to TRANSFORMERS?
He was offered a role in Michael Bay's initial TRANSFORMERS film. However, it wasn't anything glorious. He wasn't going to be battling alongside Optimus Prime or serving as the witty comic relief. Instead he was going to be playing into a stereotype, which Ansari couldn't get behind.
It was a role for, like, a call-center guy who has an accent. And I was like, 'No, Im not doing it.' And then [friend and co-star] Ravi [Patel] was like, 'Ill do it.' And Ravi did it and made some decent money. And I dont have anything against someone who does the accent. I understand. You got to work, and some people dont think its a problem.
A paycheck is a paycheck for some, and Ansari is right. You can't fault those who want to work and pay their bills. But, in the larger scheme of how Hollywood works, when these are the only roles that some films offer for people of color, that's not a good sign.
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