The show that everybody needs to see
Q: Tell me about your character on season two of Master of None.
A: My character, Tanvi, is Dev’s friend and she is Hindu and he is Muslim. There was some talk about whether or not they would be related but Aziz felt really strongly about people seeing that there are Indians who are friends who are not related. And it is really close to what our relationship is like in real life. We hang out, we riff, we make jokes, and I give him bad advice but give it to him very confidently.
Q: What was it like transitioning from the writer’s room to on screen?
A: It was exciting, it was nerve-wracking, but it was very good to be with one of my close friends. He is also a really great director and part of that is working with actors and part of that is working with people who are used to acting, people who are not used to acting, people who have taken a break, he is a master at that.
Q: And season one talked about a lot of issues such as racial identity and all of that. What issues does season 2 address?
A: Religion, dealing with religion and how to incorporate it into your life as an adult, if you feel differently than your parents, there’s more stuff about dating and commitment which is really interesting.
Q: What is your favorite episode of season two?
A: It’s religion. I think it is the most touching, rich, and funny episode for me.
Q: Where does your character go in season two?
A: Season two you are going to see a huge change. I go from a nice, happy man to a dark, scary person. It even has some major emotional problems so you will see that.
Q: What was your favorite episode to shoot?
A: Episode 2 is when we went to Italy and I think that was my favorite because we actually went to Italy together. It’s just Aziz and I traveling through Europe which is something we actually did.
Q: Master of None talks about a lot of social issues, so what does this season address?
A: Everything. We tackle race, religion, sexuality, love, family, it goes deep into everything.
Q: Who was your favorite person to shoot with?
A: Aziz. He is such a pro.
Q: Where does your character Brian go in season two?
A: Yeah, they did something brilliant this season. I think people were interested in love interests and there was a lot of talk between seasons of Asian-American love stories. And I picked up one of the scripts and my father has a love interest and he is in his 70s. I think it is vaguely based on Alan’s life. I thought it was a genius way to go with it and such a unique take on things and so we had a lot of talks about what is means to be in your 70s and looking for love. And the actor who plays my father did a really, really great job.
Q: What is it like to see this sort of representation in regards to race and age on screen?
A: I hate it. I feel like white men should be here working on this show. Season three should just be all white guys just trying to have sex with white girls. But, it’s hard to talk about without getting all cheesy and misty eyed because if you grew up wanting to be an actor like myself, you hoped but never really knew or thought like things like this would happen, shows like ‘Orange is the New Black,’ or shows like this one, where transgender people or gay people would be the front and center and that their stories will be told. And Lena has a great episode this season. Aziz and Alan have done a really great job in bringing those stories to the forefront and not in a heavy-handed, medicine way, but in a really fun, palatable way.
Q: What was your favorite episode to film?
A: Well, to film, the last one because everyone was so separated this season, but there was a moment in the last episode where we all get to be together in the last scene. They parsed it out really nicely so you get a bit of everyone.
Q: Who do you have the best dynamic with on this show?
A: Aziz is pretty great. He is constantly making me laugh. But the relationship with the guy who plays my dad has turned out to be something really special. He came to acting in his 50s and is a really fascinating guy. A Chinese-American man who decided to become an actor in his 50s, I just have a special place in my heart for him and really enjoyed working with him.
Q: And season one talked a lot about different social issues, so which ones does season two address?
A: Everything is issues, issues, issues right now and I think they did a really great job of making sure that it was still fun and it didn’t feel like homework. And they had a really great episode with Angela Bassett about Lena coming out, which I think is going to go down in history for a lot of people.
Q: Are there any special guests?
A: Yeah, James Comey! But, John Legend. Cedric the Entertainer was hysterical. During the table reads he was so funny. Bobby Cannavale. There were a lot of people that Aziz was able to rope into this show.
Q: Season two, what are you excited for people to see?
A: A lot of stuff. We took a lot of risks, it was a very ambitious season, and I want people to see the sheer variety. I want people to see the stylistic experiments we did, the formal experiments, there’s a lot of different looks.
Q: And from talking to others I heard there are a lot of issues being talked about this season so how did you decide to focus on the ones you did?
A: Dude, if you have bullets in your gun you just empty them. Whatever we felt really strongly about, whatever we were passionate about. Aziz and I came into this with a few ideas and we wrote them down on notecards and said how do we nail these episodes. If we figured out a story, we wrote it down and put it into the show.
Q: How are you able to talk about such heavy things in such a light way and make it seem so easy?
A: It’s hard! It’s a delicate process. You don’t want to ever be preachy, you don’t ever want to talk down to your audience, you don’t want to be message-y, and I don’t think that is what our show is about. I think we talk about those issues the same way you might talk about those issues with your friends at dinner where you’re not ever haranguing your friends but just talking about the issues. We want to be funny, we want to be compelling, we want to be entertaining as well. So it’s a process and talking about it in the writer’s room and figuring it out.
Q: And the show has gotten such great reception. Did you ever anticipate it getting this big?
A: No. The simple answer is no. The first season we were making the show, I had no idea. We liked making the show, it was really fun, I thought the episodes were interesting, but I did not know how it would be received.
Q: And you got a lot of guest stars like Angela Bassett and John Legend, so what was it like to get them?
A: Unbelievable. We picked up the phone, the first phone call we made for that role was Angela Bassett, so how can you go wrong with that?
Q: Where does your character go in season two?
A: She is around, hanging out with the guys, offering her opinion per usual. But they go a little deeper into her life, she gets a parent’s episode in this season. I like to call it the Dev and Denise origin story about how they became friends. And I think a lot of people were saying that they want more Denise and you are going to get a big, heavy Denise episode.
Q: And there is an episode where you come out?
A: Yeah, Angela Bassett plays my mom. It is episode 8. I’m not telling you to go straight to that one, but prepare yourself for episode 8.
Q: How was it like to work with Angela Bassett?
A: Phenomenal. She is a legend. She is warm and kind and hard working. And Alan and Aziz let us run free like go make this episode that you want to make. And I got to write with Aziz so that was really fun.
Q: And I think your character was initially made to be a straight love interest for Aziz, right?
A: I knew they wanted a girl. Where they wanted to go with that, who knows? But I know they wanted a girl in the group. I don’t know if they bargained for a black lesbian girl but that’s what they got. I think people seem to embrace that so I’m glad they were open minded to that.
Q: This show is great with representation with it showing a black lesbian character and different Asian-American experiences, how does that impact you now?
A: I am a television writer first, so I can appreciate what this show brings. I also love that this cast came together organically. It wasn’t come contrived idea. I thank god that I am one of the interesting people that was sent to Aziz’s house. But, they always thought with their heart and thought with their gut which is why this show feels so organic and interesting and such a breath of fresh air because they are not trying to do what the market wants but what they want to do and the market embraces it.