The list of substantial Indian characters in American film and television is… well, not very long. That’s something South Carolina native Aziz Ansari has noticed throughout his life as an Indian-American entertainer. Speaking in New York City at the EW Fest for Entertainment Weekly about his new Netflix series Master of None, Ansari talked about his experience being a minority actor and how he felt when he was asked to audition for Transformers with an Indian accent.
Ansari says that its common for minority actors to wonder whether or not they should approach roles by using a stereotypical accent. He explains, “Should I do an accent? Should I not do the accent? That’s a thing that a lot of minority actors grapple with.”
In fact, Ansari recalls a specific instance when he was asked to use an accent and he refused. He reveals, “I once was asked to audition for Transformers with Michael Bay. And it was a role for a call center guy who does an accent. And I was like, ‘No, I’m not doing it.” However, his friend and Master of None co-star Ravi Patel was willing to do it. Ansari continues, “Ravi was like, ‘I’ll do it!’ And Ravi did it, and he probably made decent money being the call center guy.”
While Ansari didn’t feel comfortable doing it, he understands why Patel did. He says, “I understand you have to work and some people don’t think it’s a problem. You do it.”
Despite increased minority representation in the media, Ansari believes there is more ground to cover. He points out, “Guess what? Every other show is still white people. White people have every other show. It’s still kind of unbalanced. I know there’s Empire. That’s there. But I think there were 10 black actors before Empire. It’s not like they just found the 10th black actor. ‘We can finally make Empire!’ It’s long overdue.”