Netflix’s Master of None is sort of based on Aziz Ansari’s stand-up, and kinda based on his book Modern Romance, but “we’re really trying to do a wide breadth of topics and subject matter,” Ansari told TV critics this afternoon at Summer TV Press Tour 2015.
Unlike Parks And Recreation, the NBC ensemble comedy on which Ansari previously starred, Netflix affords producers the freedom of structure and form to only feature characters relevant to each episode.
Master Of None, which debuts November 6, follows the personal and professional life of Dev (Ansari), a 30-year-old actor in New York who has trouble deciding what he wants to eat, much less the pathway for the rest of his life. Dev’s story takes him through subjects as diverse as the plight of the elderly, the immigrant experience, and how to find the most delicious pasta for dinner.
Ansari previously has said Master Of None was pitched to no traditional TV network. As happens so often at Netflix panels during TCA – OK, at every Netflix panel – TV critics wanted to hear what a great experience it is working on a series for the streaming service relative to working on a series for a broadcast network.
Executive producer Mike Schur said the Netflix experience has been “nothing but joyful in terms of production of the show” but he also “really enjoys network TV. I still think it’s a big country with a lot of people who watch television. There are literally a million people in the country who watch television,” Schur joked. “I don’t have these horror stories. I think a little of that is overblown.” The proliferation of TV, Schur insisted, is having a mutually beneficial effect, citing Fox’s Last Man On Earth as evidence. “Network are getting cooler,” he said.
Describing the new series, Ansari said, “In Parks, I was playing a character who works for the parks department; it was not related to me in my life. This is like dumping my head and my heart into a show…like stand-up.”
That said, he called Parks And Rec still “the best job I ever had. I was there two or three days a week, half day, dicking around with great people I worked with…On this, there’s no dicking around.” While a lot more responsibility, he called it the most creatively fulfilling thing he’s ever done.
Ansari’s father plays his dad in the series, which he said happened after he told Netflix “There are not a ton of old Indian guys that are actors, and I feel my dad is uniquely funny.” His father, a gastroenterologist, was very enthusiastic about the idea. His mother, on the other hand, was not so keen to play his mom on the show. But, none of the actors he auditioned for that role “felt like my real mom,” so he told his mother, “If you love me, you’ll do this.”
Not relevant to the new series, one female journalist asked Ansari to talk about his recent stand-up on the subject of feminism. “I did that thing on Letterman and it spread everywhere. I get nervous talking about that stuff – you guys are ready for your clickbait headline,” Ansari said, accurately. “I thought the bit went well and it spread around the Internet,” he repeated, non-committally.