Aziz Ansari on Hollywood's Formula for Racial Casting

October 27th 2015

Taylor Bell

While screening his new comedy show, “Master of None,” at the Entertainment Weekly Fest Saturday, comedian Aziz Ansari candidly talked about the lack of opportunities facing actors of color and Hollywood’s insincere solution to the problem.

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The comedian suggested that Hollywood's diversity is not necessarily something genuine and innovative but rather, it is more of an obligation to fulfill racial quotas and typecasting, Vulture reports.

"Look, if you're a minority, no one would have written it for you,” he said. “No one would have been like, 'Hey, how about we get Aziz to play this 10-episode show and have him play this thoughtful character.' At best they would just write something that's a character based on what people have already seen.”

Scene at pharmacy from "Master of None"

Although audiences do prefer diverse content, minorities are still widely underrepresented on the Big Screen and Small Screen according to the 2015 UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report. The report also found that caucasian lead roles outnumber those of minorities in film and television 2-1 and 6-1 respectively.


And despite the success of Viola Davis, who recently became the first Black actress to win an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, Ansari insisted Hollywood executives tend to stray away from casting multiple minorities out of fear that their million-dollar productions will be dismissed and dubbed as just a cultural project.

For actors who are minorities, they are often made to feel like a quota, Ansari explained.

“When they cast these shows they’re like, ‘We already have our minority guy or 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 one, but there can’t be three because then it becomes a black show.”

But the idea that casting more minorities is a bad move, is a similar paradigm that fueled last week’s #boycottstarwars trend. The racist-incensed hashtag condemned the casting of British African actor John Boyega as the lead storm trooper and claimed that the movie was promoting an anti-white agenda simply by choosing to cast more minorities in the beloved franchise’s traditional roles. Although Boyega is only one of two notable black actors with a lead role in the latest installment of the sci-fi franchise (the other being Oscar-winning African actress Lupita Nyong’o,) to a small group of people, that was one too many.

While the majority of people on Twitter dismissed the #boycottstarwars as racist and irrational its controversy highlights Ansari’s point that films aren’t typically made for minorities to play traditional roles. The fact that a group of people, no matter how small, felt threatened and shocked by the casting of a black actor in a traditional role shows how uncommon it really is for actors of color to book Hollywood jobs that are not designed on the basis on their race.

A meme responds to the Star Wars boycott over racism

As Business Insider reported the lack of access to diverse roles for actors of color is what led Ansari to create his new show, "Master of None." That show premieres November 6 on Netflix.

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