While Aziz Ansari made it his mission to defy traditional sitcom standards with his critically acclaimed Netflix series, Master of None, he didn’t necessarily plan for it to be a family affair. That was a happy coincidence, especially when it came to casting his parents, Shoukath Ansari and Fatima Ansari, as his onscreen counterparts.
“We never planned on casting them,” Ansari admits to ET, revealing that when trying to develop Dev’s parents, Ansari based them on his own. “When we auditioned people, no one quite felt right. They all felt like people that were doing impressions of older Indian people. And for us, getting the immigrant parent character right was very important. A lot of times when those characters have been shown on TV, they're very broad and silly and they don't feel real.”
“It got to the point like, ‘What if we just use my parents?’ Ansari says of the disappointing casting process. “So, we got my dad first and he did a great job. And then we were like, ‘Well, you know, it's going to be hard to recreate the dynamic he had with my mom with anyone else.’ Then, we got my mom and she did a fantastic job as well.”
Ansari’s father proved to be particularly chummy in front of the camera, quickly becoming a highlight on the series. His role was so well received that Netflix launched a “For Your Consideration” Emmy campaign. “Never thought I’d see an Emmy billboard up for my dad,” Ansari wrote on Instagram shortly after the ad was erected, later telling ET: “That would be amazing if it happens. That's crazy to see those quotes and everything.”
“He’s psyched,” the actor says of his father’s reaction to it.
When asked what it means to have his parents on the show, Ansari revealed it was about sharing his world with them. “As you get older and this age where I'm at -- I'm 33 -- and he still works as a doctor and he lives in New York,” Ansari says. “We don't spend tons of time together, but it was a nice way to spend time together and also for them, to see what I do for a living. They have such a different understanding of what it means to direct and act on the show. It was a very surreal, amazing experience.”
But Ansari’s parents weren’t the only ones to get involved on the show. His younger brother, Aniz, wrote one episode (“The Other Man”) and has been invited back to write more for season two. “We were trying to hire some younger writers on the show,” Ansari explains. “We knew he was so funny and we asked him if he was up for it and he was and he did a fantastic job and got so many jokes on the show.”