On Tuesday night, The Late Show‘s Stephen Colbert welcomed Aziz Ansari and his Master of None co-star and father Dr. Shoukath Ansari. Before Dr. Ansari made his way to the stage to join the interview, Colbert and Ansari chatted a bit. This banter started out with the two connecting over their shared South Carolinian roots, and Colbert referring to how Ansari has been raising issues of diversity (or its lack thereof) in TV/film.
Ansari recently wrote about acting, race and Hollywood for the New York Times and his new series Master of None has an episode titled “Indians in TV” which reflects some of his experiences as a person of color in the entertainment industry. So it’s not surprising that the Late Show’s history of all white male hosts, the diversity of the show’s writing staff and CBS network’s reputation for on-screen diversity all took some quick hits in this chat.
My dad and I may have made TV history – there will be more Indian people than white people on CBS when we guest on Colbert tonight.
— Aziz Ansari (@azizansari) November 11, 2015
The full interview with Aziz and his dad is online as part of the full episode of Tuesday’s The Late Show. (Colbert’s interview with Aziz starts at around 19 min. 15 sec., and Dr. Ansari joins them at around the 25-minute mark.) Aziz’s dad shares what he thought when his son asked him to be on Master of None, and when Aziz told him he wanted to pursue stand-up comedy full time. Check it out to catch Dr. Ansari stealing the interview with his own brand of charm and comic timing!
Colbert asked Ansari why he cast his own parents, Fatima and Shoukath Ansari, to play Dev Shah’s parents in the series. Ansari’s parents are more than just stock characters in the background of Master of None, which includes an episode called “Parents,” about the relationships between first- and second-generation immigrants. Ansari’s response to Colbert:
“Because I wrote the characters based on my parents and whenever we brought in people to audition, none of them felt right, and getting a white guy doing brownface didn’t feel like it would be proper.”
In a Los Angeles Times interview, Ansari elaborates on the casting choice and its signficance.
“But those characters are really important to me because every time I see Indian parents portrayed on film or TV they’re not three-dimensional, they’re excuses for hacky ethnic jokes,” Ansari says. “I wanted the parents to feel real.”
Real desi parents playing real desi parents is a signficant part of what makes the documentary Meet the Patels work too. Scene-stealers Champa and Vasant Patel and Shoukath and Fatima Ansari bring something real and important to film and TV screens that hasn’t always been there before — our families. In all their awkward, quirky and sometimes even charming glory.
Following their appearance on The Late Show, Ansari shared why his dad really took the acting role on his son’s show — to spend more time with his son. In an emotional letter, Aziz shared how “incredibly lucky” he was and how working with his parents on the show “increased the quality” of his relationship with his parents.
My dad took off most of his vacation time for the year to act in Master of None. So I’m really relieved this all worked out. Tonight after we did Colbert together he said: “This is all fun and I liked acting in the show, but I really just did it so I could spend more time with you.” I almost instantly collapsed into tears at the thought of how much this person cares about me and took care of me and gave me everything to give me the amazing life I have. I felt like a total piece of garbage for all the times I haven’t visited my parents and told them I wanted to stay in New York cause I’d get bored in SC. I’m an incredibly lucky person and many of you are as well. Not to beat a dead horse here and sorry if this is cheesy or too sentimental but if your parents are good to you too, just go do something nice for them. I bet they care and love you more than you realize. I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to the Parents episode of our show. What’s strange is doing that episode and working with my parents has increased the quality of my relationship to my parents IN MY REAL LIFE. In reality, I haven’t always had the best, most open relationship with my parents because we are weirdly closed off emotionally sometimes. But we are getting better. And if you have something like that with your family – I urge you to work at it and get better because these are special people in your life and I get terrified when my dad tells me about friends of his, people close to his age, that are having serious health issues, etc. Enjoy and love these people while you can. Anyway, this show and my experiences with my parents while working on it have been very important in many ways and I thank for you the part you all have played in it. A photo posted by @azizansari on