LOS ANGELES (AP) — Aziz Ansari says he knew he couldn’t be the only storyteller on season two of “Master of None” if he wanted to keep the show’s momentum going.
The show premiered on Netflix in 2015, quickly garnering critical acclaim for honest depictions of Asian and immigrant families. The first season relied heavily on Ansari, previously a star on “Parks and Recreation,” who appeared in nearly every scene.
The second season focuses less on Ansari’s character Dev, a struggling New York actor turned food game show host, and more on supporting characters with different perspectives and plots.
In the standout “Thanksgiving” episode, Lena Waithe’s character Denise comes out as a lesbian to her family. The revelation causes tension within her African-American family, especially with her mom played by Angela Bassett. The episode depicts a series of Thanksgiving dinners from Denise’s childhood through her twenties.
Both Ansari and the show’s co-creator Alan Yang rely heavily on their own experiences when writing. But neither could relate to Denise’s impending character arc.
Ansari asked Waithe, 33, to co-write the episode. As a black lesbian, Waithe did exactly what Ansari and Yang do: She wrote what she knew.
“Coming out was not fun. I don’t think it is for most people,” Waithe said. “To have survived it and to be able to tell that story in a fun, light interesting but also honest way was a really wonderful opportunity.”
Waithe said the experience of writing her own story was liberating, noting she’s rarely embraced in society because of her identity.
That is why it’s important her work vocalizes new perspectives, Waithe said.
“We got to keep telling really cool stories because that sometimes is the only way out, through art,” she said.
Ansari didn’t stop with just Waithe. He brought in Melina Matsoukas to direct two episodes, including “Thanksgiving.”
Matsoukas previously directed Beyonce’s “Formation” music video and several episodes of HBO’s “Insecure.”
“I love how they have the guts to find people who can tell the story most authentically. I think that’s why I’m here today,” Matsoukas said.
“Master of None’s” second season ambitions extend past just nuanced storytelling. The creators experimented with various forms and sounds, from a black and white episode to a montage of first dates in the aptly named “First Date.”
Then there’s the episode Yang directed, “New York, I Love You.”
Ansari appears for barely a minute. He wanted it that way, saying he and Yang pondered doing an episode without Dev.
Instead, the creators chose to highlight New York cab drivers, doormen and a deaf convenience store worker.
“They have their drama, their love, their humor and their lives,” Ansari said. “You never see it.”
He said Netflix questioned the episode at first, which incorporated eight minutes of silence. The creators stuck by their idea.
“It’s been said before if you’re not doing something that scares you a little bit, then you probably should be,” Yang said.
Yang said they don’t intentionally create provocative art, though they’re praised for doing so. They’re not trying to shock audiences, but said he and Ansari are just naturally curious.
“When you depict people whose stories haven’t been told as often, that can lend you some originality,” Yang said. “Why not tell stories that haven’t been told as much?”