Mark Twain famously said, “Write what you know,” and Aziz Ansari has taken that advice to heart in his hit Netflix comedy series Master of None. Ansari, known for his hilarious stand-up specials, playing Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation, and his best-selling book Modern Romance, mines his own life experience to play Dev Shah in the streaming series, hanging out with his diverse group of friends while dealing with his traditional parents, navigating a new romance and trying to make it in showbiz. Ansari, who also writes and produces the series, shares some behind the scenes secrets with The Gloss.
The Gloss: How much of the material in the episodes did you base on real-life situations?
Aziz Ansari: Just as I always have with stand-up or anything, you kind of draw on what you’re going through in your life. There was stuff that I pulled from the book that I wrote, and things that happened to me years ago. Some of those things that we used definitely happened to my dad. At this point, I need to have some stuff happen to me to have more stuff to draw from.
Did you ever break up with someone after attending a wedding?
AA: That was based on a real wedding that I went to where after the wedding some couples broke up. I didn’t break up but other couples did.
The “Indians on TV” episode really hit a nerve, didn’t it?
AA: It was awesome. I think one of my favorite things about doing the show has been that I’ve gotten into so many interesting conversations with people about the topics we did episodes about. There’s a lot of actors and actresses that really responded to that one–minorities not seeing themselves on TV as much and things like that. It was one of my favorite episodes that we did.
Your book Modern Romance is a best seller. Why do you think it has been such a hit?
AA: It’s something everyone is dealing with–it’s a very universal topic. I think it’s speaking to something a lot of people are going through.
Do people ask you for love advice now?
AA: Every now and then, yeah.
Your father is great in the show. Did you know he had it in him?
AA: Yeah, he approached me a long time ago, begging to be in Parks and Rec. He’s always wanted to act. And when we told him about this, it’s kind of a big part. It’s not like a cameo. So he had to audition so we could make sure he was somewhat natural on camera and everything. But he did a great job.
What’s your plan for Season 2?
AA: The show’s really driven by the ideas, finding ideas where you’re like, “I’ve never seen that before.” There’s so many things we’ve pulled off in this season that I really feel like that about, whether it be the parents episode or a character like Denise or whatever. I think it’s about pushing ourselves to have those kinds of ideas.