10:20am PT by Kirsten Chuba
Why Kumail Nanjiani Won't "Present an Agenda" With 'Little America' Anthology Series
Little America, Apple's new eight-episode anthology series following the stories of working-class immigrants, takes place in the current climate when immigration is under frequent attack, but was never intended to be a political statement, says writer and exec producer Kumail Nanjiani.
Appearing via satellite from London to Apple TV+'s first appearance at the winter Television Critics Association press tour alongside wife and co-EP Emily V. Gordon, the Silicon Valley star said the team — including showrunner Lee Eisenberg and EPs Alan Yang, Sian Heder and Joshuah Bearman — made a conscious decision to not preach to its audience and not "present an agenda" despite touching on a hot-button topic.
"Just by saying that immigrants are human beings with hopes, desires, likes, dislikes in this climate is a radical statement rather than just a self-evident statement of fact — obviously that part is unavoidable," Nanjiani said. "We decided that if we're telling a story about immigrants and we make it overtly political, you're taking the focus away from whoever's story you're telling; The putting the focus on America, the political system and immigration and we didn't want that, we wanted it to be on these people and on these stories."
Nanjiani added that he was sure some people would take the series, which premiered on the streamer Friday, as a political statement nonetheless but that was out of their control, noting how the series has been "really satisfying to tell these stories because so many times the immigration discussion that happens happens in the abstract — it's numbers and it's a caravan, you don't ever really get to see every single member, every single one is a person and a human being."
The anthology is inspired by true stories published in Epic Magazine, with the show's creators heavily consulting the real-life subjects, and has already been renewed for a second season. Nanjiani's story of growing up in Pakistan and immigrating to Iowa as a teenager mirrors the lives of some of the show's subjects, and "shows more of America than we usually see in movies and TV," with focus on middle America rather than the coasts.
Gordon teased that "even if he was still just an open mic comedian in Chicago like he was when I met him, he would still be deserving of a Little America story. We could still do an episode about him because it's not just about the exceptional and very well-muscled," referencing Nanjiani's new physique. Eisenberg chimed in, "We're doing a season two episode about the world's sexiest man."
Following its first season of largely unknown actors and directors, many from the actual country the immigration story was focused on, Yang said the series will expand in scope and time in its second season, and joked they "might do a story about Prince Harry and Meghan coming to America."