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A new season of Netflix’s Master of None debuted last month with a new subtitle, “Moments in Love,” and two new leads, Naomi Ackie and previous supporting player (and Emmy winner) Lena Waithe, playing a married couple living in upstate New York as they argue, make up and decide whether to start a family. By centering the latest season on a Black queer couple, co-creators Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang said it was a way to keep the show fresh and give the audience something rarely seen, rather than do another season following Ansari’s character, Dev Shaw, “bouncing around New York, eating tacos again.”
But during a 92nd Street Y panel moderated by Jim Pascoe, Ansari detailed how he actually had five additional episodes ready to go that would’ve centered on Dev, putting him back on-screen in a major way. “We had done table reads, we had done casting, but then we got this call in March,” Ansari explained of the early COVID-19 warnings and eventual shutdown. “The pandemic became what it became.”
Though he didn’t divulge Shaw’s storyline or offer specifics on what was in those five scripts, he did say that there were many scenes “that made it not COVID-19 friendly.” Because of that, they opted to drop those in favor of an intimate season featuring two actresses in a country house, leaving Ansari, who directed all five episodes, to show up only in cameos even if he would later second-guess that decision, if only briefly.
“There was a moment on set when I was like, ‘Oh, man. I kind of miss acting. Am I a complete idiot? Should I have made [this season] me and my wife and done a story with me?'” explained Ansari. “I had that thought for two seconds because immediately afterward, I was shooting a scene with Lena and Naomi and I was like, ‘I’ve never seen this before. I’ve never seen this conversation with two women.’ If it were me and a woman talking — I’ve seen that a million times. I’ve seen two straight people talk about babies so many times. I haven’t seen two black women talk about it. It makes every scene feel so fresh and it made every day on set feel exciting to me.”
He said at the top of the panel that it was that energy that pulled him back into the Master of None world in the first place. Asked by Pascoe what the inspiration was to return to the Netflix series after a four-year hiatus, Ansari said that while they may have said they weren’t sure about the third season, they were always secretly having conversations.
“It’s such an amazing platform to have a show on Netflix like Master of None and the audience that we’ve built, and it’s a great playground for us. At a certain point, we had enough [ideas]. I remember calling Alan and pitching the basic idea, and he said it was pretty cool. I called Lena and she was in, and the wheels started turning,” he noted. “For us, the challenge was, when we did season one, this type of show wasn’t as common. The idea of me even starring in a show as an Indian guy was like, ‘What? He’s the main guy? There’s another white guy that’s the main person, right? He’s just the friend, right?’ And now you can’t watch a show with a white guy, you’ll get in trouble. Things have changed so much.”
While much of the world has changed, Waithe said returning to her character and collaborations with Ansari was like falling back into the family.
“It was like going back home,” said the multihyphenate, who wrote the season with Ansari. “There was a long break, but we all needed some time to grow up, to do our own thing. I really do look at it like a band. Like we are a band, and we got to go make some solo albums, but we came back together and we did something different. I love writing with Aziz. We have a really easy back and forth. There are things I bring and there are things that he brings that make for a very unique marriage.”
One that wasn’t always free of conflict. “It felt like family. You fight like family. You love like family. You bicker like family.”
The entire 92nd Street Y panel is below.
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