He'll forever be Tom Haverford to us, but don't expect Aziz Ansari's new Netflix comedy, created by Ansari with former Parks writer Alan Yang and executive produced by Parks producerMike Schur, to resemble Pawnee. Titled Master of None, the series follows Dev (Ansari), an indecisive 30-year-old actor in New York. The series, which premieres Friday, November 6, tackles various topics from the elderly to what it's like to be an immigrant in America.
"This is the first thing I’ve done where it’s felt as personal to me as stand up," Ansari told reporters during the Television Critics Association summer press tour. Ansari, who is involved in every single aspect of the show's production, said that although Parks and Recreation was the best job he'll ever have ("I was there maybe, two, three days a week, and I was there for half a day, just dicking around with those great people I worked with"), he wasn't really connected to his character in the way he is on Master of None.
"On Parks, I was playing a character named Tom, and I was working in the Parks Department," he said. "It's not really related to me in my life."
So what can you expect when the show premieres?
His character is loosely based on himself
Calling the show the "most creatively fulfilling thing" he's ever done, Ansari said the series draws its inspiration from both his stand-up act and his book, but noted that it actually goes further in depth on several subjects than either of those mediums allow. "This show is like dumping my head and heart out," Ansari said. "We really put an emphasis on not making it too jokey and making it feel like a real conversation."
But his character is not a comedian and he's not named Aziz, two decisions that were very important to the actor. "It’s different if the guy is not recognizable," he explained when asked about comparisons to Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm or Louis C.K.'s Louie. "I don't think this guy is exactly like me, but there's definitely things in there that are versions of things that have happened to me."
Like Ansari, Dev is an actor, but the show is not necessarily about him being an actor. He said they they chose to take his character down that path because they knew that world and they could write it well and draw from their own experiences.
Dev's parents are Aziz's parents
Ansari's acting background isn't the only that is familiar in Master of None. Ansari cast both his mother and his father as Dev's parents in the show after his father begged for a role on Parks and Recreation for a long time (something that almost happened, but was ultimately cut).
Each episode has a theme
Every week the show will address or be a rumination around a single topic. "I tried to treat the show like stand-up in a way of," said Ansari, "But the advantage of doing it on a TV show is you can just explore things in a different way than you can with just speaking into a microphone."
"The format of the show, because it's a narrative, allows for a dialogue where [Aziz's] character gets to talk to other people," added Yang. "A lot of the show is about empathy and imagining yourself in other people's shoes."
You shouldn't expect any cliffhangers, "[but] there is a serialization both career-wise and relationship-wise," said Yang.
"[He's] in his early 30s, and he's doing pretty good," Ansari added, "but I feel like there's this period of your life where you realize, like, 'Oh, shit, like, I'm an adult now... And that's kind of a scary moment. You realize [you have to make] the really big decisions about am I ever going to have kids? Am I going to get married?"
There will be plenty of familiar faces
Noël Wells, Claire Danes, H. Jon Benjamin, Todd Barry, and The Americans' Noah Emmerich will all appear during the show's first season. "We try to populate the world with actors that we knew personally and characters based on people that we knew. [So it] just sort of feels real," said Yang. "I feel like doing so really allowed us to pull from their lives and sort of work with them."
When asked how the series landed someone like Danes, whose guest appearance marks her first since Showtime's Homeland began, Ansari said he knew her through mutual friends. "It's not like a crazy story. Like we didn't hike Mount Kilimanjaro together or anything. [But] you can put that down if it makes it more interesting."
All 10 episodes of Master of None will drop on Friday, November 6 on Netflix.