Before rising to prominence through standup performances, not to mention a starring role in his soon-to-be-streamed Netflix dramedy Master of None, Aziz Ansari was perhaps best known for small turns in Scrubs and Parks and Recreation. But it could have been relatively different for the up-and-comer, had he accepted a role in Michael Bay’s original Transformers film in 2007.
Back then, Ansari was approached to play a minor part in the CG-laden blockbuster, though he ultimately decided against joining the production. Why, you ask? As Vulture learned recently, the actor opted to forego the film due to his own concerns over the racial quotas. Before touching base with Transformers specifically, Ansari levelled on the general issue plaguing Hollywood, and how archaic quotas can directly influence the casting process.
[Racial quotas are] a real thing that happens. When they cast these shows, they’re like, ‘We already have our minority guy or our minority girl.’ There would never be two Indian people in one show. With Asian people, there can be one, but there can’t be two. Black people, there can be two, but there can’t be three because then it becomes a black show. Gay people there can be two, women there can be two, but Asian people, Indian people, there can be one but there can’t be two.
It’s hardly surprising to learn off the racial quotas governing many major Hollywood releases, and one need only cast an eye over the majority of tentpole blockbusters to locate the problem. As for Ansari’s potential role in Transformers, it involved Josh Duhamel’s sergeant contacting a call centre during the early encounter with Scorponok – a scene that also involved exploiting a stereotype.
It was a role for like a call-center guy who has an accent. And I was like, ‘No, I’m not doing it.’ And then [friend and costar] Ravi [Patel] was like, ‘I’ll do it.’ And Ravi did it and made some decent money. And I don’t have anything against someone who does the accent. I understand. You got to work, and some people don’t think it’s a problem.
Master of None, meanwhile, will premiere exclusively on Netflix from November 6, 2015.