‘Master of None’ Exec Producer Alan Yang on Emmy Nominations: ‘We’re Ecstatic’

Alan Yang Master of None Emmy
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Netflix’s “Master of None” got a lot of critical praise last year, but Alan Yang, who created the show with Aziz Ansari, almost didn’t watch the livestream of Thursday’s Emmy nomination announcements. He was afraid the show might not get any recognition, and of course, he was very glad to be wrong. “Master of None” was nominated in the best comedy category, as well as for the writing and directing of the “Parents” episode, and for Ansari’s performance.

Yang talked about his reaction to the nominations, and about how he and Ansari feel lucky to be working in the industry right now.

What were you doing when you heard the news? 

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We’re on the East Coast, so it was around 11:40 a.m., people were getting ready to eat lunch. Aziz was like, “Should we watch the Emmy nominations?” I was like, “No! I don’t want to do that!” And then we did it. We put it up on a big screen. It was a very slow, pixelated feed from my assistant’s computer to an Apple TV setup. Anthony Anderson [who was one of the announcers of nominees] was all pixelated.

And then you heard your show’s name four times.

We’re ecstatic. I’m so happy for all the people who work so hard on the show. There’s talk about people being auteurs and all that, but really, it’s hundreds of people working to make this thing. They often don’t get recognition. I’m just so happy because our show was kind of a scrappy little show that I don’t think people expected that much of, and it took a lot of people working really hard to get it to this place of getting some recognition. I’m so grateful for all those people, and I’m excited. This is really fun.

Was four nominations a lot more than you had expected? Had you expected any?

This was a dream scenario. I honestly didn’t expect to get nominated in all four of those categories. Aziz and I rode home together in the car yesterday, and he was like, “Be honest, what do you think?” I said, “You just never know with these things. We’re on some lists and stuff, so maybe it’s 50-50.” But I would never, ever pretend to know what would happen.

We chose the “Parents” episode to submit for writing and directing because it was so personal to us. We absolutely wanted people to judge the show [based] on that. It’s insane that our families’ stories got nominated.

We’ve spoken before, and you talked about how you almost wrote a pilot with your dad’s story but you thought about making the character in the pilot white. So this was a really personal and very real version of that story that got recognition.

It’s very gratifying. It’s all the more meaningful. Say what you will about awards shows and all that stuff, but it’s cool to be recognized, and it’s especially cool to be recognized for something that is very personal to you and very specific to who you are. To me, the most important thing about any story that you’re telling is that it’s emotionally truthful. By keeping the details accurate to real life, we kept the emotions real. Aziz and I remembered how we felt in those situations [with our dads], and we tried to put that into the script.

Do you feel there’s been a change in the Emmys, in the kind of shows that get nominated and who gets nominated?

I feel like there’s a change in television, and honestly that’s a tribute to the number of shows that are being made and the leaps of faith that various networks — among them Netflix — have taken with their creators. We just had another call with Netflix about season two on Monday, and they gave us very smart thoughts — but they’re just very supportive of some of the more ambitious ideas we have. Credit has to go to the people making the shows, but the people paying for them too.

With the increased number of shows, you’re getting that diversity — diversity having many, many connotations. Meaning, shows from different creators and [with a range of] different concepts. Because there are so many shows on, we’re able to get these points of view that you weren’t getting before. The Emmy nominations reflect that. There are seven nominees in the comedy category, and they are all dramatically different from each other, which is awesome.

There’s a whole range now of romantic comedies that don’t feel fake and overly sentimental. And I think “Master of None” kind of represents that category, to some degree.

Sure. One of the things we love about our show is that it covers a lot of different ground. Part of the show, like you said, is a romance. Dev’s work life is covered, his family life is covered, his friends and romances are covered. And there are some social issues in there. The show is the inside of our brains, really. No one is defined by one thing. Everyone has all these different opinions and ideas and observations and highs and lows. We tried to cram as much of that into the show as we could. I love when we do romance, I love when we do social issues, but I also love it when we just do comedy too.

We try to do a lot, and we don’t always succeed, but that was one of our goals, to do a lot of different things. When we realized, “This show can be anything,” that was so liberating. Like, “This episode doesn’t have to have anything to do with the last one.”

There isn’t someone standing over you saying, “This week’s episode better look like the last one, and the one before that.”

Yeah. That allows us to take swings. It allows us to diverge from what you might even think the show is, and we’re going to keep doing that in season two [which arrives in 2017]. We want to keep some elements we like, but we want to challenge ourselves too. It’s a testament to Netflix and Universal [Television] that they allow us to do that. We’ve been so supported. Aziz and I have talked about how fortunate we are to be working in the current television climate, where creators are allowed to take risks and try something different.

Are you in production for season two yet?

We’re getting scripts together now. We’re shooting in late summer and into the fall. We took a little bit of a break to sort of experience more stuff and get stories from our real lives to incorporate into the second season, and I think it really paid off. Aziz and I talk a lot, and we had dozens of pages of notes from our phone calls, so we came in with a lot of ideas for the new season. I’m excited. I think we have some great episodes and some things we haven’t done on the show before.

I’m sure the main question everyone has is, will your dads be back? Will we see the families again?

We definitely have plans for them to return.

I’m just worried that you won’t be able to book Aziz’s dad — he might have too much going on.

I hear you. He’s the lead of the next Michael Bay movie.

That’s the rumor.

[Laughing] He probably doubled his quote.

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