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Aziz Ansari is a certified comedy superstar, with his Netflix show Master Of None setting to debut in the near future. What's the secret to his success? Simple: he took increasingly larger scale parts that suited his comedic talents, and he avoided Michael Bay's Transformers like a racist plague.
Vulture managed to gain some insight into how the Parks And Recreation actor was offered a rather infamous bit part in the first Transformers film, through a stand-up routine he did after a screening of his new show. Ansari turned the part down because of its obvious racism, but in the following anecdote he describes not only how he passed up the opportunity, but how he didn't hold it against his friend got the role instead:
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 co-star] 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.
A lot of actors have taken the "token ethnic role" and managed to make careers for themselves afterwards. Of course, the possibility always remains that once you take one stereotypical role, you'll get stuck with all of them. Which is probably the best part of how Aziz Ansari rejected this thankless job of a role in Transformers. In case you don't remember this rather problematic scene from Michael Bay's first time around the block with Autobots and Decepticons, you can check it out – and cringe – below:
Racism, much like gender bias, is still a big problem in Hollywood, and Aziz Ansari knows this better than anyone else. Which is probably part of why he not only casts his actual parents to play that same role in Master Of None, but he also cast his friend, Ravi Patel, years after he did take the Transformers gig. The other part of his authentic, and personally friendly, casting choices is summed up in the following Ansari-delivered zinger, justifying his choices:
It’s not a demo with a ton of options. And that makes sense. They’re not like, 'Oh, should we cast Ryan Gosling, or what about this old Indian guy?'
While it would have been an easy way to grab some screen-time, as well as the obvious laughs that he could have milked out of the small role of a call-center operator, Ansari would have probably crushed the role. The only problem is, he probably would have been brought back for as many Transformers films as his agent would have signed him up for, putting him off of projects that he could have been doing instead. Seeing as this was the same time Aziz Ansari was teamed up with Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer for their short-lived, but infinitely more memorable MTV show Human Giant, we may not have gotten the Aziz that we all know and love today.
You can thank Aziz Ansari for his good decision making by watching Master Of None, when it premieres on Netflix on November 6th.