When Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang set out to create Master of None’s second season, they were determined to make sure each episode was a really big swing.
The result? Gems like “New York, I Love You,” the season’s daring sixth episode. Named after an LCD Soundsystem song, the episode mostly abandons all of its main characters and instead follows a group of strangers around New York City as they go about their day. Viewers get to drop into the lives of New Yorkers who don’t often get fleshed-out stories on TV: doormen, cab drivers, deaf couples, and more.
“I’m not even in that episode!” Ansari jokes to EW. “Alan and I, when we took the long break, we would occasionally talk to each other on the phone or send emails about potential episode ideas. One time we start emailing about the idea of what if we do an episode where Dev’s not even in it. You don’t even see Dev.”
“I live near Chinatown and I was like, ‘Look at all these people,’” Ansari recalls. “All these people here have interesting lives filled with humor and drama and love and all the stuff we do about Dev’s life in Master of None, but they don’t ever get to see their story. They’re always kind of in the background of these other people who do stories, whether it’s me or Louis [C.K.] or Donald Glover or whoever. It’s always one of us, and then [with] these other people, you don’t know their full stories. It’s always these young kids or comedian characters or whatever. They never get a whole episode. The idea was there’s this whole side of New York that you never see. It’s never like the guy driving the cab. So we were like, ‘Let’s do an episode where it’s just their story.’”
To make it happen, Ansari and Yang did a fair amount of research, Ansari says. “We spent a lot of time interviewing a bunch of people who live in New York. We interviewed all the doormen. We interviewed a bunch of cleaning ladies. We interviewed housekeepers. Housekeepers, doormen, taxi drivers, and then Alan had that idea of what if one story follows a deaf person and you don’t hear anything? I was like, ‘We have to do that. That’s such a great idea.’ We interviewed all these people, and we used that stuff to kind of come up with the story.”
“After we wrote it we showed it to them, we asked, ‘Does this feel right?’” Ansari continues. “Does it feel like we’re getting this? It was a fun challenge because usually I’m so used to writing about some form of my own personal experience or fictionalizing personal experiences. I feel like we pulled it off and I’m really happy with how that one turned out.”