One of the best jokes of the second season of “Master of None” centers on a fake movie with the ridiculous title “Death Castle.”
Series co-creator Alan Yang has said that the title for this fake blockbuster, a gag in the episode “New York, I Love You,” was a tossed-off comment that snowballed before eventually found its way into the show. But there was one element of the pretend movie that didn’t quite make its way to the pretend screen: Its pretend star, Nicolas Cage.
The show’s writers built a contingency plan in their original script for Andy Samberg to voice Cage, if need be. But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t still try to get the real thing.
“I think we did go out to Cage and quickly received a ‘…no,'” Aziz Ansari said, following a “Master of None” Season 2 screening Monday night at the Bing Theater in Los Angeles.
As part of the Film Independent at LACMA series, Elvis Mitchell moderated a conversation with Yang and Ansari, joined by actress Lena Waithe, director Melina Matsoukas and writer Aziz Ansari.
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Cage jokes aside, much of the evening focused on what the show uses to feel real and recognizable. Through the prism of “New York, I Love You” and “Thanksgiving,” two diverging episodes from the show’s critically acclaimed sophomore season, Mitchell asked the panel how they approached the latest season.
“For us, to embark on this second season, we took a long break. In the writer’s room, we wanted to instill the idea of ‘Don’t let this show fall into a template. Don’t make what we’re doing predictable,'” Ansari said.
It’s part of the “Master of None” process that the people behind the show see what’s on screen as an extension of themselves. “It’s not like we have an axe to grind or we’re trying to prove a point. This is just reality for us and let’s just try to depict what our lives look like,” Yang said.
For Waithe, that manifested in the “Thanksgiving” episode, as she drew from her personal experiences at family gatherings growing up. “That kitchen scene could have easily ended up on the cutting room floor, but I’m so glad it didn’t,” Waithe said. “Obviously the ‘coming out’ scene is extremely important and I desperately wanted to get it right, but I love that scene in the kitchen. I’ve had that conversation with my mom. That’s why I wrote it.”
The conversation was light on the future of the show, but Aziz Ansari did jokingly toss out one potential “Master of None” callback to the Thanksgiving episode. “If we do a Season 3, we have to somehow show New Addition and the Filipino Johnny Gill,” Ansari said.