Master of None’s Naomi Ackie on the Show’s Radically Different Third Season
British actor Naomi Ackie was as shocked as you were when she heard that Master of None was finally getting a third season—after a four-year hiatus.
“I was like, What?! Master of None? It’s coming back?!” said the BAFTA–winning actor (The End of the F***ing World) who played newcomer Jannah in 2018’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Ackie learned that Ansari was plotting a return when she booked an audition for the lauded Netflix series. Her first impulse was to resist reading anything she received, to spare herself from spoilers. “But then I was like, Oh, wait. They want me to act in it. Let me just switch over from fan to actor,” laughed Ackie. “The audition process was really quick. I did the first one remotely, then the second one with [series cowriter and star] Lena [Waithe] and Aziz in London. We just improvised some scenes and the vibe felt right.”
It wasn’t until after landing the part of Alicia—an interior designer dating Waithe’s writer Denise—that Ackie learned just how central her character would be to Master of None’s third season. Subtitled Moments in Love, the new batch of episodes is a complete departure from the show’s first two seasons in almost every regard. Instead of being set in bustling New York City, the new season—which was filmed during the pandemic—takes place in an aesthetically aspirational London cottage. Rather than centering on Ansari’s character, Dev, the new episodes pivot to Denise and Alicia as they navigate obstacles like fertility issues, death in the family, and the pressures of professional success. (Ansari still appears onscreen, but as a background player in his own series.)
When Master of None’s second season debuted, Vanity Fair chief critic Richard Lawson called it “delightful but not deep.” The first episode of Moments in Love, however, is an exercise in depth—with Denise and Alicia delving into the real-life challenge that is attempting to have a child as a same-sex couple.
Speaking about the tonal change-up, Ackie said, “When you work a lot, especially on one project as an artist or creator, you have to go away and live life to know what you even want to say. Lena has said it, and Aziz has said it—they didn’t want to make a story without having something to say. And until that thing came along, they just didn’t need to make it. I think they started writing this maybe two years ago. It’s been a long process. I think there was just a level of maturing that they wanted the show to go through. And to me, it’s a testament to real creative autonomy, to go, Actually, I want to flip this. I’m being inspired by this thing, this thing, this thing. And I want to direct it. And gosh, let’s throw two Black queer women in the forefront of the story.”
“That is exactly the type of creativity that I’m truly inspired by,” added Ackie.
Moments in Love brought another kind of inspiration as well—aesthetic. Denise and Alicia’s woodsy quarantine cabin is a chic-cool Instagram come to life, with its accent shelves of colorful books, bohemian furniture, and evocative framed art. Ackie said that Ansari encouraged her and Waithe to find inspiration in their own decor: “He said, ‘Take pictures of your home, books that you read, artists you like.’” Ackie snapped a photo of the Goldie Williams mugshot she keeps in her kitchen, explaining why she loved the photo. “I told [Aziz] the story and it ended up in the show,” said the actor of the print that makes an episode-one cameo. Ackie, a fashion enthusiast, also reveled in working with costume designer Kate Forbes. “We were like, ‘We want this lady to be hitting us with some looks.’ All of Alicia’s wardrobe is in my bedroom,” laughed the actor. “I took it with me.”
Ackie called the first episode of the new season—a roughly 60-minute chronicle of the couple’s venture into the world of sperm donors and insemination—one of the most daunting tasks of her career. The actor said that Ansari was “really nervous” about the episode, understanding how sensitive of a subject pregnancy is. “He was like, We’ve got to get it right…so many women go through this all the time; we have to represent them properly.… What Aziz is so good at is asking people. He had a friend who went through IVF, so he was really investigating. He was talking to doctors, he was talking to people who’d been through it, bringing in professionals on the day so that we knew exactly what we were doing. There was a lot of making sure that we did it right and accurately.”
Published at Sun, 23 May 2021 20:00:00 +0000
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