Aziz Ansari will go down in American television history as the first actor of Asian descent to win a best actor category award at the Golden Globes.
On Sunday night, Aziz Ansari won the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Musical or Comedy at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards. He snagged the award for his performance as the Aziz Ansari-like commercial actor Dev Shah in the hugely popular Netflix show “Master of None”. He also serves as the show’s co-creator, writer, and director.
“I genuinely didn’t think I was going to win because all of the websites said I was going to lose,” said the talented comic/actor as he accepted his trophy. He then got bleeped out as he described how it would probably have felt if he had lost out on the award the second time.
“I’m glad we won this one because it would’ve really sucked to lose two of these in a row; it would’ve been a really sh*tty moment for me, but this is nice.”
Ansari’s historic win, however, somehow highlights the glaring disparity in available roles for Asians in the entertainment industry. At this year’s Golden Globes, there were only two Asian actors nominated: Ansari and Hong Chau for “Downsizing”. They represent about 3% of the actors recognized in the American film and TV industry.
In the awards’ 75-year history, only Vic Tayback (Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in 1980 for “Alice”), Haing S. Ngor (Best Supporting Actor in 1984 for “The Killing Fields”), Peg Tilly (Best Supporting Actress in 1986 for “Agnes of God”), and Sandra Oh (Best Supporting Actress in 2005 for “Grey’s Anatomy”) have won acting awards, all of them for supporting roles.
With Hollywood’s problem with Asian representation onscreen, such minimal recognition of actors of Asian descent is not surprising, and while there may have been an increase of television shows featuring Asian leads in recent years, characters have mostly remained “marginalized and tokenized on screen,” according to a recent study.
“Master of None” co-creator Alan Yang made a plea back in 2016 during his acceptance speech for his award for Best Comedy Writing. At the podium which he shared with Ansari, Yang urged the industry to write and produce more Asian stories that reflect diverse audiences watching TV.
“There are 17 million Asian Americans in this country, and there are 17 million Italian Americans,” Yang said. “They have The Godfather,’ Goodfellas, Rocky, The Sopranos. We got Long Duk Dong, so we’ve got a long way to go. But I know we can get there. . . . Asian parents out there, if you could just do me a favor, if just a couple of you get your kids cameras instead of violins, we’ll be all good.”
Here’s the show accepting Best Comedy Series award at the 2016 Critics’ Choice Awards: