Alan Yang, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani Interview: ‘Little America’ creators
“It was important for us to show that every immigrant has a different experience of coming into America,” explains executive producer Kumail Nanjiani about the Apple TV+ series “Little America.” In our recent webchat, he adds, “There is no such thing as the immigrant experience, everybody has a completely different journey.” Watch our full exclusive video interview with creators Nanjiani, Emily V. Gordon and Alan Yang above.
“Little America” is an anthology series where every episode tells a true story of an immigrant living in the United States. The show has already been renewed for a second season. Yang confesses, “I wondered why this show didn’t exist. One of the things we wanted to do, and it sounds pretty basic, was show that immigrants are human beings and the variety of experiences they had.” Gordon adds, “Some of the episodes are funny, some are serious, some are intense, some are quite sad. We wanted to show there is breadth of experiences and the through line is humanity. It sounds a little lofty and it also sounds very simplistic, but it is the truth.”
On making a series Nanjiani says, “We’re in a specific situation in America right now. You can feel very jaded about America and what we are and what we represent to the world. But the feeling I had not being from America, and the feeling we found from talking with a lot of these immigrants, is to a lot of people America still represents the land of opportunity. That was profound for me to sort of remember that. That was the feeling I had when I was moving to America. Here, obviously, it is easy to get more cynical and jaded because things have been very difficult.”
Yang, who won an Emmy for writing on “Master of None,” adds, “This show wasn’t intended to be a polemic, it isn’t a brick through the window. You are showing individual people’s lives. We are not all the same but we are human beings and have a lot in common. It is so funny that we’ve gotten so many comments that it is political. That is more of a commentary on where we are, as oppose to our intent. The fact that immigrants are human beings is seen as ‘you guys are revolutionaries.’”
In 2017, Gordon and Nanjiani received an Oscar nomination for writing “The Big Sick.” The film told their own personal love story. In “Little America” the couple worked with Lee Eisenberg to write “The Rock” episode about an Iranian Immigrant trying to remove a giant rock from his property. Gordon reflects that writing a script with her husband which was not about them was “way easier. There were way less arguments about ‘that’s not quite how I remember that.’ What was more interestingly was bringing Lee into that process. Which ended up working out really well. I think it is the most fun collaborating.”
Speaking about the episode Nanjiani says, “When the relater assumes he escaped his life in Iran, he says, ‘No I didn’t. I had a great life in Iran. I came here because I wanted a different life and different opportunities.’ To me that really speaks to the thesis of our show. It is so different to so many of the traditional immigrant stories that are allowed to be told in Hollywood. It’s not about people escaping. Some of them are about that, but it’s really a lot more nuanced.”