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‘Master of None’ Editors Challenged by U.S., Italian Locations

Variety logo Variety 5/12/2017 Daron James
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To underscore the degree of difficulty in editing the second season of Netflix’s “Master of None,” which debuts May 12: The majority of the 30-minute opener is in Italian.

Yet the conceit is not as bizarre at it sounds, considering Dev, played by series co-creator Aziz Ansari, is separated from first-season girlfriend Rachel (Noel Wells) and living in Italy, where he boasts that he’s “one of the top 50 pasta makers in Modena of Indian descent.”

The upcoming 10 episodes of the multiculti comedy, in which the characters grow and storylines add complexity, were split between editors Jennifer Lilly and Daniel Haworth.

The first episode unfolds in black and white as an homage to Italian neorealism. DP Mark Schwartzbard, who also shot the series’ first season, collaborated on the finished look.

“Aziz and [co-creator] Alan Yang are interested not only in storytelling, relationships and dialogue but also in how the show is visually told,” Lilly says. The second-season bow was conceived to be filmed in black and white. “We wanted to cut it in a way that allowed the location to shine as if it’s another character.”

In the opener, Dev befriends Francesca (Alessandra Mastronardi), and when, later in the season, he decides to move back to New York, she visits him. The editors were tasked with edging a platonic relationship toward a romantic one, especially in later episodes.

“Aziz and [co-creator] Alan Yang are interested not only in storytelling, relationships and dialogue but also in how the show is visually told.”
Editor Jennifer Lilly

“They both start to feel more for each other, but we didn’t want to reveal Francesca’s emotions through her point of view,” Lilly notes. “You’re experiencing everything through Dev and his best friend Arnold [Eric Wareheim], who’s helping him figure out their status.”

The show aims to anchor the comedy in the familiar romantic scenario of one person harboring romantic feelings for another and not knowing if those feelings are reciprocated. “We wanted the moments between Dev and Francesca to feel honest,” Lilly says. “And when we do pull back on her thoughts and feelings, we looked to fully explore her emotional journey and uncertainty of the circumstances.”

Adding to the realism: the return of Ansari’s real parents, Fatima and Shoukath Ansari, as Dev’s mother and father. The untrained actors lend a unique voice to the show. “We received a lot of feedback from season one about how well it worked, and we learned what we could get away with,” Lilly notes.

Shaping the performances of naturalistic actors can present a challenge, but the rewards help define “Master of None.” “They don’t have the type of training you’ll see in other series,” Lilly says. “But the results are pretty cool.”

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