After “The Big Sick,” the sleeper hit of 2017, Kumail Nanjiani can easily be entrusted with the task of sharing the stories of immigrants with utmost honesty.
After incorporating his own immigrant experience in the U.S. in his romantic comedy, the Pakistani American actor/writer and his writer wife Emily V. Gordon have signed on to write and executive produce a half-hour anthology series, “Little America,” for Apple, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Joining the duo will be Lee Eisenberg (“The Office,” “SMILF”) and Alan Yang, who co-created Netflix’s “Master of None” with Aziz Ansari.
“Little America” is based on the true stories featured in Epic Magazine. It is described as a funny, romantic, heartfelt and inspiring look beyond the headlines at the lives of immigrants in America at a time when their stories are more relevant than ever.
These stories, as described on the site, are a “small, collective portrait of America’s immigrants. And thereby a portrait of America itself.”
It’s not clear if all or a few of the stories featured in the magazine will make the cut. Among other immigrant tales, Epic featured the stories of Indian Americans Kunal Sah and Usha Reddi.
Sah, a resident of Utah, shares his story with the magazine, from the time his family immigrated to the U.S. in 1990, and how his father worked odd jobs: dishwasher at Pizza Hut, burrito roller at Taco Bell, line cook at Jack in the Box, and saved every cent to buy that little independent motel. He goes on to share how his parents, who were fighting a deportation order they received in 2004, and their citizenship had been pending for 14 years, had to leave the country in 2006, and how he was kept under the watch of his uncle, who became abusive.
“I wanted to go to an Ivy League college and then become a neurosurgeon. That was my goal,” he told the magazine. “You can’t do that.” That’s what he’d tell me. “You cannot be a doctor. You can’t.” That was the only grown-up voice I had in my household, telling me that.”
His parents finally returned to the U.S. in January 2016.
“Since they’ve returned, we’ve raised the hotel on TripAdvisor from tenth best in Green River to second best,” he said. “And even though we’re back together, our conversations are still mostly all about work. Nothing else. That hurts. I’m sure they want to reach out just as much as I want to, but we don’t know how to talk about things after so much time apart.”
Reddi of Manhattan, Kansas, is the former mayor of the city. She lost her first election.
“Manhattan didn’t know what to make of me at first. I learned this from the first graders I taught at the local elementary school — they were six-year-olds, and very honest, and they repeated things their parents wondered behind closed doors,” she shared with the magazine. “What is that thing on your face?” “Do you like America?” “Are you trying to change our religion?”
She said she explained that her bindi was part of her identity, the way a necklace or a tattoo might be part of their parents’ identity. “I said I had lived in America since I was a little girl, and I liked the country very much. It was the reason I wanted to run for office,” she said.
For most of the 20 years that she was married, Reddi was a stay-at-home mom of three. She goes on to talk about how she was faced with an existential crisis after her divorce.
“The Indian population quickly distanced themselves from me — they thought divorce was “contagious,” she recalled to Epic. “After my divorce, the first thing someone told me was, “Welcome to poverty.”
After her first loss at the ballot, Reddi tried harder but did not compromise with her values.
“I was at the county office in a state of shock when the results came in. It turned out to be the victory party! I was going to be mayor! I screamed and hugged everybody while on the verge of tears,” she said. “The community believed in me. It was overwhelming. And I never hid the fact that I was an immigrant. I never hid my religion. I never hid my gender or my skin color. It turned out that spoke well to Manhattan.”