The Big Bang Theory producer Chuck Lorre’s new sitcom has come under fire for the casting and portrayal of a U.S. military interpreter from Afghanistan.
The United Stated of Al is an upcoming CBS sitcom set to premiere next month which is centered on the friendship between ex-marine Riley (Parker Young) and his unit’s interpreter Awalmir aka Al (Adhir Kalyan).
The comedy series follows the pair as Riley tries to adjust to life in Ohio outside of the service, and Al gets to grip with life in America after moving to make a fresh start.
Following the release of the show’s trailer, the program faced backlash for casting Rules of Engagement star Adhir – who was born and raised in South Africa to an Indian South African family.
Potential viewers also took issue with the character of Al in general, leading to Chuck Lorre’s name trending over the weekend.
Writer Rekha Shankar added: ‘Can someone tell Chuck Lorre that ‘what if a white person liked a brown person’ is not a tv show concept.’
‘I crave Muslim content but this is offensive,’ tweeted General Hospital actress Maysoon Zayid.
Qasim Rashid, a human rights lawyer, author and a former candidate for Congress, wrote: ‘This is so ridiculous and offensive I don’t have the words to express just how terribly bad this is on every conceivable level.
‘I know @rezaaslan has other producing credits, and I honestly believe his heart was in the right place,’ tweeted Broadway performer Pia Glenn. ‘But at some point the decision presented itself to make some CBS sitcom (expletive) OR a show honoring Afghan soldiers, and he chose the former.’
The comments led to one of the show’s executive producers speaking out in defense of the show.
Reza Aslan, who was born in Iran, took to Twitter to hit back at some of the criticism the show was facing as he urged people to ‘speak from facts, not feelings’ when judging the trailer.
He wrote: ‘The only way you will no longer be underrepresented on TV is if people like me try to do something about it. And people like you support it.
‘My whole life I’ve been misrepresented on TV. That’s why I came to Hollywood to change that. You don’t have to support the effort. But maybe watch it then (expletive) on it not other way round.’
In another tweet, he stated: ‘You can’t judge a show by a 30 sec trailer. Well, you shouldn’t, at least.’
He added in another: ‘There are five Afghan characters in the show and four of them are played by Afghans. We saw 100 Afghan leads but sitcom is a specialized genre and it’s very tough to play. But we also have four Afghan writers/producers on the show who’ve done a great job helping Adhir.’
‘Maybe learn a little about the show, its creators, its producers, its four Afghan writers, its plot, and pretty much everything else before you announce your opinion of it,’ he added.
He continued: ‘Because it’s my show, I can make sure that it is written and produced by Afghans and Muslims. That it uses the format to reframe the perception that people have of both. That it portrays a Muslim Afghan protagonist in a true and honest light.’
The United States of Al premieres on CBS on April 1 in the US.
Credit: Original article published here.