Chuck Lorre, the creator of The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, has been facing backlash over the casting of the central character, which is an Afghan man, of his upcoming CBS sitcom The United States of Al. Social media has criticised the show’s makers for casting a non-Afghan actor in the titular role.
Created by David Goetsch and Maria Ferrari, the series centers on the friendship between Riley (Parker Young), a Marine combat veteran struggling to readjust to civilian life in Ohio, and Awalmir also known as Al (Adhir Kalyan), the interpreter who served with his unit in Afghanistan and has just arrived to start a new life in America.
While CBS released the official trailer a few weeks ago, the video went viral on Twitter on Sunday and was called out for the handling of its Afghan character in it. The backlash mostly centers on the casting of a non-Afghan actor Kalyan, who was born in South Africa and is of Indian heritage, in the lead role of a person who is shown to be of Afghan background.
Among the several criticisms that the show faced, several prominent faces too took to Twitter to point out the problems in inaccurate representation. Qasim Rashid, a human rights lawyer, author, and a former candidate for Congress, tweeted, “This is so ridiculous and offensive I don’t have the words to express just how terribly bad this is on every conceivable level.”
Writer Rekha Shankar tweeted, “Can someone tell Chuck Lorre that ‘what if a white person liked a brown person’ is not a tv show concept.”
General Hospital actor Maysoon Zayid took to her social media and wrote that while she craves Muslim content, this was “offensive”.
Why not authentically cast? The white savior stuff might be palatable if you hadn’t all brownies are the samed it. You had the power to say no and didn’t. I crave Muslim content but this is offensive @rezaaslan https://t.co/75Eoui3Y7s
— Maysoon (@maysoonzayid) March 21, 2021
AJ+ host Sana Saeed spoke out about the show’s content and wrote, “Gotta love sitcoms romanticizing occupation forces and the relationships they build along the way.”
gotta love sitcoms romanticizing occupation forces and the relationships they build along the way :’ ) https://t.co/4Fmh14Fd3N
— Sana Saeed (@SanaSaeed) March 20, 2021
Replying to the backlash, one of the executive producers of the show, Reza Aslan, deeded the casting on Twitter.
“Maybe learn a little about the show, it’s creators, it’s producers, it’s four Afghan writers, it’s plot, and pretty much everything else before you announce your opinion of it. Just a thought,” he tweeted.