Art is often an important vehicle for activism. Now that Apple has officially picked up The Big Sick writers' immigration anthology series, Oscar nominated husband-wife duo Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon will get their chance to bring a social issue close to their hearts to the small screen. After being put in development four months ago, Little America has been greenlit for eight half-hour episodes, as revealed by The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday, June 19.
"We are very excited about this series and are going to work with a lot of diverse and talented writers and directors to tell stories based on real immigrant experiences," Nanjiani tweeted after the news broke.
Last year, the Silicon Valley star and Gordon told the story of their own interracial relationship and eventual marriage in The Big Sick. Nanjiani also starred in the romantic comedy which earned raves for its both funny and heartfelt exploration of cross-cultural themes. This time around, though, they are putting the spotlight on the true stories included in the Epic Magazine feature of the same name, "Little America."
"The Apple series will go beyond the headlines to look at the funny, romantic, heartfelt, inspiring and surprising stories of immigrants in America at a time when they are more relevant than ever," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Indeed, the news comes at the same time America's headlines are being dominated by the heartbreaking stories of children being separated from their parents, as part of a "zero tolerance" immigration border policy. And Nanjiani has been one of the most vocal opponents of the controversial issue.
"Immigrants are people who uproot their entire existence in search of better lives for themselves and their families," the Pakistani-American tweeted on June 18. They just want what everybody wants. #IAmAnImmigrant"
In a followup tweet Nanjiani further explained his position: "I have always believed that there is no inherent sense of right and wrong within people, that morality comes from a just society. An unjust society leads to immoral people. It’s how mass atrocities happen. What is happening in this country right now makes me believe this more."
His passion for the issue of immigration is nothing new. While presenting together at the 2018 Academy Awards, Nanjiani and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o — who was born in Mexico and raised in Kenya — began by introducing themselves as immigrants.
"Like everyone in this room, and everyone watching at home, we are dreamers," Nyong'o said, seemingly playing off the informal name given to those in America under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. "We grew up dreaming of one day working in movies. Dreams are the foundation of Hollywood. And dreams are the foundation of America."
Nanjiani closed with a direct message: “To all the dreamers out there, we stand with you.”
While hosting NBC's Saturday Night Live last October, Nanjiani — who moved to Iowa when he was 18 — also used his opening monologue to detail his own experience as an immigrant in the United States, noting he was only the second person in his family to leave Pakistan.
After releasing The Big Sick, he says he became the target of vicious racism. "A lot of people were like, 'Go back to India,'" he told the audience. "I've never been to India. Are you just hoping I'll have an awesome vacation soon?"
Joking that "just because you're racist, doesn't mean you need to be ignorant," he implored bigots to do their research. "If a guy tells me to 'Go back to India,' that guy is an idiot. But if someone tells me to 'Go back to Pakistan, which was part of India until 1947 and is now home to the world's oldest salt mine, then I'd pack my bags."
He'll undoubtedly bring those experiences to sharing the moving stories of others in the new anthology, which will also be co-written and executive produced by The Office's Lee Eisenberg. Alan Yang of Netflix's Master of None fame will also exec produce the new project, according to THR.
Regardless of anyone's personal stance on current political turmoil, America is undeniably a nation of immigrants. If Nanjiani and Gordon bring The Big Sick's same thoughtful nuance to Little America, it's sure to be a learning experience for all.