Sameer Gardezi is about to conquer 2018. The Pakistani-American screenwriter already boasts an impressive list of TV credits that include stints with “Modern Family,” “Aliens in America,” and “Mr. Sunshine.” This year, he got his digital series green lit by Paul Feig’s production company. “East of La Brea” centers on a diverse Muslim neighborhood in LA.
Gardezi is specializing in bringing stories with unique perspectives to life. This is most evident in his recent pilot for “Surina & Mel.” Created by best friends Melanie Chandra and Surina Jindal and loosely based on their relationship, it stars them as BFFs who are trying to navigate through adulthood. It’s breaking the norm because it focuses on two South Asian-American women as leads, embracing their hyphenated identities.
We spoke with Gardezi about writing the “Surina & Mel” pilot, how different it is from his other screenwriting work, and why accurate representation matters to him.
The Teal Mango: Congratulations on the ‘Surina & Mel’ pilot! The teaser looks great. How does it feel to see the script come alive and be part of something so distinctive?
Sameer Gardezi: It’s always a humbling experience seeing my words hit the screen. Our team was so committed, creative and strong, with a majority POC crew, which only took it to a place that I could never have imagined.
TTM: You’ve been in the writing room of comedy shows like “Modern Family” and “Mr. Sunshine.” How different was it to do something like “Surina & Mel.” How much of your real life experiences did you bring to it?
Gardezi: I guess the first would be having creative control to write what I wanted and then being able to actually write for South Asian characters. I feel like the characters in Surina & Mel are people I know, people I grew up with. It’s all familiar to me and part of this very current first gen experience that a lot of communities are facing.
TTM: When you’re writing these characters, what is the responsibility you shoulder in terms of accurately representing the diaspora and showcasing a fully formed South Asian person.
Gardezi: Authenticity. At all points, I want to be able to uplift voices that are are either underrepresented or silenced altogether — which can only be done by being honest with it all. I also know that I am a very small part of the diaspora and come from a very privileged lens. So I see the responsibility as listening and creating access, using my privilege as leverage to keep building up. In a perfect world, if we could open up a writers room, it would be majority South Asian women.
TTM: You’re the creator of ‘East of La Brea,’ which was greenlit by Paul Feig’s production company and recently began production. What can you tell us about the show?
Gardezi: Nothing new at the moment to share but stay tuned!