Rizwan Manji, who played jack-of-all-trades Ray Butani on “Schitt’s Creek”, is responding to criticism that his character’s Indian accent on the show is yet another example of racial stereotyping on television.
Speaking with the Toronto Star, the Canadian actor — who was born in Toronto and doesn’t normally speak with an accent — explained how Ray came to have an accent.
According to Manji, producers didn’t ask him to use an accent, but he felt that it made sense for the character.
“It is a very slight Indian accent — somebody who was probably raised in Canada, but probably was born in India or Pakistan,” he explained. “I don’t regret that because I think it actually works for Ray. He wasn’t like everybody else in that town. He was from somewhere else.”
As Manji recalled, he was hired without being asked to audition, and introduced the accent during the first “Schitt’s Creek” table read.
“Afterwards, I went up to Dan and said, ‘Hey just want to check in,’” he said, explaining he wanted to make sure Levy was onboard with his portrayal. “He said, ‘I love what you did. It was funny.’ That ended up being the character for six years.”
In a statement released to the Star, Levy applauded Manji’s “thoughtful choices” in his portrayal of Ray.
“No accent was called for in the casting or specified in the scripts,” said Levy in the statement. “All characters on our show were created with love, respect and humanity. It has been gratifying to have these intentions reflected through the overwhelming audience support for these characters. That said, I welcome any perspectives that encourage conversations about diversity, especially in entertainment.”
Responding to the publication of the Star‘s article, Manji tweeted, “I loved playing Ray on @SchittsCreek! The accent question has been ever present in my career! It is hard to hear criticism,” but he is “always open to this dialogue.”
I loved playing Ray on @SchittsCreek! The accent question has been ever present in my career! It is hard to hear criticism, but I want to thank @dougquan for the opportunity to share my thoughts. #RepresentationMatters I am always open to this dialogue! https://t.co/kycqGKzUHM
— Rizwan Manji (@Riz_Manji) December 29, 2020