Chuck Lorre’s New CBS Sitcom Slammed as “Shockingly Racist” for Casting Non-Afghan Actor in Lead Role

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CBS sitcom United States of Al has come under fire for its depiction of an Afghan character. In the wake of the official trailer’s release, Twitter users have called out the Chuck Lorre-produced sitcom for casting a non-Afghan actor in the lead role and for “romanticizing” the War in Afghanistan, a decision that is being slammed as “ridiculous and offensive” and “shockingly racist.”

United States of Al centers on the friendship between Riley (Parker Young), a Marine combat veteran struggling to readjust to civilian life in Ohio, and Awalmir (“Al”) (Adhir Kalyan, who was born in South Africa to an Indian South African family), the interpreter who served with his unit in Afghanistan and has just arrived to start a new life in America. The sitcom also stars Dean Norris, Elizabeth Alderfer, Kelli Goss, and Farrah Mackenzie.

CBS released the official United States of Al trailer a few weeks ago, but the spot went viral over the weekend as prominent Twitter users discovered it and quickly called out its handling of its Afghan character. “This is a real TV show. Actually made by human people. On Planet Earth. In 2021,” tweeted Palestinian filmmaker Saeed Taji Farouky. “This is so ridiculous and offensive,” added human rights lawyer Qasim Rashid.

Others called out The Big Bang Theory alum Chuck Lorre, who serves as an executive producer on the new sitcom. “It truly is Chuck Lorre. Plus America’s general disdain for comedy that’s smart, cutting edge, & maybe not shockingly racist and/or otherwise offensive,” wrote Broadway star Pia Glenn. “He has a stranglehold on the network, and the taste level is so low that even some of my fave actors on his shows are minimized.”

On Saturday, the controversy reached executive producer Reza Aslan, who defended United States of Al in a series of tweets. “Maybe learn a little about the show, its 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 wrote. “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,” Aslan added.

Decider has reached out to CBS for comment, but did not hear back by the time of publication. United States of Al premieres April 1 on CBS.

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