Rizwan Manji is clearing the air about his role on "Schitt's Creek."
On the Emmy-winning breakout comedy, which ended its six-season run earlier this year, Manji played recurring character Ray Butani, a jack-of-all-trades selling everything from real estate to Christmas trees.
Ray was a source of mild controversy on social media, with some users complaining about his "stereotypical Indian accent" and the "criminal underuse" of his character on the show. Manji, who was born in Toronto to Indian parents, does not typically speak with an accent, but says it was a choice he brought to the character.
"It is a very slight Indian accent – somebody who was probably raised in Canada, but probably was born in India or Pakistan," Manji told The Toronto Star in an interview published Tuesday. "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."
Manji clarified that the show's producers, including co-creator/star Dan Levy, did not ask him to do an accent. But while he doesn't find issue with that aspect of the character, he does wish the writers had given Ray a more fleshed-out backstory.
"If you want to criticize something, do that," Manji said. "We need to have three-dimensional characters."
Manji, who's also starred in TV's "Outsourced" and "The Magicians," has voiced his concerns for better South Asian representation in the past.
"Honestly, I love 'Schitt’s Creek,' but they could have done better with diversity," he told the Hindustan Times in October. "They could have fleshed out the characters and given them lives, not just use them for comic relief. Now there are more diverse people in the business, as we can see in 'Never Have I Ever,' 'Master of None' and 'Criminal: UK,' but I don’t know if three or four shows is enough representation. The networks need to do better too, but maybe with (streaming services), things will change. Honestly, my friends did not watch 'Schitt’s Creek' until it got on Netflix, which was three years into its running."
In a statement to The Toronto Star, Levy commended Manji's "thoughtful choices" as an actor and said, "No accent was called for in the casting or specified in the scripts. 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."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Schitt's Creek' star Rizwan Manji critiques character, defends accent