‘Master of None’: Could Dev Actually Afford His Lower East Side Apartment?

Master of None’s main character has a hard time deciding what to eat for dinner, so you can imagine that making major life decisions isn’t easy either. The one thing Dev seems sure of is that he wants to be an actor, and he wants to live in New York City. He’s gotten some national commercial parts, and that’s a suitable pathway forward. He’s managing to live in New York City, albeit in a walkup building that isn’t luxurious by any standards. The question remains; could Dev have really managed to swing Manhattan’s rent while still trying to make it as an actor? Believe it or not, the writers thought of that.

How much would Dev’s apartment really cost?

Dev might be a New York City resident, but he’s not living in the trendiest neighborhood around. It’s believed that the apartment is located on the Lower East Side or in Chinatown, both neighborhoods are on the cheaper end, as far as New York City Housing goes.

Aziz Ansari on the set of the Netflix series "Master of None
Aziz Ansari on the set of the Netflix series “Master of None”| Bobby Bank/GC Images

The average rent in Manhattan for a 1-bedroom apartment is $2,980, according to Curbed.  Dev, however, likely wasn’t paying that much. He’s living in a neighborhood that is considered less trendy than many others. The fifth-floor pad is also located in a walkup. No access to an elevator might not seem like a huge deal, but not having one can drive the rent price down. Anyone who has ever had to haul a case of water up more than two flights of steps understands why.

The apartment is also a traditional railroad setup, which strongly suggests he is living in an older building. Older buildings with fewer amenities are not nearly as expensive as full-service buildings, for obvious reasons. It can be theorized that Dev is likely paying between $2,000 to $2500 per month in rent. While the price might seem pretty outrageous, it’s totally doable.

How much does a commercial actor make?

Aziz Ansari claims that show writers took Dev’s income into account when crafting his apartment. He may be a rising actor, but he’s had a few hits along the way. Commercial work might not seem glamorous, but it can pay pretty well. In fact, national commercial actors have among the highest hourly rate in the industry, although they are generally not clocking in for a 40-hour workweek.

Paul Macarelli, for example, was tied into a ten-year contract with Verizon. He portrayed the “can you hear me now!” character. According to The Atlantic, Macarelli was kept on a short leash by the company. During his contract, he wasn’t allowed to do any other national commercials, and he filmed around 40 per year for Verizon. For his time, he allegedly made approximately $1 million each year.

Stephanie Courtney had been working extensively on TV when she started to book more commercials. According to Forbes, her time on cable shows wasn’t really doing her budget many favors, so she took to the commercial world to make ends meet. Then, she landed her defining role. Courtney is most recognizable as Flo from the progressive commercials. Courtney reportedly garners $1 million a year for the part.

While Dev’s commercials aren’t really on the same level as Courtney’s work as Flo, it’s totally believable that he could make a comfortable living as a commercial actor. In fact, he could easily make enough to keep up with his Lower East Side Rent.

The believable bills actually set Master of None apart

The somewhat plausible financial situation in Master of None actually sets the show apart from other NYC-based series. Take, for example, Friends. On the show, Monica, a chef is living in a spacious two-bedroom apartment. Initially, she as living there solo until Rachel moves in. The formerly spoiled daughter of a doctor takes a job as a coffee shop waitress to make ends meet. The writers of Friends attempt to explain the pair’s ability to afford the apartment with a rent-control storyline.

Carrie Bradshaw’s quirky studio apartment would have also been out of reach for a columnist with a shoe fetish. Rent control was used, once again, to explain how her salary could afford her a lifestyle of cabs and designer footwear, while still living in Manhattan.