A Talk with HBO’s creator of Insecure, Issa Rae

BY: KIMBERLY ALSUP

I first heard about Issa Rae when a friend told me to watch a hilarious web series, The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl. I am a personal fan of Awkward Black Girl because she is me and I am her. I think that we all have a little awkwardness in us, some more than others. I think I am in the more category. The way Issa Rae writes and comes across on screen, as well as comedic timing she has made Awkward Black Girl and now Insecure a comedy hit.

I was excited to sit down and speak with the humble, down to earth, and hilariously funny Issa Rae last Friday for the First Glance Screening of her new HBO series Insecure at the BronzeLens Film Festival here in Atlanta.

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Tell Us About Insecure:

Issa Rae: It’s a comedy series about regular people that happen to be black and that’s unheard of now. Every time you see black people on TV, it’s like overly dramatic, or it’s about the struggle, or just race, or melodramatic, and we don’t get to see the boring black people. Your home girl, or the boyfriend that you had, or whatever. It’s really about relatable stories, there are elements of race, there are elements of drama, there are small elements of struggling, but it’s really about the experience. Not those girlfriends like a Moesha, but just a regular black woman on the TV screen.

How Has the Transition from the Web Series Been and Being Successful with that to Now Transitioning to HBO?

Issa Rae: It was a lot of work. Like putting in the work. Awkward Black Girl ended up being my third web series done in 2011. After my second web series, I thank God that I stuck with it because I was frustrated that no one was watching and I thought it was really funny. If I had stuck with the idea and questioned why isn’t anyone watching I would have the same opportunities I do now, like Awkward Black Girl. I could’ve given up and been like F this and digital media isn’t for me. But taking another chance with Awkward Black Girl is what led to people viewing it, and relating to it. I felt like it was timely and people spreading the word, that got the attention of various executives. Even with my first chance with Shondaland and ABC, they ultimately passed on the idea due to the many hands in the pot. I thought that was my one chance and it was gone and I was so sad, but then HBO called the next month and said “I hear you’re free now, do you have any ideas?” and here I am talking to you now about to premiere my show.

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How Does Insecure Differ from Awkward Black Girl?

Issa Rae: This is a completely different show in that Awkward Black Girl was more of a character portrayal, meant to make you laugh at what was happening inside this girl’s head. Insecure is closer to my life, basically, me as a character, if I didn’t know what to do or if I made different decisions in life and I wanted to create it more grounded. I want you to watch the show and be like, oh I’m friends with that girl, or I dated that guy, or I have been in that situation before. So it’s more of a down to earth portrayal of friendship and work, and love and life. You will definitely see parallels between themes in the two shows. I sought to make a completely different show.

What is the Difference in A Web Series and Cable Network?

Issa Rae: Basically more money and more people.

Looking into the Future If You Had to Look Backwards, What Message Would You Give Anyone That is Walking Behind You?

Issa Rae: Collaborate with people, collaborate with people who are better than you, smarter than you, skills that you don’t learn from them, stay learning, be patient, make sure that you want to pursue the career path that you want to pursue because it’s going to try you, you’re going to fail a bunch of times and you’re going to be told no a jillion times more than yes. You gotta want it!

Insecure

Insecure Premieres on HBO, Oct. 9 at 1030 pm

Created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore, Insecure is executive produced by Rae, show runner Prentice Penny, director Melina Matsoukas, Michael Rotenberg, Dave Becky, and Jonathan Berry, with Wilmore as a consultant.

Follow Insecure and Issa Rae on Social Media for more information:

Instagram: issarae
Facebook: Issa Rae
Twitter: IssaRae

Facebook: Insecure
Twitter: insecurehbo