It might have taken some time to get Insecure on the air, but hopefully it was all worth it. Monday morning, Issa Rae received her first major awards nod, getting a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a TV Comedy or Musical for her performance on HBO’s Insecure, a show she writes, produces, and acts in. The show recently finished its eight-episode inaugural run (and yes, it’s coming back for a second!) with a bang, imploding Issa’s (the character) relationship with Lawrence. We caught up with Rae on the phone after the big announcement to talk to about the fan reaction to the finale, tweeting while drunk, and how her mom doesn’t know what the Golden Globes are.
Well, first off, I want to say congratulations. This is huge.
Aw, man, thank you. It is kind of ridiculous.
What was your reaction to the news?
It was bittersweet, if I’m being 100 percent honest. I was like, this is dope as hell, but it sucks that my name is the only one associated with all the hard work that everybody put in. ’Cause I want everybody to know that our showrunners are dope, our director’s dope, our writers are dope, our cast is amazing. So it’s like that — and, the other end, I’m like, “Muthafucka, I got a Golden Globe nomination!” So it’s both.
I saw that Yvonne Orji FaceTimed you in the morning.
She definitely did. She was one of the first texts I got. And then she was like, let me FaceTime. I just got an iPhone, so that’s always been like a running joke; she always clowns me for having an Android. So she was like, “We FaceTime-ing.” And she just had me dying laughing early in the morning. It’s always so sweet and supportive. And that was definitely a highlight — that was when it sunk in.
Did you talk to your mom?
You know what’s funny, I didn’t get to talk to anybody. I haven’t called anybody. We have a family group text and I saw my older brother there on the East Coast and my mom’s on the West Coast with me. And they were like, “Congrats! Congrats!” Everybody’s excited. And literally I saw a text from her before I got all these calls that said, “You guys, fill me in, what is this? I don’t know what this is, but somebody tell me what the Golden Globes are,” basically. So even if I got the chance to tell her, she would not know. But she’d be proud.
I’m sure she is. The show has had a long, well-documented development period. And I wonder if you’ve gotten a chance to step back and take a moment to reflect on all the success of the show so far and what it means to you?
You know, every week that the episode would air, we’d gather at like a writer’s house and watch, and then analyze, tweet, and just talk about it. And that’s when it became kind of real to me that it was out there. And then, of course, after the finale, when people were talking about it — just logging in, like I normally do to look for news, to see what people were talking about. And my entire feed was about this show, unprompted. And long after it had aired. You kind of hope for stuff like this, but the fact that there are discussions, even in my own friends groups — I had friends in relationships fighting and I was like, but y’all know me. Why are you taking these characters so seriously? And so that’s been super rewarding and a testament to the true stories we’re trying to tell.
I mean, they’re fighting because they’re real to us, Issa.
Which I love. It still could stress me out.
I want to talk about the ending because it was, in some way, it was pretty divisive and controversial. Is that what you were hoping for?
A man doesn’t find out a woman is cheating on him and forgive her readily. We just wanted to show a real-life scenario, and so Issa’s learning on this journey. It’s definitely been a season of declaration for her. I’m going to be this person; I’m going to be this person, without thinking about the consequences. And sometimes there are. And you have to be ready when you make a decision to accept what that decision means for your life moving forward. And then, the Tasha part, we never really batted an eye; Lawrence was definitely going to go fuck Tasha. That’s just what a bruised ego does. And she was ready and willing. We didn’t expect that to be such a huge, divisive part of the story.
I like to say that the internet is one long Duane Reade receipt, and I saw on Twitter you have a tweet about Lawrence that you deleted, where you said he wasn’t such a nice guy in the finale.
That’s because I wrote it wrong! I was drunk. I meant to say, it makes me so sad to see Lawrence trying to prove he’s not a nice guy. And I think I wrote proving he’s not a nice guy. And I was like, Oh, this is not … obviously, I know the way the story goes, so people were like, “Well, bitch, fuck you, because you made him not a nice guy.” And I was like, Whoa … that’s not … but I deleted it, because I usually delete all my show tweets after. Which is like, overflow. But yeah, I said it wrong.
Okay, so, nothing controversial there. Just a drunk tweet.
Just a drunk tweet. A poorly worded tweet.
You know, Twitter’s a dangerous place.
It is. That’s also why I’m like, I treat my Twitter like Snapchat where I’ll post thoughts and then they’ll go away.
Going back to Lawrence having sex with Tasha at the end — my colleague Dee Lockett wondered if this scene didn’t pander to the male gaze, and I was wondering if you felt that way or how you would respond to that idea.
No, I don’t think it pandered to the male gaze. I think it pandered to reality. Even from the beginning. Like so many men watching this show, when they saw Tasha, they were like, Lawrence gotta holler. And then once he succeeded, I saw so many men like, “Oh, well, Lawrence, now he immediately has to smash that …” That’s how a lot of men think. So we’re just a reflection. I like to say that this show is a mirror, just through my lens, obviously. And we try to show real-life choices and it’s just about playing those actions out onscreen and making dimensional characters. But we weren’t thinking like, Oh, the male audience is going to be, like, just hot and happy for this.
My most disappointing moment was when a hotep I was conversing with on Twitter was like, “Bitch, you created this show and you’re destroying the black man, I’m so mad at you.” And I’m like, Bruh, you don’t watch this show because we don’t attack black men on the show. If anything, we dimensionalize everybody. And he was like, “I don’t see that. I’ve only watched two episodes but still. “And I was like, “Okay, well, keep watching and let me know.” And he hit me back around episode six and he was like, “Well, now you’re making black men gay and saying gayness is okay.” And I was like, “Look, we’re never going to agree on this so … go ahead and, it’s fine … but thanks for watching the show still.” And then in the last episode he came back and he was like, “I just want to thank you for treating the black man like the king that he is.” And I was like, Oh no, I failed. Oh no. This is not the intention at all. Now that I’ve pleased you, I’m so mad at myself.
It’s interesting because, watching this show, the men come off as compassionate and patient and it’s generally the women who are more in the process of figuring their shit out with their relationships.
That’s interesting. I think for us, it was just about showing flawed people. I think, for Lawrence, we started him in a shitty place, and he was built to try for Issa, as we put it, and I think even that is kind of a problematic statement. He got it together for her. And even when he got this job, he was still considering putting this new job on hold to pursue his dream. Which is a very realistic sentiment. But it was really about painting whole people. And you’re in a lens of Issa and Molly, and you get to see the grit. I ask, in your own life story, in anybody’s life story, if everybody’s watching your decisions, the decisions that you made onscreen, would they be like, “Aw, yeah, you’re the hero. Ooh, I’m rooting. Or would they be like, What’re you doing? What the fuck is wrong with you? Why are you making that decision?” And that’s what we want to show with the show. I dare to say no one is the hero in their own story.
Where are you at with season two, and what themes are you hoping to explore?
Season two will be a continuation of this story, obviously. We’re in the writer’s room now and we just want to continue to explore Issa and Molly’s friendship dynamic — that is the core of the show. And just to see them grow and evolve with each other and continue to keep each other on track.