Issa Rae was doing just fine.
Whip-smart and internet-famous as the hilariously honest star of the web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Rae parlayed its popularity into a New York Times bestseller of the same name, while partnering with Larry Wilmore on a comedy series in the same vein.
Then HBO bought in and Rae reacted how she knows best: She got awkward.
“When I got the news that the series got picked up, I jumped up and down by myself and did a dance for at least two minutes,” the luminous Rae grins. “Then I walked to a hotel and drank and called people.”
Insecure follows the misadventures of Issa Dee (Rae) and her best friend Molly (comic Yvonne Orji) as they navigate life, love, careers and their own self-images.
“It’s been portrayed throughout media over the years, and accepted by mainstream media — and even in other shows — that there’s this signature way to be black,” Rae explains. “Well, what does that mean if you are not that? Does that mean that I’m not black? Or does that mean that I don’t fit into this box? And then there’s what does it mean when other people who are also black question your blackness?”
For Issa Dee, she vents through self-styled, bathroom-mirror raps. Bad ones. And Rae doesn’t mind one bit when I point that out.
“You’re the first person to finally just say that!” she shouts, clapping her hands. “People are like, ‘She’s such a great rapper!’ and it’s like, ‘No, she’s not.’ But it’s her outlet and that’s the way that she expresses herself and this is the only way that she can do that.
“Plus, I always thought it was a funny device for the non-gangster girl to express herself through violent lyrics.”
Insecure airs Sundays at 10:30/9:30CT on HBO beginning Oct. 9