Insecure is willingly heading into somewhat uncharted territory in its third season.
For its first two seasons, the show was built around the hella messy lives of Issa (series creator Issa Rae), Molly (Yvonne Orji), and Issa’s now-ex boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis). However, at the end of season 2, Issa and Lawrence found some closure on their relationship right as the rest of Issa’s life was falling apart. She received a demotion at work and was forced to move out of her apartment, which led to her crash on her ex Daniel’s couch. When the Emmy nominated comedy’s third season picks up, Issa is still living with Daniel, the man she cheated on Lawrence with, and Lawrence, the show’s once male lead, is nowhere in sight, a development that riled up some of the show’s fan base (#LawrenceHive) when the news came out. Removing one of the main characters is definitely a risk; however, it’s one that the creative minds behind Insecure were willing to take in order to defy expectations.
“One of the things we tried to do this year, which is what we tried to do that last year, was to continually evolve our show,” showrunner Prentice Penny tells EW. “I think the big thing that Issa and I wanted to do this year was to not ever make it feel like if you’ve seen one season of Insecure, you’ve seen a bunch of seasons. Obviously, the big thing that’s different this year is that Lawrence isn’t around. So, we just wanted to always make sure that the show feels fresh.”
When the writers began working on the season, they intended to proceed as usual with the show’s original trio; however, as they started discussing the season, they realized it was getting harder to find ways to include Lawrence in the stories they wanted to tell.
“Once he didn’t have a relationship with Issa, it was hard to just follow a Lawrence story that had nothing to do with two of the main characters in our show…We all hated to do it, because obviously we love Jay. Nobody wanted to say it, but we all knew it,” says Penny.
But once they admitted what they all knew to be true, “that made other stories more interesting and more dynamic because we weren’t worried about this other character over here anymore because it just felt like organically we couldn’t make the stories happen. So, if we can’t make the stories happen organically because he’s not in her life, then maybe he’s not in the show,” says Penny.
On the flip side, the way season 2 ended also gave the writers an opportunity to flesh out Daniel. In the show’s first two seasons, Daniel swooped in and out of the story as Issa’s knight in shining armor, and the audience never really got to know the music producer. But having Issa move in with Daniel meant it was finally time to turn him into a three dimensional character.
“A lot of this was finding what Daniel is insecure about — his place where he feels he should be [professionally] vs. where he is,” says Penny, explaining that they decided to explore his music stagnant career and how he dealt with watching other people succeed. “Once we kind of latched into that, we kind of liked that Daniel has this sort of pettiness that he normally hides from the world that we thought was interesting.”
For Y’lan Noel, this meant finessing his portrayal of character who was outwardly cool but actually felt a lot. “It becomes about how do you maintain this composed exterior while all of these other things are really affecting you and ticking you off in a real way underneath,” says The First Purge star. “I can’t always physicalize how I feel. It’s more cerebral. As an actor, that’s really fun to explore because it’s smaller.”
While Noel enjoyed learning more about his character, he was far more interested exploring Daniel and Issa’s relationship. “I’m excited about those worlds colliding,” says Noel. “Now that she lives with him, she’s smack dab in the middle of his world, he now has to deal with Issa and all of her quirks.”
And Noel says you can expect some “sparks” between the two roommates. “What we normally see with Daniel is that he means what he says and he says what it means. He’s sort of a purist. He likes music, he likes Issa. He’s very simple minded. Whereas Issa — we love her and she reminds us who we are as viewers — has all these eccentricities. She’s not just one thing, she’s so many different things. So bringing all of those eccentricities to Daniels’ world, they’re gonna be some sparks.”
Insecure returns Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.