Revisit EW's Three Rounds with the cast of Insecure
This story originally appeared in EW's 2017 Summer TV Preview. We're sharing it again now ahead of the premiere of Insecure's final season on Sunday (for more on that, be sure to also read our digital cover story).
A show about twentysomething Angelenos laughing and crying and looking for love, Insecure has a familiar setup — and yet there's never been anything like it on television. Star and co-creator Issa Rae was internet-famous after her web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which led to a best-selling memoir. HBO's Insecure expands that confessionalist whimsy into a messy symphony of modern life. Rae plays Issa Dee, newly 29 and seeking the great meaningful something everyone expects to discover when they turn 30. She's flanked by best friend Molly (Yvonne Orji), a hotshot attorney with a cataclysmic dating life, and long-term boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis), a listless striver with vague app-launching plans. Season 1 pushed its characters to a heartbreaking (and hilarious) brink. Lawrence cleaned up his act and got a new job. Issa slept with an ex-boyfriend, sending her relationship with Lawrence off a cliff. And Molly's dating struggles became a painful snapshot of romance in the Tinder age. Over three rounds at the Blind Barber bar in Culver City, Calif., EW talked to the three Insecure stars about meeting fans, the renaissance in African-American television, and what it's like when the writers put your dating history into the show.
Round 1: Old Fashioned (Issa Rae), Mojito (Yvonne Orji), Casamigos on the rocks (Jay Ellis)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You guys shoot so much on the streets of L.A. Do people recognize you now?
ISSA RAE: He was the already famous one.
JAY ELLIS: I was not already famous.
YVONNE ORJI: Yes, you were!
ELLIS: Apparently I'm big in South America.
RAE: We went to New Orleans before the show premiered, and you could not walk down the street without everybody stopping him.
ELLIS: The show that I was on previously [BET's The Game] went to Essence Fest all the time. I was like, "Yo, you guys should go without me. Walking through the street isn't gonna be that easy."
ORJI: Humble. Brag. And then we didn't see him for the rest of the weekend.
ELLIS: That is now what they experience when they go out.
ORJI: He told me I can't go to the 99-cent store anymore. And I have been back. Every time I go,I have to go with my roommate. "It's a group outing, guys! It's all of us! We're just going to get ice, 'cause it's four dollars cheaper here!" Jay's like, "Yvonne, you can afford five-dollar-ice now."
ELLIS: That's the real issue. Stop going to the 99-cent store. And I love the 99-cent store.
RAE: Stop taking our prop food home!
ORJI: They tell you Hollywood changes you? Hollywood hasn't changed me.
Did you expect the show to get so popular so fast?
ORJI: Issa has such a dope following already. People are, like, apoplectic about your work.
RAE: I live in Inglewood. I was like, "Well, nobody recognizes me in Inglewood. I'm good." There's a demographic that watches HBO.
ORJI: You don't think people in Inglewood have HBO? [Laughs]
RAE: I do walks around Inglewood every morning. I don't get recognized. Until a couple of weeks ago. I was doing my daily walk, and it was the first time three people turned their cars around to say something.
ORJI: They got HBO just for you, boo. They stepped up their socioeconomic status.
ELLIS: Do you realize that you're carrying Inglewood on your back? Do you ever go, "I'm repping for my city?" I put on for my city—
ORJI and ELLIS [In unison]: ON, ON, FOR MY CITY!
RAE: Thank you for that. No, I don't.
ORJI: You are for Inglewood what I think I am for Nigeria.
ELLIS: Okay, that's 227 million people.... Issa's love for Inglewood and L.A. as a whole and how it's just sprinkled throughout the show, it feels like a love letter.
RAE: The owner of [Baldwin Hills restaurant] Post & Beam wrote me when we shot episode 6 there: "I've had positive reviews in newspapers, I've had blah-blah. But being on the show has increased business by 200 percent."
ORJI: You're actually a businesswoman! We need to be like,"You wanna be on our show? It's gonna cost you.
Round 2: Old Fashioned (Rae), Mojito (Orji), Casamigos on the rocks (Ellis)
Why do you think your show is so relatable?
ORJI: When we first came out, Issa said, "This isn't a show for every Black person. This is me and my friends. We talk a certain way. We listen to certain music. The end." Because she wasn't trying to be the catchall, she ended up catching all. There's something beautiful in specificity and authenticity that attracts the multitudes.
RAE: In the past, the Black experience had to be one thing. But now there are many series showing the multifacetedness of Blackness. Nobody is obligated to encompass the entire Black experience in one show. We have a long way to go, but if feels like a step in the right direction.
ORJI: There's so many people of color and women of color that are working. We have Atlanta, Queen Sugar, Greenleaf, Luke Cage, Underground...
RAE: Dear White People.
ELLIS: Empire, Star, Shots Fired.
Your characters evolved so much over the course of one season. When we first met Lawrence, he barely left the couch.
RAE: There were so many other actors that we saw for that role. What's on the page could be played as the stereotypical s----y boyfriend. So we got a lot of stereotypically s----y boyfriends who didn't bring much heart to the role. Then you have someone like Jay who brings a lot of heart and vulnerability to the part. Same with Yvonne. You meet her and you want to be her best friend. There's so many eccentricities that we incorporated into Molly.
ORJI: Like the body roll.
RAE: I had to take it out of the script at one point! There was a part in the finale that says, "And then Molly body-rolls." I was like, "No, we gotta give Molly a new dance move."
ORJI: You can't handle my body roll.
ELLIS: Yvonne is known as the Bodyroll Killah on set.
ORJI: "Bodyroll Killah." Hashtag that.
ELLIS: She can body-roll to U2. She will body-roll to Michael Jackson. She will body-roll to Britney Spears.
ORJI: Oh bay-buh-bay-buh...
ELLIS: Keith Urban. Yanni.
Round 3: Old Fashioned (Rae), Mojito (Orji), Casamigos on the rocks (Ellis)
Where will we find your characters at the beginning of season 2?
RAE: We're a couple months from the finale. Lawrence is doing what he's supposed to be doing, post-breakup, post–new job. Molly is post-being told "You need to slow down." And Issa... friends give you a mourning time following a breakup period. After a while your friends are gonna be, like, "Get over it."
ELLIS: Season 2, I can say,I f--- up a lot.
ORJI: We all do.
RAE: We're gonna see them grow over the course of however many seasons and get to a place where they're at least confident in their insecurities.
When the show comes back this summer, you'll be on after Game of Thrones. If your characters were on Game of Thrones, who would they be?
RAE: Issa would be Sansa, hands down. Sansa, I'm like, "Bitch, what are you doing?" And then, in recent seasons, I'm like, "I see what you're doing. Okay. You a bad bitch, Sansa."
ORJI: Professionally, Molly is Grandma Tyrell. And then relationally, she is...
RAE: One of the prostitutes! Lawrence is like Jaime Lannister.
ELLIS: That's who I was thinking of! He doesn't have it all together.
RAE: The toxic relationship...
ELLIS: He just tries to put the armor on to look good, but underneath, he's not really all there. And his hand is cut off, so he doesn't even have to work!
- RuPaul's Drag Race season 14 cast speaks on 'absolutely chaotic' twists for their family of 'f---ing weirdos'
- What even is The Matrix? Lana Wachowski and her stars address decades of theories
- Alan Ritchson sizes up Jack Reacher in first look at Amazon series
- Lady Gaga 'thinking' about next music moves: 'There's always music in my heart, in the works'