Insecure star Yvonne Orji on going home to Nigeria in comedy special Momma, I Made It!
Yvonne Orji is here to deliver some much-needed levity.
With a mix of jokes about her parents’ view on her choosing comedy over medicine, what dating in the present is like, Americans’ love of standing in lines, and more, she's here to raise our spirits for an hour of joy.
In the special, Orji discusses her dual lens of being both Nigerian and American with pride, and that duality makes her jokes fresh and her perspective one we don’t often get. Case in point? She takes the often-ridiculed line-loving Americans and provides a look into how her Nigerian relatives would view the behavior, pushing the joke into new territory.
Orji also brings viewers to Nigeria with her using footage from her last trip home. They will meet her parents, see her interact with people in the country, and there’s a very humorous trip to the market to look forward to.
We spoke to Orji about showing Insecure fans her stand-up ability, going back to Nigeria in the special, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Many know you as Molly from Insecure, but you have also been doing stand-up for a while. How do you feel about getting to show newer fans your stand-up?
YVONNE ORJI: I feel like being rediscovered a new because this is what I was doing before Insecure, and now just the world can see a different side of me. I'm excited, I'm confident because it's the thing that helped me get the thing that people know me for.
I understand the people are angry [right now] and rightfully so. My hope is that if they need 60 minutes of levity or healing through humor, they the special can be that thing to get their mind off, for a minute, all the devastation that is happening in our world, and in our country. People are hurting, and we hope the special can bring some healing in the form of humor.
In the special, you discuss your parents' past apprehension about your choosing comedy, and we see their current appreciation for your passion and success. How does it feel to get to that place with them and to include your parents in the special?
Part of the reason I included my parents in the special is that I wanted them to have their own voice. I wanted them to say their piece. I'm going to be on the air with a microphone for an hour, so I'm gonna say what I have to say, so I wanted my mom and dad to speak not only for themselves but also for other immigrant parents. There's a merry-go-round of emotions they have when their Americanized children veer off from the goal or the plan of what they should do before they were even born. So, I was like this is their moment to have their say. I think if you're an immigrant parent, you'll definitely understand them. And if you're a child of an immigrant, you will relate to their apprehension and frustration in a way.
I've always wanted to show my appreciation for my two homes. I wanted to show the beauty of Nigeria and the beauty of America.
The time spent in Lagos is about more than your family, you bring us into the community with on-the-street segments and incorporate other African creatives. Why was that important for you to include?
I think a lot of our stories are universal and so it was important for me to include the conversation with young Nigerians who either studied abroad or remained in-country to show them on any continent we go through a lot of the same things. Our parents have the same worries, just like yours, even if they don't look like our parents do.
At the same time, I think it's important to normalize access to African countries where everything isn't charactered or fictionalized. It's not Wakanda, it's not x, y, and z. It's like this. You know, we have beautiful homes, and we have dirt roads, we have super successful people and poor people. It wasn't to show a perfect version of what Nigeria is, it was to show a real version of it and to normalize what they people look like and sound like and ear and do. Because I think that's how we actually make progress, and that's how we see representation furthered.
Do you feel excited about being an African creative at this moment? Where would you like to see it go from here?
Absolutely. Seeing Lupita Nyong' o win [her Oscar] made my mom kind of understand what her own daughter was trying to do. I hope that when my special premieres, it'll help another African mom or dad look at my content and work and understand what their creative children are trying to do. And understand that there is no blueprint for success, but trust that you have taught them that things will help them get there.
To me, that would be paying it forward.
In the preview for next week's Insecure, Molly and Issa meet up again. What do you think about the overall storyline, and do you see a path forward for them? Is there anything you can tease?
What I can say about the meeting is that it happens and that's about it.
What I can say about the storyline is all friendships go through ebbs and flows, right. In the moments you are growing, you have to actually take the time to grow, and you have to lean into it. In order to grow, you have to go through something. That's not always fun, it's not always easy.
It's important to talk about how an unwillingness to grow can affect not only our work but our friendships and relationships, and that's what the season is really showing you. One thing I loved about episode 8 is seeing that Issa and Lawrence had grown to a place where they able to voice their joy and their mistakes. That's progress. That was not an easy conversation to have, and hopefully, Molly and Issa are able to get to the same place. You're hurt the most by the people you trust the most, and it stings. Issa and Lawrence showed us the possibility of hope, but that takes people putting down their pride and ego. We have two more episodes to see what happens and if [Molly and Issa] are able to do that.
How meaningful are female friendships to you, and what do you think about the stories out there about them?
Female friendships are absolutely important. Black female friendships are important to portray as complicated, as uplifting. I think a lot of times what's disseminated through media is black women can't be friends, that black women can get along, that there is a divide and conquer kind of relationship that black women have with one another. And that's false.
Even with the demise of my Molly and Issa's friendship, words were exchanged, but it didn't get too combative. I think it was important to show that we can have a disagreement, but it doesn't have to get ridiculous. We can also have other female friends tell us about ourselves. In the following episode, you have Kelly checking in on Issa. The show is so important because it shows different types of black female friendships that exist.
Personally, for me, it's part of my mental health. With everything going on in the world, I feel grateful to have black female friends to call on. To talk to other black people that I don't have to explain the anger, I don't have to explain the rage so many people in our country are experiencing right now. How do we sit in the anger for a little bit, and then how do we heal? That's a conversation you need to be able to have with people who get it and who get you.
Momma, I Made It! premieres Saturday on HBO at 10 p.m. ET.