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Yvonne Orji needed convincing to buy that ‘Insecure’ finale: ‘I never want to settle’

A bride and groom and wedding party
“Insecure” ends with Molly (Yvonne Orji) marrying Taurean (Leonard Robinson).
(Raymond Liu / HBO)
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The following story contains spoilers from the series finale of “Insecure.”

Though “Insecure” ends with a wedding, the season finale’s most tender and affectionate exchange is not between Molly (Yvonne Orji) and her husband Taurean (Leonard Robinson). It is, of course, between the HBO series’ two best friends.

“Thank you so much for everything, Issa,” Molly says, as she begins to cry. “For being you, for loving me while I was me. And girl, I don’t know where life is gonna take us, but I just know that as long as you’re around, I’ma be OK.”

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“Yeah,” Issa replies through her own tears. “Me too.”

The emotional moment, in an episode written by co-creator and star Issa Rae and directed by showrunner Prentice Penny, caps a five-season friendship rarely represented with such nuance and generosity onscreen. Through Issa and Molly, “Insecure” celebrated the best of what an adult friendship can be — even if schedules get busy, signals get crossed and slumps linger a little too long. And their reconciliation this season is especially poignant after a remarkable Season 4 arc that unflinchingly depicted the pair’s falling out.

Molly herself, a successful lawyer and ill-fated dater with a vivid sense of humor and (at times) ruthlessly high expectations for the men in her life, has come a long way since the pilot episode. The Times spoke with Orji about when she bought into the character’s happy ending, how she filmed the episode’s most devastating scene and why Issa is really crying when Molly thanks her.

If you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to HBO’s groundbreaking comedy, you can hold on a little longer with our full coverage of Season 5.

How did you feel when you read through this last script?

I definitely cried. I think I was the one to break into tears first at that final table read, when I’m thanking Issa in the bathroom. I just started bawling. And then Jay [Ellis] looked at me and started crying, and then Issa was like, “Come on, girl,” and then she started crying. That was the moment where I was like, “Dang, it’s really over for these characters.” I looked at Issa and I was like, “You wrote the heck out of this finale.”

After five seasons of dating ups and downs, Molly ends up with Taurean. How do you feel about that?

It took some convincing for me to buy Taurean and Molly because I was so used to him being my arch nemesis. [The writers] were like, “We can’t introduce somebody random, out of the blue, it’s usually always the person that’s right under your nose.” And then they explained, “Well look at his qualities: The man is a partner [at the law firm], he’s not afraid of you, he’s confident in himself, he allows you space to be yourself.”

One thing I know in my personal life is I never want to settle, and I don’t think the characters I play should either. So when I understood more where they were coming from, and that she’s not settling, I was like, “OK, that’s cool.” They both came to a place where vulnerability was sexy for them to look at each other as a match.

A bride and groom at their wedding
Molly (Yvonne Orji) and Taurean (Leonard Robinson) get married in the “Insecure” finale.
(Raymond Liu / HBO)

It’s also nice to see Molly so happy, for a change.

Prentice has said from the jump, “When we see Molly happy, the show is over, it’s a wrap. If we’re writing you happy, just know you’re not coming back no more.” I always used to think, “That’s such a trash thing to say, what kind of nonsense is that?” He was like, “People like conflict, and Molly’s a conflicted character.” I will give him credit, he stuck to his guns, he meant it, it was not a drill!

This season pays off after Season 4, when Molly was such a villain. I think people had written her off. All of last season, I was like, “Dang, growth is messy, growth is not sexy, but this is the stuff people need to see.” You’re not the best version of yourself when you’re trying to be a new version of yourself. There are missteps in growth. Like, I don’t know who told you it’s linear! No, you’re gonna have hard conversations with the people in your circle and with yourself, and you’re going to be misunderstood while you’re growing.

And then, one day, you become a butterfly — like, “Oh, my God, I’m here.” Personally, I’m happy to see her happy, and I’m happy for other people to see her happy, that on the other side of growth it works out.

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This episode also sees Molly learning that her mother has died. What was it like to film that scene?

All season, I knew it was going to happen. In my mind, I was imagining if, God forbid, this was a real phone call in my actual life. I’m 38, there are things that I want the people in my life to witness before they go. While Molly was having those conversations with her family about their estate planning, Yvonne was having those conversations too.

The first time we shot it, I remember my knees immediately gave way. It just felt right for me to drop, I don’t know how you stay up after something like that. In that moment, Molly is processing all the things that will happen that her mother will never see. That, for me, is devastating. It was so silent — the last time it felt that intense was when I filmed that first fight with Issa in Season 1, and I had to watch two episodes of “Veep” just to bring joy back into my life.

Issa met me on the floor. I think I kept holding on to her because this is when you need your friend to literally hold you. Prentice wasn’t ready for the drop but was like, “OK, let’s figure this out, we have to follow her.” I’m grateful that we only had to do it twice, and that it was the last thing of the day. Prentice texted as I was on my way home and was like, “Great work.”

A woman and her best friend in a kitchen
Molly (Yvonne Orji) and Issa (Issa Rae), pictured in the “Insecure” series finale.
(Merie Wallace / HBO)

On a happier note, can we talk about this wedding?

Yes, we can! Such a beautiful day, like happiness overloaded. It’s very heavy for Molly because there’s a big presence that’s not there, but then it’s also like, “I have my person, and we’re gonna weather a lot of life together, so let’s start now with joy.” I was in my feelings, like, “Girl, this is gonna be you one day!”

Molly and Issa then share that emotional appreciation of their friendship. What was that like to film?

Girl. That was my last day on set. I started crying throughout the whole walk from my trailer. Thankfully the scene calls for Molly to be crying. And then, when we were on Issa’s coverage, Prentice whispered in my ear, “Forget about the script. I want you to thank Issa for changing your life: casting you, whatever it is, this is your love letter to her.”

Issa was expecting lines of dialogue that she wrote, but I’m just going all the way in: I appreciate you, you’re the best, just giving her her flowers in real time. When she realized what was happening, she started bawling. The magic of that scene was really birthed in that moment. And what you see is two Black girls who have been on a magnificent journey for the last six years, just loving on each other.

The multi-hyphenate calls her directorial debut for the HBO series ‘a call to arms for authenticity.’ But getting there took a lot of growth.

And then the episode ends with a brilliant throwback to “Broken P—.”

For me, that’s the perfect punctuation of the series, a full-circle moment in the best possible way. The thing that crumbled you in the pilot and made you fight with your best friend is the thing you can laugh at and confidently own together in the finale. That is growth.

Looking back at your work on this show, what are you most proud of?

I’m grateful that it didn’t allow me to just rest on comedy. As a comedian, it would have been so easy for me to just play it big and broad. Instead, they leaned into the nuanced version of this straitlaced person. That made me work on, “How do you find the humor in the little moments? How do we bring forth her humanity or her disappointment in a look or a head tilt or an ‘OK girl…’ or a sigh?” That’s one of the best gifts the show gave me, because that’s something new that I get to have in my arsenal when I do other things.

It’s also allowed me to respect my instincts. That first day of shooting, I was thinking, “Oh my God, they’re going to recast me because Prentice keeps asking me to do the same thing 18 different ways, so that must mean I’m not doing it right.” It didn’t mean that at all. Now I’m the girl who’s able to say, “How would I personally respond in a way that’s in line with my character?” Let’s try it, and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But I’m gonna respect my instincts, and by doing so, the producers and directors and writers also respect my instincts. That’s how it’s grown me up.

A woman smiling in a black top and jeans
“I’m happy to see her happy,” says Yvonne Orji of her character Molly.
(Merie Wallace / HBO)

What will you miss most about working on this series?

As an actor, I’ve kind of had my own mourning season. I remember asking Jay, “How do we duplicate what we’ve just been a part of?” He was like, “You don’t. You’re just going to be sadly awakened to the fact that we had something precious. And you’d be fortunate if you get two more of that in your entire career.” I don’t want to believe that, and I was literally rebuking him, like, “Don’t you speak negativity into my life!”

“Insecure” was a perfect storm: We’re all new and just so happy to be there in this cocoon of Blackness in a real and authentic way, and we’re all like, let’s just do it and have fun. Everything was so intentional — like, it’s not just Blackness onscreen, it’s Blackness in the writing, in the clothes, in the music, in the locations, and we got to bring characters to life in an environment where everything had that level of care.

Showrunner Prentice Penny explains the HBO series’ highly specific geography, and dishes about what’s next for Issa and Molly.

What do you hope people take away from Molly’s journey?

I hope they see that it was all necessary, that every season of Molly was essential. We’re always finding ourselves, so you can’t judge any phase of your life so harshly because you’re still developing, you’re still evolving, you’re still growing. Molly said it in Season 1, on the ride home from Malibu: “I know I need to be a better person, I just don’t know how.” But she’s such a perfectionist and feels like she has to know all the answers; she didn’t understand that sometimes you have to allow the muck of life to come up and then figure it out.

Now, you have to be a willing participant in that growth, and at times, Molly wasn’t always willing to participate in her own evolution, which caused frustration both to herself and to the people around her whom she cares about and loves. So I also hope that when people watch this series, they see the importance of friendships that allow you to be this messy, growing person, but also call you out when you’re not being that evolving version of yourself. Because you need that.

I think 2020 and beyond has taught us the need to evolve, to look at our lives and assess what’s working and what’s not. It’s scary to find out that you’re not the person you thought you were, or that you can be a better version of the person that you currently are. I’ll never forget when I started therapy, and I hit up my therapist, like, “What’s the target I need to hit? Am I gonna be good by March?” She was like, “That’s not how healing works.” It’s mastering one level, only to uncover another level and another level. So give yourself grace.


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