Issa Rae takes HBO from white ‘Girls’ to black women with ‘Insecure’

Issa Rae, star of the HBO series "Insecure," during the 2016 Television Critics Assn. Summer Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision)

For years HBO has been criticized for its pattern of featuring shows spotlighting the stories of white women while ignoring the creative voices of women of color.

While “Sex and the City,” “Girls” and “Veep” have been solid hits, they have also been blasted for sidelining ethnic characters. “Girls,” created by and starring Lena Dunham, has particularly come under fire for its focus on young white characters even though it is set in New York City.

Starting Oct. 9, the premium network will enter more diverse territory, courtesy of Issa Rae, a former YouTube sensation who is starring in and executive-producing “Insecure.”


The half-hour series explores the friendship between two African American women who deal with their sometimes stormy relationship while also grappling with conflicts inside and outside black culture. Much of the humor has a raw flavor, and does not hold back on sexually frank situations and dialogue.

Said Rae, “We wanted to depict an authentic black female friendship.”

Although the series, created by Rae and Larry Wilmore (Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore”) represents a breakthrough for HBO, Rae maintains that mainstream viewers will find that they can identify with many of the situations and dilemmas.

“We’re just trying to convey that people of color are relatable,” Rae said during a session promoting the series during the Television Critics Assn. press tour. “This is not a hood story. This is about regular people living life.”

The series was shot in and around Los Angeles and also stars Yvonne Orji, Jay Ellis and Lisa Joyce.

Rae first came to prominence in 2011 with her popular YouTube series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” in which she played a twentysomething navigating comically uncomfortable situations in her personal and professional life. That series and her other Web content have amassed more than 25 million views combined.

Although she had tried to develop a series based on that work with producer Shonda Rhimes, ABC eventually passed on the project. But Rae now says she is happy that the show has evolved to its present form, and that HBO allowed her and her collaborators creative freedom.


Said Rae, “I’m just so proud that we made the show we wanted to make.”


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