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Issa Rae

Source: Bernard Smalls / @PhotosByBeanz83

Actress Issa Rae is enjoying the spotlight of major success thanks to her hit HBO series Insecure, but she recently revealed that a former colleague gave her a startling piece of advice – add a white character to her shows to make sure they’d be popular.

In a profile interview with Mic, Rae spoke about her versatile career and future plans, which led her to talk about the “white gaze” that hangs over the work of Black creatives at times. “From the jump in creating the show, it was put in my mind that you had to have a white character to be a bridge, and for people to care, for it to get awards, for it to be considered worthy of the television canon, she remarked.

That point led to her sharing the conversation she had with her former co-worker as she was setting out to creating the Awkward Black Girl series that launched on YouTube and kickstarted her career. According to her, she said, “Girl, if you want this s–t to set off to the next level, you got to put a white character in there, then white people will care about it, then NPR is going to write about your s–t and it’ll blow up.” The words of advice compelled her to add a white character to the cast for Awkward Black Girl before it debuted in 2011, and they proved to be prophetic as that series garnered her national acclaim.

When she co-created Insecure in 2016, she added white actress Lisa Joyce to the cast to play the character of Frieda, Issa’s co-worker. That role was written out of the series at the conclusion of the third season as Issa quit her job. From that point on, however, Rae stated that she “started actively resisting” the inclination to put another white person in Insecure. “When Issa quit work and we got rid of the We Got Y’all storyline, I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, our show is just about Black characters now in the most refreshing way.’”, she said.

Insecure will unveil its fifth and final season on HBO on October 24.