If there was any singular theme that defined the fourth season of HBO’s hit series Insecure, it would simply be growing pains.
In the last 10 episodes, we’ve seen the dynamics between all of the series’ signature characters shift—most obviously so between Issa (Issa Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji), whose years-long relationship as best friends is now seemingly strained beyond repair. The impermanence of some female friendships—even our most cherished, deepest ones—is a subject Issa Rae was eager to explore in this newest season because she hadn’t seen it explored enough in other television shows.
“We had been building to this kind of breaking point in their relationship for a minute now. It’s something that so many of the women and myself included in the room had experienced with their close female friendships in some ways, that kind of realization that … we’re changing,” Rae tells BAZAAR.com. “[That uncertainty of] I don’t know if we’re changing together or if we’re changing apart—and we discussed how painful that is. I haven’t seen very many depictions of female friendships in that way. So many female friendships—the breakups at least—are more painful than most romantic relationships. I know that’s true for me in life.
“I’m still recovering from two lost female friendships. But I can’t remember if I had anything towards any boyfriends that I broke up with where I felt that…” laughs Rae. “It’s something that we were excited to portray onscreen.”
So many of the standout moments this season—including Issa and Molly’s heartbreaking realization that maybe their friendship wasn’t worth saving anymore—were portrayed so effortlessly onscreen, thanks to the slew of standout Black women directors at the helm. According to Rae, who enlisted Kerry Washington, Melina Matsoukas, Regina King, and more to take the director’s chair through the series, who can better depict such vulnerable moments in two Black women’s lives, than Black women themselves?
“This is a story about two Black women, and who better to understand that than other Black women? To bring the beautiful touches that sometimes we may miss in the writers’ room, or we may not think about … to have it realized other Black women is such a treat. It just feels very ‘for us, by us’ in that way,” explains Rae. “That’s not to say that we only hire Black women. We’ve had some men direct and recently our DP [Ava Berkofsky], who is a queer white woman, just directed one of our most popular episodes of the season. So we really like just giving opportunities to people who are fan faves. But where Black women are concerned, it is something of a ‘for us, by us’ type of thing.”
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I always credit SCANDAL, @shondarhimes and @kerrywashington for piquing the industry’s renewed interest in seeing black female leads on television. So it was such a pivotal, full circle treat to have “Miss Kerry Babyyyy” herself impart her wisdom and incredible direction for this episode of INSECURE. She is a DIRECTOR and it was so dope to see the entire cast, myself included, willingly challenged by the bar she set. Forever a fan!
Insecure’s audience has found the show to be a revered source of respite since the season premiere back in April. At the start of its fourth season, the world found itself in quarantine and sheltering in place at home due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Now, still in the midst of a global health crisis, Americans have been taking to the streets for weeks, protesting to finally demand an end to police brutality and racial injustice following the unjust deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others.
For the show’s longtime viewers, Sundays at 10 p.m. have served as a sort of communion for fans to come together—whether in-person with friends in a pre-coronavirus world or virtually through the online escape of Black Twitter—since the show’s premiere in 2016. Now more than ever, fans depend on Insecure to serve as 30 minutes of joy and laughter—and even hope—from some of the darkest and most uncertain days Black Americans have experienced thus far in our lives.
“I’m so relieved that [people still want to watch] because I would hate to air during a time when nobody wants to see it. So I think it is oddly comforting that people find comfort in us. I’m so grateful for that,” says Rae of the show’s airing amid political unrest in America. “It’s allowed me solace of kind of escaping with other people to the show because I know when the protest first hit and it started getting world-wide attention, I guess I was a bit more anxious about how to continue to produce, or how to promote the show that we’ve worked so hard on, and if people would even be in the mood to watch it. So the notes that I got in confirmation were really reassuring. It’s just good to know that people are still there for us.”
When it comes to the Season 4 finale, Rae hints that fans may be in for a bit of an upset. While the season’s penultimate episode found Issa and her former longtime love Lawrence within a newly blissful state of newly rekindled romance, the finale’s trailer all but assures that Issa’s previous flame, Nathan, may come in between Lawrence and Issa’s second shot at happily ever after.
“[Fans will be] mad,” quips Rae when asked how fans will react after tonight’s finale. “But I think they’ll be hopeful. Hopeful, but upset. And they should be.”
To Rae however, a happy ending for her namesake character doesn’t mean Lawrence, Nathan, or any other man in her life, needs to be by her side. As the show enters it’s fifth season (which was already given the greenlight by HBO earlier this year), Rae simply hopes that Issa can embrace the insecurities that shape her, rather than let them define her.
“We always talk about taking Issa on a journey to becoming secure in her insecurities in a way, because I think that’s part of fully accepting yourself, flaws and all. Like, I know who I am, I know where my issues are, and I’m fine with that, and I’m happy with who I am,” said Rae. “So much of Issa’s journey has been about denying who she is, not being honest about her feelings, and just really being obviously insecure about so much of her life. So a happy ending to me would just be Issa feeling happy and satisfied to give her whole self to the world.”
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