‘Insecure’ Broke Ground by Embracing Imperfection

PENNY: Issa stated in the writers’ room at one point: “When you’re white, racism is a period. Like, ‘This is wrong, this needs to stop, period.’ But when you’re Black, it’s a comma.” It’s like, this racist thing occurred to me, but I still have to go pay bills, still have to drive and go home and see my kids. Yes, this incident happened, but how are you going to deal with it?

In 2016, “Insecure” and “Atlanta” broke new ground as comedy about Black millennials. Did any of you ever feel pressure to speak for your generation?

MELINA MATSOUKAS: I never felt the responsibility of having to speak for an entire generation of people. The task we felt was to depict these folks and their environment authentically. That means really shooting in the neighborhoods these characters are from, speaking to and incorporating those individuals into our tale, employing strong female connections and all the things that are authentic to a real, dynamic community and the world where Issa Dee is from.

Was showing Black individuals of varied class statuses part of that honesty? The characters Issa and Lawrence, for example, live in the Dunes, an apartment complex with mostly working-class Black people, despite though they graduated from Stanford and Georgetown.

RAE: To Melina’s point, it was honesty. I graduated from Stanford and didn’t have a job, so I returned back to L.A. into my parents house, and the first place I moved to after that was a Dunes-like apartment complex where you have people of different classes.

PENNY: There’s this idea that we have to be great and excellent all the time. I remember that when we were proposing it with the term “Insecure,” there was push back about that since insecurity is not normally connected with Black people. That was such a moment for Issa, Melina and me, and it made me realize, “No, that’s even more reason we want the show to be that.”