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Issa Rae Was Once Advised to Include a White Character in Her Shows

Issa Rae says a colleague once told her to use white characters in her shows so they’d blow up, and “then white people will care about it.” In an interview with Mic, the “Insecure” cocreator and star spoke about how the advice lead her to write a white character into her web series, “Awkward Black Girl.”

Rae says the colleague told her: “Girl, if you want this shit 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 shit, and it’ll blow up.”

“And then it literally happened,” Rae told Mic, referring to a 2011 interview she did with NPR about “Awkward Black Girl.”

As Rae began working on her HBO comedy series “Insecure” a few years later, the approach stuck. The first three seasons of the series feature one of Rae’s character’s white coworkers — Freida.

Issa at school Insecure

Issa and Freida working for a non-profit called We Got Y’Yall.

Anne Marie Fox/HBO

After Rae’s character (also named Issa) quit her job in the show, the “Insecure” creative team had to decide if Freida should continue to have a role in order to “bridge a gap between white people,” as Mic reporter Jamal Jordan phrased it

For Rae, that was a hard no.

“This is not a show about Freida!” Rae said. “That was when I started actively resisting. 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.'” 

Rae added that HBO executives have given her (and “Insecure” showrunner Prentice Penny) creative freedom. 

“They would always kind of just let us do us, and trusted us in the best way,” she said. “For that, I’m spoiled.”

Earlier this year, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that Rae had signed a five-year overall deal with WarnerMedia. She’ll develop TV series and have a first-look option for film projects for HBO,

, New Line, and Warner Bros. Television. 

The fifth and final season of “Insecure” debuts on Sunday, October 24.

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