Issa Rae: Black TV Characters ‘Don’t Get to Just be Boring’

By Sameer Rao Oct 18, 2016

Issa Rae‘s HBO comedy "Insecure" updates many of the themes—Black women’s professional and personal autonomy, workplace microagressions, the slog of life for the unsatisfied—that made her web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl" resonate with so many viewers. Both programs depict a sort of normality that, as the auteur explains in a new Q&A with Fast Company, TV often doesn’t allow for Black characters.

I don’t want to invalidate anybody’s Black experience. But it seems to me [on television], we’re either extremely magical, or we’re extremely flawless. But we don’t get to just be boring. Like, it’s a privilege to be able to be boring and not answer questions like, "What do you think about this shooting?" and "How are you overcoming all of these obstacles?"

What about the times that I’m just kicking it with friends at brunch? Those are the moments that we want to reflect, in addition to talking about some of the issues that we encounter racially. That stuff plays in the background to our regular lives on the show, but we wanted to be in these characters’ worlds first.

She elaborates after describing "Seinfeld," the acclaimed comedy series "about nothing:"

Can you imagine a Black person pitching a show about nothing? "Wait, so there’s no struggle? There’s no race, there’s no—you’re Black, though, right?" Like, we don’t get that. Only a White person could literally walk in the room and be like, "I wanna make a show about nothing," and they’d be like, "Sold!"

Rae also describes the importance of diversity and empowerment behind the camera when it comes to ensuring a more represenatative TV landscape:

It’s the executives, it’s the crew. It’s in making sure that this isn’t a flash-in-the-pan moment, by making sure you have a black or Latina executive, for example, who understands the importance of telling these stories. Making sure that everybody is represented behind the scenes is how the momentum will continue.

Read the full Q&A here.