From web series to hit TV show: Issa Rae tells us how it happened

2018-08-29 14:44

Johannesburg – Speaking at a press conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday, US TV star Issa Rae let fans in on her success with HBO show Insecure and upcoming projects she is working on.  

The star, who is in South Africa for the In Good Company Experience, says her journey to success was not an easy one, having been turned down many times before. “For me, I hate hearing no. I just try to find a way to turn them into yes,” she told the audience, adding: “No one likes no’s. Especially when you feel like you’re meant to do something. This is all that I wanted to do. So to hear, ‘no you can’t do it’, for me I just didn’t believe it.” 

Issa Rae

According to Issa, everything changed for her when she “stopped trying to create content for the executives”.

She further explained: “With the first one [web series] I tried to turn that into a television series. And again, people don’t watch shows that feature people in college – college shows just don’t do well here. And so I tried for a couple years to get that off the ground. And with my brother’s series, my brother and his friends are hilarious to me – they’re great improvisers, they’re talented musicians, and I was like, there’s something here, and tried to make that a television series. Executives were like, they have to decide whether they’re going to be musicians or comedians, you can’t do both.” 

The actress says when it came to Awkward Black Girl, she decided that she was not going to try to get it onto television. “That’s when people were hitting me up and the executives were hitting me up like, ‘let’s do this, let’s make this happen’.” 

But even when she got the call from HBO to work on a series, it was still not a seamless journey. "To get from HBO calling me to getting on the air was a three-year process," she adds.

Issa Rae

About what she’s currently working on, Issa says: “I’m still writing other projects, I’m working on a couple of series’ with HBO, and I have a movie where I’m co-starring called The Hate U Give, it’s premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, by the incredible writer Angie Thomas. I just finished filming a movie called Little in Atlanta. It’s the creative vision of Marsai Martin who’s in Blackish. She pitched the movie to Will Packer when she was like 10-years-old and shot it now that she just turned 14.” 

As far as Insecure is concerned, Issa says for her the show is about halfway through its lifespan. “I would say it’s about in the middle for me. I think we’re very much talking about a series where these characters, you see their journey to change over time. If Issa and Molly are the same when you first saw them to even now and to what will be the end of the series, then we failed. We just want to show an incremental journey. I want to mirror kind of my own experience, cause I’m definitely not who I was when I was 29 or when I was 25. It’s a constant growth process.”

(Photos: On Air Entertainment)

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