Issa Rae may be the busiest woman in Hollywood, but she continues to take on projects that will open the doors for others. Her latest (gorgeous) magazine cover story has The Hollywood Reporter proclaiming she’s embracing her role as a trailblazer but Insecure, which she created and in which stars, won’t be her legacy.
Insecure is nominated for eight Emmys, including Issa’s nom for lead actress, the show’s nomination for comedy series, and co-star Yvonne Orji’s long overdue nod for supporting actress. If Rae is named lead actress at next month’s ceremony, she’ll make history as only the second Black woman to win in the category since 1981. Shocking, considering how many funny Black woman have graced the small screen since then. I guess they’re not often a lead character, although the supporting actress category has also historically been pretty white.
The interview arrives as Emmy voting starts this Friday and Issa isn’t the only one campaigning. Yesterday, Lainey wrote about Jennifer Aniston putting herself in front of voters. While Jen talks about channeling a lot of her own personal pain into her performance as Alex Levy on The Morning Show, she also leans into her America’s sweetheart brand with the writer describing how Jen put them on hold while she cared for a bird that flew into her closed window. Which is cute, I guess, and quintessential Jen. She’s literally quoted saying, “Oh, honey,” as she assists the injured bird.
Issa is not the favourite in her category the way Jen is. Most people are already giving it to Catherine O’Hara for her fantastic performance on the final season (and all seasons) of Schitt’s Creek. But Issa isn’t holding her breath for an Emmy win.
"Awards don’t validate you. They allow more people to know about the series, like, 'Oh, what is this?' That’s all you want.”
It’s clear from the piece, she’s more interested in building her career right now, and opening up the industry — especially writers’ rooms. I’m sure she’d be ecstatic and grateful to win, but this isn’t the pinnacle of her career. And while Aniston is leaning into her strengths on the campaign trail, Issa does the same by talking a lot about her work. She’s busy AF. Why? Because it’s hard for Black people have longevity in Hollywood, and that’s why every few weeks there’s another headline about a new Issa Rae project.
“For me, my longevity will be opening the door for others. I think frequently about the Tupac quote: "I’m going to be the light that sparks the inspiration, that sparks the change." I need to get that quote right. [Exact quote: "I’m not saying I’m going to change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world."]
If I was an Emmy voter, I’m already sold on her onscreen performance, so this would make me want to vote her even more. Last year, RuPaul won the Emmy for competition reality series, and while that’s amazing to see a show about drag go mainstream, people were shocked to see him standing on stage surrounded by a team of non-Black and seemingly non-drag, non-trans faces. In the pressroom, Essence asked him if it was important to have diversity behind the scenes as well. Ru said he’s a Black, gay man, who is also a drag queen as if there’s a diversity checklist and the show was able to check three boxes for the price of one. You’re not supposed to get a seat at the table, and close the door behind you.
I’m excited by a lot of the projects Issa touches on in this piece, especially an upcoming HBO documentary about the history of Black Television called Seen & Heard. I grew up on Black sitcoms (albeit most of them in reruns) but there was a Black TV boom in the 90s and then it all disappeared as quickly as it started when studios wanted to be able to sell a TV show around the world. In a post-Black Panther world, I’m excited to see Issa Rae leading a Black TV renaissance of sorts.