There’s Issa Rae, and then there’s her lovable, often controversial character, Issa Dee, on her hit HBO series Insecure. But because the 33-year-old writer and creator of the series chose to name the lead after herself, she’s found that people have a hard time separating her from Issa Dee and the decisions this not real person makes. The star joked in a new interview with Today that using her own name was pretty much a terrible idea now that she has to deal with everyday critics, even when she’s out and about.
“The script was called ‘Untitled,’ the show was called Untitled for a very long time. So I was like, well, I’ll figure out the character name later. Obviously I’m playing it, so I’ll make it my name,” she said. “And by the time we were shooting it, the character’s name was still Issa. And I didn’t think about it. Fine, it is what it is.”
But then people would approach her, both through social media and in person, to talk crazy about the character. She soon realized she didn’t like that her name was being spoken of in any kind of way.
“It’s a lot of people thinking they know you, they know your life, they know the decisions you made and it’s hard for people to separate because it’s my name,” she told Hoda Kotb. “So even when people talk mess about the character, it’s still me and my name. It was the worst decision I ever made.”
But the rambunctious fans are entertaining, including those behind the recent efforts to bring Lawrence back to the series.
“They started a petition,” she said. “They started an online petition. The show hasn’t even aired yet. It has over 10,000 signatures for us to bring him back on the show, and it’s like…we finished it already [laughs]. Sorry. And it’s also like, if the petition works, they’re going to bring it to HBO and HBO’s gonna be like, ‘Guys, forget your creative vision, 10,000 people want this character back so go re-shoot the season.’ And are they going to pay for it? Where’s the money going to come from?”
But if there is one set of fans that Issa is especially thankful for, it’s the former commander-in-chief and his wife. That’s right, Barack and Michelle Obama. When asked what it’s like to have people she fangirls over be a fan of her work, she said it’s “Weird, but also the best thing ever.”
“Barack Obama complimented the soundtrack, complimented Yvonne Orji who plays Molly and I about being creative Black women,” she said. “And then a year later, I went to see Michelle Obama speak in Boston, and Tiffany Haddish and I stood in line to say ‘Hey!’ And Michelle had to tell me she didn’t approve of how our finale made her feel. She was like, ‘That was terrible. I was so mad!’ She said Sasha and Malia put her onto the show! It was just incredible.”
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