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Issa Rae says she was told include white characters on shows to make audiences care

Photograph by Merie W. Wallace/HBO

Issa Rae is reflecting on some advice she was given when she developed her hit 2011 web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl — the show that helped launch her critically acclaimed HBO series Insecure.

“From the jump in creating the show, it was put in my mind that you had to have a white character to be a bridge, and for people to care, for it to get awards, for it to be considered worthy of the television canon,” Rae tells Mic.

Rae explains that a white former colleague advised her that adding a white characters would make her shows more relatable.

“She was just like, ‘Girl, if you want this [show] 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 [show], and it’ll blow up,'” Rae said. “And then it literally happened.”

Rae says she used the same approach when she launched Insecure in 2016, adding in the character of Freida, a white co-worker of Rae’s character, Issa Dee. However, Rae says she eventually started rejecting the use of unnecessary characters.

“I was like, ‘F*** no! This is not a show about Frieda!'” Rae says. “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 says her focus is now just on creating authentic storylines.

“I hope that not having to think of an audience that isn’t us — and being okay with that — is passed on,” she says. “I want people to know we are enough.”

Insecure‘s final season premieres Sunday, October 24, on HBO.

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