By Toyin Owoseje, CNN
Issa Rae has spoken out about the lack of diversity in TV, revealing that she was once advised to always include a White character in her shows to ensure the project would “blow up.”
In an interview with Mic magazine, the 36-year-old actress and producer recalls a conversation she had with a former colleague while working on her 2011 web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” which led her to believe that the inclusion of White characters would make her shows more relatable.
“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,” she told the magazine.
According to Rae, the colleague said: “Girl, if you want this sh*t 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 sh*t, and it’ll blow up.”
She used the same approach when she embarked on a career in television in 2016 with her critically acclaimed HBO comedy series “Insecure.” HBO, like CNN, is owned by WarnerMedia.
Early seasons of the Black woman-centered show featured the character Freida, a White co-worker of Rae’s character, Issa Dee.
Rae told Mic that she then “started actively resisting” the temptation to include another White character, so when her character quit her job in the show, she decided that she no longer wanted Freida to have a recurring role.
“And I was like, F**k no! This is not a show about Freida!” Rae recalled. “I realized, ‘Oh my gosh, our show is just about Black characters now in the most refreshing way.'”
“I hope that not having to think of an audience that isn’t us — and being okay with that — is passed on. I want people to know we are enough.”
The show has since earned 11 Emmy nominations and one Emmy win, and won three NAACP image awards.
In March this year, Rae signed a new five-year contract with WarnerMedia to develop a number of TV shows and movies.
“I’m thrilled to not only spread my creative wings with the network that makes all of my favorite series,” Rae said in a statement at the time.
The fifth and final season of “Insecure” will premiere on Sunday, October 24.
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