'Insecure': The Story Behind the 'Scandal'-Inspired Show Within the Show

Regina Hall and Scott Foley headline the fictional show, described as a mix of Shonda Rhimes' fixer drama and slavery drama 'Underground.'
Courtesy of HBO

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the second episode of Insecure's second season, "Hella Questions."]

Between Issa's and Lawrence's surprise impromptu hookup and Molly's work troubles, there's plenty of drama to go around in the second season of HBO's critically acclaimed comedy Insecure.

But that hasn't stopped the half-hour from adding an intriguing subplot to the mix: a fictional show within the show titled Due North. Described by showrunner Prentice Penny as "if Underground met Scandal," the series stars Regina Hall as a slave who, as revealed in episode two, is carrying on an affair with her white male master (played by none other than Scandal star Scott Foley).

The fictional drama was first introduced in the season two opener when it was revealed that — despite their messy breakup — Issa and Lawrence were both watching the same show (and the same scene).

"Because they normally would be watching it together so there's something about how they're not in each other's lives now but they're still intertwined and I think those were the ways we tried to show that," Penny tells The Hollywood Reporter. "They're kind of together but not together right now and this is the loneliness of that.

The title of the fictional project appeared to be inspired by the two characters' secret meeting spot. "Follow the North Star to our spot by the creek," Foley's character told Hall's under his breath.

However, the origins of the show within a show itself is a far more surprising story. Penny says Due North was inspired by a writers' room joke about two writers on the series, an African-American woman and a Caucasian man.

"We just started teasing them that they were having this sort of affair — it's going to sound horrible how I'm describing it — but he's married to a white writer from Silicon Valley and we started making jokes that they had this clandestine love affair like a master and a slave. Because they had lunch together one day in the quad behind our writers' office and we were like, 'Oh, they're sneaking away.' Obviously they hated it, but they took it in good stride.

"So we just thought about creating these characters based off of two writers in our room, we just kept making these jokes and we just thought this should be a show," he said.

Eventually, the idea became a reality with the help of writers Ben Cory Jones and Natasha Rothwell (who also recurs on the series as Kelly). "They went off and wrote off this amazing eight-episode story," Penny explains.

From there, it was up to casting director Victoria Thomas to land "some real names" for the fictional series. Both Hall and Foley, Penny says, said yes to the unusual gig immediately. "It was insane. But it turned out great and it's so hilarious."

While it remains to be seen just how much of Due North Insecure viewers will actually get to see, Penny says there will be clips from the fictional drama included in seven of Insecure's eight season-two episodes.

As if there weren't enough TV shows to catch up on already.

Insecure airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.