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In an interview with Mic, the actress recounted a conversation with a colleague whose advice ultimately ended up playing out on two of her projects and in real life. While developing Awkward Black Girl, Rae’s webseries hit that put her on the map and led to her HBO show Insecure, she spoke to a colleague who suggested she add a white character. That character ended up being White Jay, one of her character’s two main love interests.
The reason she did it, Rae says, is because she was told inserting a white character in her Black-focused narrative would make white people “care about it” and would also earn her more media attention.
“She was just like, ‘Girl, if you want this shit 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 shit, and it’ll blow up,'” Rae told Mic. “And then it literally happened.”
She returned to that advice when she developed Insecure, which in early seasons featured the character Frieda, a white woman and co-worker of Issa Dee’s. Early iterations of the show heavily featured the character and raised the question for the show’s team of whether Frieda should be more heavily included so white viewers could connect.
“And I was like, ‘Fuck 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 also noted that through Insecure‘s run, she’s faced an audience grappling with how little Black female representation has been on TV and shared how that reality has affected the standards her own series and other Black-led shows have been held to, versus shows featuring white women.
“I knew the onus was going to be on us to represent all Black women because we just didn’t have a lot of shows featuring Black women then,” Rae said. “Nobody’s coming for Nicole Kidman like, ‘Bitch, you don’t represent every white woman. Fuck you.’ Every Black show gets it. Every Black piece of work gets scrutiny because we’re sensitive about our shit.”
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