Issa Rae is doing big things in Hollywood right now, but she hasn’t forgotten all the bullsh*t she had to deal with to get here.
During a special story moment title “My First TV Show Pitch” at the 2020 Emmy Awards, the 35-year-old Insecure creator opened up about how she’s managed to stay true to herself while still working in Hollywood.
Looking back at her first-ever Hollywood pitch, the Insecure creator and Emmy nominee said that the “unofficial” encounter gave her motivation to keep “doing what I was doing.”
“My first Hollywood pitch was kind of unofficial,” Rae, 35, shared. “Basically, I had this web series. It was the third web series I had ever made. The executive was like, ‘Yes, I saw your show. Funny stuff… Funny stuff.’ And I was like, ‘Um, thank you.'”
“He was like, ‘Yeah, it’s about this Black woman and her Black-woman problems. Hilarious,'” Rae recalled. “And I was like, ‘That’s not what it’s about. But okay.'”
“He was like, ‘Yeah, but you know, the Black audience, they want to see familiar faces. So, you might need to switch up the characters.’ And, mind you, he’s this executive that’s not Black telling me what Black people like. And it just became very clear to me that he didn’t get the show.
And I remember just fuming in that meeting like, ‘Why does he get to tell me what gets to be on TV? Why does he get to tell me what people like me like to see? I’m here! I’m telling you what I want to see. I made it.'”
“For me, that moment was the motivation I needed to keep doing what I was doing,” the actress said. “To kind of bet on myself. And that fueled me. Like, ‘Oh, okay. I’ll show you.’ And, you know, one of us got fired after that.”
Insecure was nominated for outstanding comedy series, and Rae earned a nomination for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series. Yvonne Orji, who stars alongside Rae in the HBO show, also earned a nomination for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series.
Rae’s comments were made during a segment highlighting Black excellence — a tribute that comes as the entertainment industry is making strides in recognizing people of color, with a record number of Black actors receiving Emmy Award nominations this year.
Sterling K. Brown received a nomination for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for This Is Us, as well as a nomination for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Zendaya was recognized for her groundbreaking role as Rue Bennett in Euphoria, receiving a nomination for outstanding lead actress in a drama series — her first-ever Emmy nomination.
Newcomer Jeremy Pope was nominated for outstanding lead actor in a limited series or a movie for Netflix’s Hollywood, which was created by Ryan Murphy. Pope, 28, starred as the fictional Black and openly gay screenwriter Archie Coleman.
“Thank you to the Television Academy, my entire Hollywood family, and to Ryan Murphy for giving me my television debut. My heart is full. I’m proud to see so many Black artists nominated this year. It gives me hope that systemic change in our entertainment industry is not only possible, it’s imminent,” Pope said of his nomination.
The acknowledgment of Black talent follows Hollywood’s historical exclusion of people of color.
Back in February, Joaquin Phoenix used his BAFTA win to address the controversy surrounding the ceremony’s all-white acting nominees.
“I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I think that’s the message we’re sending to the people who have contributed so much to our medium and our industry and in ways that we benefit from,” he said.
Black actors were also almost completely left out of the nominations for the 2020 Oscars, with only Cynthia Erivo picking up an acting nomination for Harriet. Other snubbed potential nominees included Eddie Murphy for Netflix’s Dolemite Is My Name and Jamie Foxx for Just Mercy.
Watch Issa’s message below.
— Brian Hill (@BrianHillFOX5) September 21, 2020