‘Insecure’ writer Grace Edwards on the value of complex stories about black women



Grace Nkenge Edwards began her entertainment career as an actress, playing the role of Monique in the 2007 short film “Pangs”. Four years and several production assistant and writer jobs later, “Awkward Black Girl” has become an online phenomenon.

The Michigan native vividly remembers sitting in front of her desktop computer, waiting for episodes of “The Misadventures of the Clumsy Black GirlTo post on Facebook. Issa Rae was a source of inspiration and motivation for her.

“I’ve had people in college say to me, ‘Oh, you’re too dark to really try to be an actor.’ So it was cathartic and gorgeous to watch this gorgeous, dark-skinned woman, who not only played in this movie, was a romantic star, but was the creator of it, ”Edwards said. “I always say that she and Tina Fey were kind of the role model for me for wanting to be both a performer and a writer.”

From cameos on “Inside Amy Schumer” to the voice of Michelle Obama on “Our Cartoon President” and the production of “Insecure,” Edwards is a triple threat as an actor, producer and writer. On “Insecure,” she is one of the main architects behind the excavation of Friendships, highlighting the ups, downs and codependency of Issa and Molly in times of distress. After joining the series in its fourth season, the Guyanese American writer traces her own legacy. Soon, audiences will be able to see her work as the mastermind behind the upcoming “Jodie” animated series, a sequel to the ’90s “Daria” series. Working on “Insecure” opened doors for her to continue to do complex stories about black women and rewrite narratives, from Issa Dee and Molly Carter to Jodie Landon.

Although she knows Amy Aniobi and Yvonne Orji, Edwards learned from her agent that she had the opportunity to join the “Insecure” writers’ room. Her immediate response was “Yes, of course I’m interested,” but she knew that by joining the show in its fourth season, she had to bring it.

Issa Rae and Richard Nevels in Season 5, Episode 6, “Tired, Okay?” that Grace Edwards co-wrote. In the episode, Issa comes to help Molly following her mother’s stroke.

She was nervous during the interview process because “Insecure” had “been a real hit already,” but what she found was a warm and loving environment that Issa Rae and showrunner Prentice Penny had created.

“I had never worked before on a show that was this Black. My first show I worked on was “Loosely Exactly Nicole,” with Nicole Byer, but she was the only black character there, ”Edwards said. “As I threw [on ‘Insecure’], things may just come out of my mouth as they would, whereas a lot of times when I was working for other shows there’s almost like a translation that has to go on.

Edwards said she became a better writer working with Rae and Penny. A departure from comedy focused on punchlines as desired sketch projects, Edwards now seeks to find comedy in relativity.

With “Insecure,” she discovered that characters resonate with her, whether they are young and broke trying to survive in a big city or an all too familiar portrayal of the women in her own life. The fullness of these black figures was something she had never seen before.

“How rare and beautiful to see ourselves on screen portrayed so realistically and allowing these characters to be messy,” said Edwards. “I was a fan of ‘A Different World’, ‘Girlfriends’ and all those black’ 90s sitcoms, but it was different in the sense that it got deeper into these characters and allowed them to be messy and messy. making mistakes It meant a lot to me to know that it was possible, this is the type of TV I wanted to see there.

Edwards said, “It's okay to let your characters make unpopular choices sometimes, because it's real.
Edwards said, “It’s OK to let your characters make unpopular choices sometimes, because it’s real.” In Season 4, Edwards wrote scenes in which Issa (Issa Rae) and Molly Carter (Yvonne Orji) navigate a broken relationship.

Merie Weismiller Wallace / HBO

Edwards is the author of Season 4, Episode 9, “Lowkey Trying”. In this episode, Molly, Issa, and Nathan are in Andrew’s apartment playing a drinking game. After a season marred by their frayed relationship, Molly attempts to extend a shallow olive branch to Issa, thanks to Andrew’s persuasion. She texts, “See, I’m trying,” but instead of sending it to Andrew, Issa receives it – and storms out.

“Sometimes you kind of find yourself with a friend momentarily – without really having brought it up – so you hope you can sweep that under the rug. That kind of fateful text showed that Molly really hadn’t gotten over it, ”Edwards said. “Even at the start of this season, it’s still tenuous. When there’s been that level of injury, it takes a minute, and it takes honesty and transparency to really get to the other side.

“It’s okay to let your characters make unpopular choices sometimes,” she added, “because it’s real. It’s reality and it’s life. thing more convincing in a way because you can see yourself in the mistakes you made. Sometimes when you get mad at a character you get mad because you made it yourself.

Edwards said she learned a lot from writing such raw scenes about the in-depth character exploration. Her next task will be to explore an older Jodie Landon in a modern spin-off of the “Daria” series. “The Perfect African American Teenager,” who was once relegated to the background as a black supporting character, has now been making her time shine for a long time.

“It was a joy because I grew up with Daria. I remember watching him on MTV and feeling very seen by him. I was a nerdy girl, ”Edwards said. “And I really felt like Daria and Jane were representative of those of us who felt invisible. Like Jodie, I went to mostly white schools growing up, so I bonded so so much to feeling like you really can’t be fully yourself. Every time I saw Jodie I would sit up straighter and always wanted more. I felt like there wasn’t enough of her.

“How rare and beautiful to see us on screen portrayed so realistically and allowing these characters to be messy.… It meant a lot to me to know that it was possible. type of tv i wanted to see there.

– Grace Edwards on how “Insecure” affected her as a writer

“Jodie,” written by Edwards, arrives at Comedy Central in 2022. The coming-of-age animated series will follow an early-twenties Landon navigating life after college and the challenges of the workplace, meetings and more. While Jessica Cydnee Jackson voiced her on the late 1990s sitcom, Tracee Ellis Ross will take on the revisited role.

Edwards said that during the reboot, viewers saw the world entirely from Landon’s perspective rather than being a supporting character on someone else’s show.

“We’re going to see Jodie Landon, who was the perfect black teenager, come into a whole different environment and realize that she was the big fish in the little pond. And now it’s a little fish in the ocean. It’s about her becoming an adult in a different environment than Lawndale, where we can see the character in 360 degrees, full and three-dimensional.

Despite opponents, Edwards never thought that following his Hollywood dreams was impossible. And “Insecure” proved him right.

“What people have been saying for a long time, ‘Oh, the reason we don’t have a lot more miscellaneous stuff is because people don’t watch and it doesn’t sell overseas.’ Well I think ‘Insecure’ has proven that it doesn’t. Now we have something to report, like, “Look, this is something that has happened and has been successful.” I am just so excited that we have this wonderful work, which will last forever and I think it will go down in television history as one of the most important comedy shows ever created.



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