Wednesday, January 19, 2022

“Insecure” writer Grace Edwards on the value of complex stories about black women

Grace Nkenj Edwards began her entertainment career as an actor, starring as Monique in the 2007 short film Moli. Four years later and several producers and writing assistants later, Clumsy Black Girl has become an online phenomenon.

The Michigan native remembers vividly sitting at her desktop computer, waiting for the episode “The misadventures of a clumsy black girl»Throw on Facebook. Issa Rae was a source of inspiration and motivation for her.

“In college, I had people who told me, ‘Oh, you’re too dark to really be an actor.’ So it was nice and wonderful to watch this gorgeous black woman not only starring in this romantic film but also the creator of it, ”Edwards said. “I always say that both she and Tina Fey were a kind of blueprint for me to want to be both a performer and a writer.”

Edwards is a triple threat as an actor, producer and writer – from episodes in Amy Schumer Inside Out, to voicing Michelle Obama in Our Cartoon President and producing Insecure. In Insecure, she is one of the main architects of the excavation of friendship, highlighting the ups, downs and interdependence of Issa and Molly in times of disaster. After joining the series in its fourth season, the Guyanese American writer is planning a legacy of her own. Viewers will soon see her work as the inspiration for the upcoming Jody animated series, which continues the 1990s series Daria. Working on Insecure opened the door for her to continue to create complex stories of black women and rewrite stories from Issa Dee and Molly Carter to Jody Landon.

Although she knew Amy Aniobi and Yvonne Orgie, Edwards learned of the opportunity to join the “unprotected” writing room from her agent. Her immediate response was, “Yes, of course I’m interested,” but she knew that by joining the series in its fourth season, she had to bring this.

Issa Rae and Richard Nevels in Episode 5 of Episode 6 “Tired, Okay?” co-authored with Grace Edwards. In this episode, Issa comes to Molly’s aid after her mother’s sudden stroke.

She was nervous during the interview because “Insecure” was “already a hit,” but she discovered the warm, loving atmosphere that Issa Rae and showrunner Prentice Penny had created.

“I’ve never worked on a show that Black was on before. My first show I worked on was Free Sure Nicole, starring Nicole Bayer, but she was the only black character in it, “Edwards said. “When I submitted [on ‘Insecure’]it could just fly out of my mouth like it would, whereas many times when I’ve worked for other shows it’s almost like a translation that has to go on. “

Edwards said that overall she became a better writer by working with Ray and Penny. Moving away from the iconic comedy that sketch designs have longed for, Edwards is now looking to find comedy in relativity.

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

“How rare and beautiful it was to see us on screen, portrayed so realistically and allowing these characters to be messy,” Edwards said. “I was a fan of Underworld, Girlfriends and all those black 90s sitcoms, but it was different in the sense that it went deeper into these characters and allowed them to be messy and make mistakes. … It meant a lot to me to know that it was possible, this is the type of television that I would like to see there. “

Edwards said, “It's okay to sometimes let your characters make unpopular choices because it's real." In season 4, Edwards wrote scenes in which Issa (Issa Rae) and Molly Carter (Yvonne Orji) overcome their breakup.
Edwards said, “It’s okay to sometimes let your characters make unpopular choices because it’s real.” In season 4, Edwards wrote scenes in which Issa (Issa Rae) and Molly Carter (Yvonne Orji) maintain a disconnected relationship.

Mary Weismiller Wallace / HBO

Edwards is the writer for Season 4 of Episode 9, “Low Try.” In this episode, Molly, Issa, and Nathan are in Andrew’s apartment and are playing booze. After a season overshadowed by their frayed relationship, Molly tries to hold out a sloppy olive branch to Issa thanks to Andrew’s persuasion. She writes, “Look, I’m trying,” but instead of sending it to Andrew, Issa gets it and leaves.

“Sometimes you do meet a friend again for a moment — without really discussing these things — so you hope you can hide it under the rug. Such a fateful text showed that Molly really hadn’t survived it, ”Edwards said. “Even at the beginning of this season, it is still not significant. When there is that level of resentment, it really takes a minute, and it really 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. This is reality and this is life. This is what makes something more compelling because you can see yourself in the mistakes you made in them. Sometimes when you get mad at a character, you get mad because you did it yourself. “

Edwards said she learned a lot from writing such raw scenes about deep exploration of characters. Her next task will be to research older Jody Landon in the modern spin-off of the series “Daria”. The “Ideal African American Teenage Girl” who was once relegated to the background as a minor black character is now getting her long-overdue time to shine.

“It was a joy because I grew up with Daria. I remember watching it on MTV and feeling very seen. I was a nerd girl, ”Edwards said. “And I really felt that Daria and Jane were representatives of those of us who felt invisible. Like Jodie, I went to predominantly white schools as a kid, which is why I thought so much about feeling like you really can’t be completely yourself. Every time I saw Jody, I sat up straighter, and I always wanted more. I felt that she was not enough. “

“How rare and beautiful it was to see us on screen, portrayed so realistically and allowing these characters to be a mess. … It meant a lot to me to know that it was possible. This is the type of television that I wanted to see there. “

– Grace Edwards on how Insecurity affected her as a writer.

Jody, written by Edwards, will hit Comedy Central in 2022. The coming-of-age animated series will focus on Landon, now 20 years old, out of college, struggling at work, dating, and more. While Jessica Sidney Jackson voiced her in the late 1990s sitcom, Tracy Ellis Ross will take on a new role.

Edwards said that in the reboot, viewers see the world in its entirety from Landon’s point of view, not from the point of view of her minor character on someone’s show.

“We’re going to see Jody Landon, who used to be the perfect black teenager, move into a completely different environment and realize that she was a big fish in a small pond. And now she is a little fish in the ocean. It’s about just becoming an adult in an environment other than Lawndale, where we can see a 360-degree, full, 3D character. “

Despite the skeptics, Edwards never thought it was impossible to follow her Hollywood dreams. And “Insecure” proved her right.

“For a long time people said, ‘Oh, the reason we don’t have much more diverse things is because people don’t watch and it doesn’t sell overseas.’ Well, I think Insecure has proven that it isn’t. Now we have something to indicate, for example: “Look, this is what happened and it was successful.” I’m just glad we have this beautiful piece that will last forever and I think will go down in television history as one of the most significant comedy shows ever made. ”

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