NEW YORK (AP) — For Issa Rae, it feels like the 1990s.
The creator and star of the HBO series “Insecure” said she’s enjoying the debut of her TV show at a time when popular shows telling different stories about black culture are on the scene, from Ava DuVernay’s “Queen Sugar” to Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” to Cheo Hodari Coker’s “Luke Cage.”
It reminds her of when shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” ”Living Single,” ”Family Matters” and “Martin” dominated on television.
“It’s dope that’s there’s like a new renaissance. … I love that I’m not alone,” Rae, 31, said in a recent interview. “We worked really hard to include people of color behind the scenes. That was a big thing for us.”
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She gives a lot of credit to Shonda Rhimes, the television mogul behind successes like “Scandal,” ”How to Get Away with Murder” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
“She kind of ushered us all in, in a sense,” Rae said, “but then a lot of the questions were like, ‘Why is this black female character like this?’ … So I’m grateful that we’re not going to have (questions like), ‘Why is the black girl like this?’
“There are so many different stories that we’re able to tell at the same time to show how rich our culture is and that’s a great feeling.”
Before Rae developed “Insecure” — partly based on her life and her hit web series “Awkward Black Girl” — she worked with Rhimes on a pilot about dating in Los Angeles. Things didn’t work out for the rising star, who said at the time that she “wasn’t good at navigating the notes between the network and studio.”
“I was too eager to please,” she said. “It showed me that I needed to be stronger in my voice.”
That’s when HBO called. Did Rae have anything to pitch to the network? She did. “Insecure,” a hilarious, adventurous show (Sundays, 10:30 p.m. Eastern, on HBO), that follows Issa Dee (Rae) and best friend Molly Carter (Yvonne Orji) as black women on the brink of turning 30 who are navigating their love lives and professional careers.
“They’re really good about getting out (of) the way of the cultural element of the show and making sure your voice shines through,” she said about the executives at HBO (the network recently offered Rae a production deal to develop more content).
Rae built a strong team to help her find her voice for “Insecure”: Larry Wilmore is her co-creator; Prentice Penny, who has worked on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Scrubs,” is the show runner; and Melina Matsoukas, the Grammy-winning director behind music videos for Beyonce and Rihanna, directs some of the episodes.
Matsoukas, who marks her TV directing debut, is one of many music ties to the show. Grammy-winning singer-songwriter-producer Raphael Saadiq composed the music, and Solange Knowles is a music consultant.
Rae is also musically inclined. In the series, she breaks out into comical, emotional raps to cope with life.
She says rapping is “for fun” — sort of.
“My friends and I have a ratchet rap group, (and) for a second, (we) toyed about taking it seriously, but I’m not a rapper. It’s all when I have alcohol in my system.”