‘Insecure’ Star Issa Rae on Premiere’s ‘F—Up’ Sex Scene, Turning Down Post-‘Game of Thrones’ Slot

“She’s figuring out who she doesn’t want to be,” Rae tells TheWrap about her character in Season 2

insecure issa rae jay ellis
Issa Rae and Jay Ellis in "Insecure." (HBO)

(Spoiler alert” Please do not read on if you haven’t watched Sunday’s episode of “Insecure”)

Issa is newly single on “Insecure,” but as proven by the final scene of the Season 2 premiere, she’s not necessarily loving it.

The HBO comedy’s Sunday return showed Issa hitting the dating scene after her split from Lawrence (Jay Ellis). But she still clearly wants to reconcile with her ex and the pair finally have sex at the end of the episode — although there’s nothing romantic about it.

“She’s figuring out who she doesn’t want to be,” Issa Rae, the HBO comedy’s creator and star, told TheWrap. “Given all the selfish actions she took in Season 1, she’s realizing, ‘I don’t want to be that kind of person. And I also don’t know that I want to be vulnerable to the dating world — I don’t want to be putting myself out there in a way that’s makes me feel weak.’ And you’re going to see her decide what that means for her.”

Rae also discussed the premiere’s “f—ed up” sex scene, her initial assumption that Sterling K. Brown was joking about guesting on the show and why she told HBO that she didn’t want her show to follow “Game of Thrones” on Sunday nights.

TheWrap: How does Issa change from the premiere’s first scene, where she envisions herself reconciling with Lawrence, to the last scene, where they have sex?
Issa Rae: The first, we just wanted to jump right in, showing that Issa’s trying to move on. Three months have passed since the events of the finale, and I think your friends give you a three-month window to mourn, and then it’s like, “OK, girl, I can’t hear this anymore.” We wanted to start these characters in a place of doing what they’re supposed to be doing. By the end, she hooks up with Lawrence. She’s wanted him back for three months, and now she’s finally got him after two weeks — to not talk to him but connect with him, in her mind. Even though the sex was kind of f–ed-up, we wanted to have a glimmer of hope in her eyes by the end of the episode.

What was it like to film it?
Jay and I are so comfortable around each other now, it was significantly easier than other sex scenes. I have clothes on, for the most part, so it was OK. But sex scenes are always sex scenes — they’re never the most comfortable. We both knew what it was supposed to mean for the two of us — he was very clear about his motivation, and I was clear about mine, and it was a matter of making it happen.

Where do things go from here for the two of them?
They have to get at a level where they’re honest with each other in terms of confronting what happened between them and why it happened, and I think you’re going to see both of them asking those questions as the season progresses and deciding how that informs who they are.

What is this season like for Molly (Yvonne Orji)?
With her storyline, I’m excited to tackle equal pay in the work place, and you’re going to see that play out for her. We love the idea that we’re going to be able to start a conversation around an issue that some many people face and don’t know that they face, and hopefully can drum up the courage to talk about.

How was it to work with Sterling K. Brown and some of the other guest stars this season?
Sterling was awesome — he reached out. I had presented with him at an Independent Spirit event, and in my mind, he was jokingly like, “So when are you going to put me on the show?” And I was like, “Yeah, right, Emmy winner — get out of here.” And then he hit me up on twitter DMs and was like, “Look, I have a hiatus. If you have something for me, let me know.” And I was like, “You were serious?” So I pitched a role to him that we already had, and we were like, “Yeah, he’d be perfect for that.”

We had Lil Rel [Howery] this season as all — we obviously all loved him in “Get Out.” He auditioned to play this particular role, and he’s perfect for it.

What’s the toughest thing about starring on a show that you also executive produce?
Just time. Especially this season, we were just really up against it when we got a sooner return date. I think we were in the second day of our writers’ room anticipating it to air in the fall, and then we got that call from our executives, like, “Hey, how would you guys like to come back in July behind Game of Thrones.” And we were going to do 10 episodes. And at first, we were like, “No.” Like, “This is such an honor — thanks for the faith, guys. But, how? How are we gonna make this happen?” And they were like, “Guys, you should think about this.” And we were like, “We’d be stupid not to take this time slot, and let’s just reduce the number of episodes to eight.” We all liked the number of eight episodes, and came back.

“Insecure” airs Sundays at 10:30 p.m. ET on HBO.