Insecure‘s Jay Ellis talked with Shadow and Act’s Trey Mangum for the S&A’s Opening Act podcast about what drew him to the now-iconic character of Lawrence, Issa Dee’s (Issa Rae) ex-boyfriend.
Ellis said when choosing roles, he always looks for a role that asks something of him.
“I always look for something that’s challenging, I always look for something with authenticity, something that feels like I’m having the opportunity to play someone I know or myself in some ways, even, or someone I admire or respect for someone who has changed history in some way,” he said. “I also love the idea of characters who buck what is the norm, especially the norm that we get to see in television and film. I love characters who really challenge what is the messaging we’re giving around Black men and how do we challenge that…we all come in different sizes and shapes and education levels and whatever, so you can’t just pigeon hole us into one character on one show or one movie. I think that’s first and foremost.”
What drew him to Lawrence was the potential to address a part of Black masculinity that isn’t talked about enough–mental health.
“He wasn’t just a dude who maliciously wasn’t shit. He ‘wasn’t shit’ because he was depressed,” he said. “Talking about depression in Black men was something I had ever seen on television or film before so that was something I was excited to explore…how do we explore that and get to the root of it and what does it look like when a character like Lawrence recognizes that about himself and enacts change or doesn’t enact change? What is that journey.”
Ellis called the journey he’s been on with Lawrence “relatable and understandable,” saying how he could draw from family members or friends regarding points in Lawrence’s life.
“[It’s] this beautiful reflection of a such a complex life,” he said.
You can listen to the full episode below. Insecure‘s final season airs Sundays at 10 p.m.ET/9 p.m. CT on HBO.