Interview: Jay Ellis on his new web series tackling healthcare and the humanness of 'Insecure'
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Interviews , Television

Interview: Jay Ellis on his new web series tackling healthcare and the humanness of 'Insecure'

Insecure star Jay Ellis has an interesting project on the horizon. Hard Medicine, a web series set to premiere soon on his Facebook page, centers around the quirky medical doctor of a low-income health clinic, who must maneuver between demanding corporate heads, outlandish patients, and her wacky but loyal staff all in an effort to keep the community’s haven of health care afloat. Shadow and Act premiered the trailer just last week. Ellis is an executive producer for the series, which was created by and stars Melissa Eno Effa.

Ahead of the premiere of Hard Medicine, we talked to Ellis about the web series, how he got involved and what he wants its impact to be. He also chatted a bit about this season of Insecure and the pressing question of what will happen with Lawrence and Issa.

Ellis says he actually got involved with this project through a medium you wouldn't expect — church. "Somebody that goes to church with my mom reached out to her and told her about Melissa, who created the series and about her story. My mom sat down and met with her and heard about the series and her plans for it, and then I got on the phone with Melissa. We talked about it and she explained it to me." Ellis was eager to get involved with it.  "I saw the trailer and said I want to come on and help usher this thing along and tell the story. So it was all because of church." 

Hard Medicine adopts a mockumentary format for storytelling, a method Ellis points out that isn't used often with people of color. But he notes that the series also has comedy, drama and heart. "We have a little bit of everything in it. We want people to have a good time and laugh. It’s kind of a different take on showing that we can do that kind of comedy." As for takeaways, Ellis hopes that this shows how much these community clinics are needed. "

Photo: Hard Medicine Photo: Hard Medicine

"Melissa’s mother is a doctor and worked in smaller medical facilities throughout Georgia and was always one of very few," he explained. "For us, we really want people to see that we are in this world as much as everyone else and we care about these patients and we are about the community and in these facilities and community care centers, they are as a much part of our community as the people who are in the community. We want to make sure people get to see that and have a couple of laughs or shed a tear while we do it." 

Of course, when Hard Medicine was initially conceived, the nation wasn't embroiled in a battle over accessible healthcare. Ellis hopes that the series has an impact on that as well. "It's one of those things that if it doesn’t come to your doorstep you may not notice it. Part of what we are hoping to do it to get people to realize every incremental cut or step backward has a massive ripple through communities than people know. So many people are dependent on these clinics for their daily health needs and emergencies.  I hope people understand that we need to make sure that we are funding our clinics, facilities and healthcare as much as we possibly can. This means we need to pay attention to how we are voting and who is running these things."

Jay also gave us some details on the current season of Insecure and an answer to a question we all want to know -- will Lawrence and Issa end up back together? Ellis' answer? He's hopeful. "I hope they make progress. I think in order for anybody to make progress you have to stumble. We get to see them on that journey." He says that what Lawrence is doing is "the typical man thing" of shutting down and not using his words. Regardless of everything, Ellis says there is obviously a lot of love between Issa and Lawrence, and although he is hopeful they make progress, at the end of the day we will see the duo finding some type of closure, whatever that may be. "They care very very deeply about each other. I do think Lawrence knows that Issa is genuinely sorry, but he just can’t face it right now. He doesn’t how to accept and process it all. What we’re gonna watch is them walking through mud and quicksand." 

Photo: HBO Photo: HBO

When asked if he expected Insecure and his character to be a breakout hit, he said, "If you walk into something and you know that it’s a hit, then I'm 100 percent positive that it’ll be a failure. But, I don’t believe we thought it would be like this. We do it in a bubble. It’s not like millions of people watch us on set. We think we are funny, we think we do good work. We make each other laugh and cry, but we don’t know if that permeates to the rest of the world.  All you can do is cross your fingers and hope to God that it crosses over."

According to Ellis, the authenticity of Insecure is what sets it apart. "When I walked into it, I knew that Issa was speaking and writing her truth. She was writing world experiences and friends and characters. She was writing scenes she knew. That authenticity humanizes it so much. We aren’t trying to create something that’s never been seen before and you forget the human elements. Anytime that you are speaking from a place of truth and keeping a world very authentic, I think people are going to be drawn to it."

Photo: HBO Photo: HBO

All in all, Ellis thinks there is a bit of Lawrence in everybody. "I'm fortunate enough to have a job and play a dude with so many layers like the rest of us. We’ve all been in one of these situations and I’ve never seen something so close to my experience as a black man on television before and I think that is what’s appealing and relating about this character. Moments of his life are a representation of what people really go through, man or woman." 


Hard Medicine premiers this summer on Jay Ellis' Facebook page and catch Insecure Sunday nights on HBO. 



Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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