Yvonne Orji is back for another comedy special, and this time it’s more personal.
Following the success of her debut special Momma, I Made It! in 2020, the actress and comedian joined HBO once again for A Whole Me. The show’s title is a double entendre of a popular Nigerian phrase and of her fully stepping into who she is.
As her first special was filmed right before the pandemic, being right in the middle of it for her second time around made it a time for reflection and healing.
“I literally recorded Momma, I Made It! on February 29th — God gave me an extra day,” Orji told Shadow and Act in a recent interview. “And March 13th, the world shut down…The first one came out in the middle of the Black Lives Matter movement and everything that was going on. So, it was just wild. And then people needed the levity, but then once the work kind of stopped, the work began because then it was the internal work that I had to do. When you don’t have the distraction of the outside work, you gotta figure you out.”
“I call it a grown folks comedy,” she added. “When I toured it, it gave people a moment to sit with themselves and the moment that they probably wouldn’t have had or weren’t even expecting to have, but I got a few DMs like ‘That ride home was real introspective.’”
Orji’s dive into baring her soul center stage was also inspired by watching Jerrod Carmichael’s Emmy winning special, "Rothaniel."
“We were already in the writer’s room for the skits and the vignettes,” she shared. “And I watched that the week it came out and I just remember being like, ‘Yeah, that special was special.’ When I think about the kind of art that I want to put out, I want it to say something.”
Along with touching on heavy-hitting topics such as the effects of the pandemic, therapy, and trauma, it takes a different approach with scripted vignettes. The Nigerian entertainer tapped Nigerian creators for the special, which its timing is perfect as it premieres on Nigerian Independence Day.
“When I initially sold the special to HBO, I was like, I got it. I wanted to be like African In Living Color. ‘Cause for me, I wanted to just bring other people that I knew that were funny and give them a platform.”
Yvonne hopes the comedy special can serve as a way for the Black community to start having tough conversations by coming together through laughter.
“I talk in the special about how I think everybody [needs therapy], especially African Americans. There’s been so much trauma. Bringing African Americans to America, traumatic. Already in the ancestral line of what it means to be an African American in America. Whenever people are like, ‘I don’t need therapy. I’m good on that.’ It’s like, no we all do.”
“Hopefully not only when Nigerians see this, when African Americans see, there’s lots of topics that I know that it’s hard for us to have the conversation either with our parents or with our friends. But I’m like, ‘Hey, look at me. I’m doing it for you.'”
A Whole Me premieres on HBO on Oct.1.