Insecure and Awkward Black Girl Creator Issa Rae Signs First-Look Deal With HBO

By  · Published on September 1st, 2016

The multi-hyphenate will produce diversity content for the network’s broadcast and digital platforms.

As reported on Deadline, actress/writer/producer Issa Rae has signed a first-look producing deal with HBO. Under the deal, Rae will “develop programing focused on diverse voices that would be targeted for all HBO platforms including HBO GO and HBO NOW.” This deal is an exciting step in the right direction for HBO and Rae and comes on the eve of her upcoming comedy series on the network Insecure, which she co-created, executive produced, and stars in.

Insecure follows the friendship of modern-day black women Issa (Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji) as they navigate the awkward personal and professional terrain of Los Angeles. Rae co-created the show with Larry Wilmore and it is set to premiere on October 9th as part of HBO’s new Sunday lineup, which includes Sarah Jessica Parker’s new show Divorce and the sci-fi thriller Westworld.

Rae’s deal is a great step forward for HBO’s diversity programming initiatives. With both Girls and Leftovers coming to an end, the network is in need of fresh new shows. Rae is not only one of a handful of persons of color starring in series at the network, she is the sole woman of color starring, creating, and producing a current show. The only other people of color in major roles on the network are Dwayne Johnson on Ballers and Kumail Nanjiani and Jian-Yang on Silicon Valley (feel free to leave a comment in the comment section if any others come to mind). After some controversy with last year’s “HBOAccess” diversity program, the network is taking steps to try and curb their mistakes and improve on their inclusion numbers.

Earlier this month, the network announced the launch of HBO Asian Pacific American Visionaries, a short film competition “dedicated to showcasing emerging APA directors with unique perspectives of the Asian Pacific American experience.” Three films will be awarded cash prizes, make their premiere at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival in April 2017, and be offered the opportunity to license their film to premiere “exclusively on HBO (and/or its on-demand, digital, and/or social platforms) during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May 2017.” The wording on the licensing is a bit convoluted, but at least they’re offering the possibility of placing diverse content from new creators on their channels. It’s a late but great start, and signing with a performer like Rae to produce more diverse content can only bode well for the network.

Rae is best known as the creator of the YouTube web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl which won a Shorty Award. Tackling similar themes as will be found with Insecure, the comedy series follows J (Rae) as she deals with co-workers and love interests in uncomfortable situations. The series caught the attention of Pharrell Williams, who signed a production deal with Rae to broadcast Awkward Black Girl on YouTube through the channel of his creative firm iamOTHER. Rae has since developed her own content for various platforms, creating web content for Williams, Tracey Edmonds, and others. She has also developed a TV series with Shonda Rhimes for ABC, produced an audio drama podcast series for Howl called Fruit, and wrote a New York Times Best Seller also titled “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” released by Atria/Simon & Schuster in 2015.

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Writer. Audio/Creative Producer. Columnist, Film School Rejects.