Issa Rae and HBO’s Casey Bloys on How ‘Insecure’ Is Like ‘Golden Girls’

Imeh Bryant / Paley Center

Insecure” is about two young black women. “The Golden Girls” was about four old white ladies. So it drew a few laughs Tuesday night when HBO programming president Casey Bloys invoked the latter show when talking about one his favorite elements of the former Tuesday night at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills.

“The fantasy of ‘Golden Girls,'” Bloys began, as the audience broke into heavy laughter. “Hear me out. I’m trying to make a point. The fantasy of ‘Golden Girls’ is that even at the end, you had your girlfriends with you, and I think that’s a very important part of this show.” He likened the relationship between the four women on “Golden Girls” to the friendship between the characters Issa and Molly on “Insecure.”

“First of all, thank you for being a friend,” Rae responded.

Bloys and Rae appeared together Tuesday night for a Paley Media Council conversation, in which the HBO executive interviewed the “Insecure” creator and star. Based on Rae’s web series “Awkward Black Girl,” “Insecure” first went into development at HBO in 2013, when Bloys was head of comedy for the premium cable channel. The show premiered last year, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best comedy series.

Rae recalled her two attempts at creating a web series prior to “Awkward Black Girl,” both of which failed to garner the attention of television executives.

“By the time I came up with idea for ‘Awkward Black Girl,’ I was like, ‘If they don’t want these commercially successful hits, they’re never gonna come with a show about an awkward black girl,'” Rae said. “This was for the internet specifically. I was doing it because I was frustrated by the lack of representation I was seeing.”

Bloys brought Rae in to meet at HBO after reading about, then watching “Awkward Black Girl” — making Rae one of the few series creators in television to come from outside traditional talent-development channels.

On her web series, Rae was used to spearheading all aspects of production. While making the “Insecure” pilot, she recalled to Bloys, the line producer sat her down to check in, worried that an inexperienced writer-producer-star might be overwhelmed by the pace of television.

“I was like, ‘I kind of feel like this is a vacation,'” she said. “Everybody was doing everything. You guys hired a person who just moves plants.”

Rae also talked about growing up watching black-cast television series in the ’90s such as “Girlfriends,” “A Different World,” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

“I always go back to, even in the discussions with you guys, trying to find the ‘regular’ black person on television,” Rae said — citing the UPN sitcom “Moesha,” starring pop singer Brandy, as an example. “It was Brandy just being a regular teenage girl I felt like I could relate to.”

Rae also asked Bloys how he felt the show’s success would impact HBO. In its history, HBO has had few shows with primarily black casts or black creators. Bloys replied that “Insecure” had brought new writers and directors — many of them African-American — into the HBO fold who could work on and develop more programming for the network.

“It introduces us to new talent,” he said.