Issa Rae Recalls TV Exec Who ‘Got Fired After’ Gatekeeping Pitch Meeting

During the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards, four-time Emmy nominated actor Issa Rae, creator and star of “Insecure,” recalled her first Hollywood pitch experience, where a studio executive attempted to tell her what Black audiences wanted to see on television.

“The executive was like ‘Yes, I saw your show, funny stuff, funny stuff,’” Rae said of pitching her third web series. “And I was like ‘Um, thank you.’ And he was like ‘Yeah, it’s about this Black woman and her Black woman problems, hilarious.’ And I was like ‘That’s not what it’s about, but OK.’”

Rae said the executive, who is not Black, told her that Black audiences want to “see familiar faces” and that she might need to “switch up the characters.” “It just became very clear to me that he didn’t get the show,” she said.

The experience fueled Rae to keep pushing for increased representation of Black people on television, in an effort to disprove the executive’s gatekeeping of what stories are told on screen.

“I remember just fuming in that meeting like ‘Why does he get to tell me what gets to be on TV? Why does he get to tell me what people like me like to see, when I’m here, I’m telling you what I wanna see — I made it,’” Rae said. “For me that moment was the motivation I needed to keep doing what I was doing, to kinda bet on myself.”

Rae, whose recent projects also include the films “The Photograph” and “The Lovebirds,” humorously alluded to the end result of the pitch meeting: “And, you know, one of us got fired after that,” she said.