Watching the fourth season of HBO’s “Insecure” was an emotional roller coaster ride for fans witnessing the implosion of the friendship between the comedy’s central duo, Issa Dee (Issa Rae) and Molly (Yvonne Orji). Filming the show’s tense storyline was just as emotional behind the scenes.
“Issa and I had this moment [this season], because we weren’t filming together a lot of the time and then when we were filming it was like, ‘I got to be mad at you?’ I remember going to her [saying], ‘This sucks, I like you. How can we make this stop?’” Orji tells Variety’s Angelique Jackson. “Then when you had that fight in episode five it really is like, ‘There ain’t no fun when the family feuds.’ I think that’s a Jay-Z lyric, but it’s apropos.”
Rae and Orji shared the most emotional moments during a special Variety Streaming Room discussion with executive producer/writer/director Prentice Penny and music supervisor Kier Lehman.
Filming the first four episodes of the season was particularly tense, leading to the blow-out fight between the friends in episode five, titled “Lowkey Movin’ On.” After that, the two stars spent even more time apart, exploring Issa and Molly’s storylines separately. For Rae, the most emotional scene came in the season’s ninth episode (“Lowkey Trying”), when Issa and Molly have a heartbreaking conversation, just when it seems they might have gotten past their issues.
“Hearing [Molly] say, ‘You and I don’t fit.’ It’s harsh for someone to tell you that you don’t fit in their life anymore and that you can’t evolve with them,” Rae recalls. “The way Yvonne delivered that, you could tell that she was struggling to get that out. It almost made the blow worse. She was ripping the band-aid off, but it still hurt. That was devastating.”
“I think a close second is Andrew (Alexander Hodge) asking Molly, ‘What are you fighting for?’” Orji says, recounting the couple’s breakup during the season finale. “I felt so sad because … Molly didn’t even have a response to that. She just spent so much time crying and wanting what she wanted, that by the time somebody stopped her it’s like, ‘Hey, what are you fighting for right now?’ It hit in so many ways.”
Filming the scene at 3 a.m. at the end of a long shooting day presented another test for the actor, because Penny — who directed the episode — forced Orji to dig into the emotions of the moment.
“Prentice literally kept the camera rolling for five minutes and I was like, ‘Okay, we’re not done. I said the lines.’ I had finished the lines of the page,” she says. “I was being challenged and pushed in ways that were beautiful. … And then just the silence, because I think that’s what Molly didn’t have. Also, that’s what I [as Yvonne] didn’t have in that moment. Sitting in the silence allows you to then find [the emotion]. That was essential.”
But after the tears came a bit of laughter when Penny finally called cut.
“The best part was, we had a PA on the show and I had actual tears [in my eyes] and once Prentice called cut, the tears fell,” Orji adds. “She was like, ‘Who made you cry?’ Like, she was about to fight somebody for me … she was like ‘Who did something to her? Who?’”
Rae and Orji also shared their take on the show’s big finale cliffhanger — what will happen to Issa’s rekindled romance with Lawrence (Jay Ellis) now that his ex-girlfriend Condola (Christina Elmore) is pregnant?
“I think good things don’t last forever. But I think specifically this season was about Issa and Molly’s journey,” Rae says. “You can say that Issa was able to explore this relationship with Lawrence because she was on the outs with Molly. That allowed her to grow in a way that brought them back together and that was very important to us in telling that story.”
She continues: “Obviously Season 5 will be a continuation of that, and we’ll get to explore a bit more of both stories. But in terms of that being the choice, it was always about Issa and Molly.”
Watch the full Q&A above, which also includes a special conversation with Rae and Lehman about the music of “Insecure.”