As the folks behind Django Unchained and Girls can tell you, addressing issues of race can be a dicey affair. That’s what makes the accomplishments of actress-writer Issa Rae — who effortlessly navigates the intricacies of color on almost a weekly basis — all the more remarkable. In the two seasons it’s run, her YouTube workplace-comedy series, The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl, has won admiration from CNN, Katie Couric, and the New York Times alike, the latter of which branded her work “sharp, pointillist humor that’s extremely refreshing.” Vulture spoke with Rae about the secrets to deft racial satire, her big-screen goals, and the status of her Shonda Rhimes show, I Hate LA Dudes.
Why did you decide to put your Awkward Black Girl character, J, in an interracial relationship with White Jay?
It’s really kind of superficial. The first season, we were growing in popularity, but my producer at the time was saying in order to reach a bigger audience, and to reach White people specifically, you have to put a White person in the show. I was like, “Oh my God, that makes so much sense.” So we chose this character Jay. He was only supposed to be a one-off character. But once we premiered his episode, the audience went crazy in the [YouTube] comments section. I don’t want to bang anyone over the head with the same interracial tropes you’ve seen in the past. It just seemed like a fun story line. His name was initially “Jay,” and the commenters named him White Jay. So we stuck with that.
What do you think of HBO’s Girls? Hannah attempted interracial dating this season …
I’m definitely fascinated and amused by the series. I’ve seen every episode. I do love [Lena Dunham’s] voice. I do agree with the fact that there could be more diversity, but I think that’s the fault of the network, HBO, rather than Lena’s. Sometimes I can relate. Sometimes I can’t and am just looking at them like animals in a zoo. Either way, I’m watching.