Yvonne Orji’s Molly was, and still is, a hot topic of conversation after Season 4 of HBO’s Insecure. Throughout the season, Molly and Issa’s strong friendship was at the core of that conversation. Many were taking sides, and not Molly’s. At the heart of the story, there was a character who was finding her own voice, and learning to move through a difficult experience with a best friend. During our conversation we talked about Molly being labeled “the villain” of Season 4, but there is a lot more to this story.
Many describe Molly as hard-headed, or stubborn, and some even the cause of the rift. I will say it always takes two to tango, especially in a friendship. Molly is always a character who has tried to keep her head above the metric of Black exceptionalism. Molly works hard because the bar is high, and this often causes your own inner saboteur to rear its ugly head. Insecure tackled Black female friendship in an important and meaningful way. You are going to have those real and bumpy, long stretches. They happen. Yvonne’s performance as Molly was an incredible stand-out from this past season, and she tackled her brutal hard spots in the relationship beautifully.
During our conversation, I shared my own personal experience about halfway through our conversation and where I saw some of myself in Molly. I know I get frustrated with characters in television shows and films who do things I have done in my personal life that I regret or think they look bad. In the end, these may be things that I would do, too. I think a lot of this connects with Molly’s journey with Issa and in other parts of her life.
The conversation was not all deep. We laughed a lot and talked about how powerful this season of Insecure was and about the process of bringing Molly to life.
Awards Daily: Molly’s journey has been fascinating. Your performance throughout the whole season was incredible. You also provided some great moments of growth for Molly this season. How did your performance evolve for Molly?
Yvonne Orji: This is one of those times where you have times where you have to go to the nuance of the moments. I was coming from a place of those friendship cracks. You are finding the humor and the cracks in all the little hurts. I think the thing we did well was show how all the little cracks brought about the interesting moments in the story.
Leading up to Episode 5, you are seeing all those small moments. There were moments where Issa and Molly both felt like they were coming for each other, whether that was with a look, or a statement, or a missed connection or honestly a glance. Then those moments turn to anger and frustration. After all of this, you are feeling like your safe space is being taken away. When I am being attacked, I feel like you retreat, and when she comes at me, it feels off or like it should not be happening. This happened for both Molly and Issa.
The show was genuinely playing to the insecurity of all of these moments. While Molly may play strong at work or with her family or with Issa, she also has this mentality of “I do not want to be questioned.” You also see this is with her father and boyfriends where she just does not want to understand or forgive. With all of that going on and then her friendship with Issa cracking, she feels like all of the walls are crashing down on her. When you see her on the beach after all of those intense moments, you feel like she has hit that moment where she sees where she is, and she does want to try and fix it.
AD: I am really glad you brought up the friendship element. Molly and Issa’s friendship took center stage online. What did it feel like to be part of the zeitgeist?
YO: If you are asking how did it feel to be vilified [we both laughed together]. It happened, but I think there’s honestly a lot to unpack from this. The writers were flabbergasted by the reception and response from viewers. They put together a great story that laid the bread crumbs for a friendship that had two people at odds who were both grappling with how to communicate and maintain their relationship. The writers stated they thought viewers would be able to determine all the different faults in this story, and they would be able to see how both parties were part of this. The writers wanted to show a friendship from multiple angles and how all of this unfolds.
On the flip side, it was very interesting to see and hear how people relate to Molly. I felt like people might relate or get angry at Molly because they may be the Molly in some of their friendships. They may see some of the things that Molly has done in all of this and get frustrated with her because they seem some of things they have done are things Molly has done, and that can be hard to reconcile.
At the end of the day Molly is a human being, and what I loved about this season is we got to see her flaws and how these situations can show our humanity, and how we grow as people for ourselves, our friends, our partners, our families. We can’t and should not be perfect. We make these characters so real, flaws and all. I have a genuine love for that, and the show does a fantastic job highlighting the brilliance of my character and everyone else in the series.
The show does do a fantastic job of portraying Black female friendships, beyond Black female friendships but being Black in general. Black people often have to carry this burden of being perfect all the time, and it leaves no room for moments of weakness or moments of messiness. We have to be exceptional, and this burden is heavy. We see all of that in Molly this season, and in many ways it wears her down and finally breaks her friendship with Issa. The show providing the space to name and allow weakness is so important, and the writers did a great job of helping us explore the ability to be flawed.
AD: Molly goes back to her therapist Dr. Rhonda, and there is that line where she says to you “Do you want to be right or do you want to be in a relationship?” How do you feel about where Molly stands as of now?
YO: I think that is what Andrew was trying to show her. My brother is a jerk, and I can help you and I can show you. I can know the bad about someone and protect my boundaries. Molly is like if it does not serve me, then I am not doing it. Molly has had these moments of it’s my way or the highway and coming to this realization and hearing these words set something off in her head that she needed to change.
There is also a way to use your words, and this is something Molly has never done, or it’s on her terms. Dr. Rhonda’s question is something she had not thought about. Andrew also asks her “What are you fighting for?” She has to do her own self work, and that is a big piece to Molly’s journey. It’s also a reason I think people get frustrated with Molly because they do not want to do the self work that they need to do.
AD: Molly’s solo episode “Lowkey Trippin” was a great episode, and it was fun to see her let go with Andrew. How did you form a connection with Alexander Hodge?
YO: It’s easy to have this love for him, and to have that sweet and earnest chemistry, because he is a sweet and earnest guy. He is just consistently a good human being. It is a continuation of that energy. We shot that episode last and worked to motivate each other as production on the show was coming to a wrap to stay the course and enjoy the journey we had together.
Throughout the whole season we were amping each other up, and we became really good friends. Alex was my scene partner for most of the season because of the friendship divide, and he and I were in more scenes together than I was with Issa this season, so he was my person this past season. We have also been keeping in touch through everything going on with COVID, and checking in on one another. It was nice to form this bond with him throughout the season, and have that care show up in the work we did together.
AD: That moment of interplay with Andrew’s brother Victor in “Lowkey Trippin” created a really interesting discourse about the Black experience and the Asian experience. There was a conversation about racism and perception of experience at play. Talk to me about that scene.
YO: That episode aired during the week of everything with George Floyd. There was also an Asian officer who did not come to the rescue of George Floyd. The timing of that episode was something you could not have expected with dialogue. I think the episode spoke to a lot of unspoken conversations that need to happen around racism, cross-culturally.
When we were filming the episode we all said this is going to be a conversation starter. There is a lot that happens and is named in that may never have been said out loud. There are also Asian-owned businesses in Black communities. There were lots of Africans in Asian countries who were being mistreated. There are people who are interfacing and we shared how some of those interactions may look in those experiences. In many ways this conversation spoke to a lot of biases that exist in a cross-racial manner. It is up to us to call these biases out. Stop playing devil’s advocate, the devil is good; let’s name what is happening and try to fix and heal the problems.
On a filming level, it was hard to shoot, because not only was the water freezing but these experiences were real, and something that I connected to on a personal level. I was in a bungalow on vacation by myself. People would swim up to me, and ask me, “How did you get here?” It’s honestly an odd question, and there are times when people assume you are there as some rapper wife. Please stop putting me in a box; the simple fact is “I am here on my own and I did this myself.”
It’s also talking about Black people overseas, and talking about what it looks like when Black people leave this country and how Black folks are perceived across the globe. Sharing this experience was important to show, and to name for people to see what we experience.
AD: On a side note I had so much fun watching Kim Fields in that episode. What was it like to work with her?
YO: We gave flowers out. We had Kyle Pratt, Kim Fields, Wendy Raquel Robinson on this season. We really got to play with people Issa and many of the cast and crew admired. It was sweet to be able to play with some heroes that we have from our childhood.
AD: What do you hope people take away from this season?
YO: I think the takeaway is the impact of female friendships. There are so many things you can take away from this season, but friendship, particularly Black female friendships and the way the show shaped them is so important..
Black female friendship is so important. With a lot of people it their go to person may be for their grandma, or mother, or someone else, but for Black women you have your girl. From the season one finale after Laurence leaves, you see that the friendship between Issa and Molly is the core of the show. When you see them at the end of season four at the restaurant, the relationship is different, they are at a different place, but are ready to work, but the core of them is still there.
I think the other thing I want to highlight is episode 8. You talk about love, and give Natasha Rothwell all the flowers for creating episode 8. We needed the love we see in that episode between Issa and Laurence. It was so gut-wrenchingly beautiful.