Issa Rae daz­zling in ‘Inse­cure’

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - Hal Boedeker

No black woman has won the Emmy for best ac­tress in a com­edy se­ries since Is­abel San­ford of “The Jef­fer­sons” in 1981.

That could change next month. Tracee El­lis Ross of ABC’s “black­ish” is nom­i­nated for the third time for play­ing Dr. Rain­bow John­son. Issa Rae is nom­i­nated for the first time for por­tray­ing Issa Dee on “Inse­cure,” a show Rae cre­ated with Larry Wil­more.

Rae re­mains in top form as “Inse­cure” starts its third sea­son Sun­day on HBO. (Rae also wrote the sea­son pre­miere.) The ac­tress man­ages to be ra­di­ant and charm­ing as her char­ac­ter weath­ers a range of chal­lenges.

She is sti­fled at work, the non­profit We Got Y’all that helps mi­nor­ity chil­dren, by an over­bear­ing and clue­less boss. She fills her off hours as a Lyft driver, meet­ing un­usual riders and en­dur­ing odd sit­u­a­tions. Short of

money, she sleeps on the couch of pal Daniel (Y’lan Noel), who has a noisy sex life.

Issa and Daniel share a pow­er­ful at­trac­tion that “Inse­cure” ex­plores with un­ex­pected in­ten­sity. Issa dreams about Daniel, but this is no stan­dard rom-com.

“Inse­cure” stands in the line of great sit­coms about fe­male friends. Issa’s best pal is at­tor­ney Molly (Yvonne Orji), who has money, a new job and a thorny sex life. Issa dis­plays a sun­ni­ness to Molly’s cyn­i­cism that echoes Mary Richards and Rhoda Mor­gen­stern on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

When Issa, Molly and their pals speak frankly about their lives, it’s rem­i­nis­cent of hear­ing Car­rie Bradshaw and her gang on “Sex and the City.”

Yet “Inse­cure” goes places those sit­coms didn’t by ex­plor­ing race. Issa won’t speak up about prob­lems at work, where most of her col­leagues are white, but the show shares her fierce thoughts. The se­ries also ex­plores Daniel’s frus­tra­tions as a mu­si­cian and vis­its a night­club where a night out can end night­mar­ishly.

On HBO, the re­sults can range from ten­der to raunchy, but “Inse­cure” is al­ways worth fol­low­ing be­cause of Rae. Her char­ac­ter may not know what she wants, and she may be at sev­eral dead ends, but you al­ways get the sense that, like Mary Richards, she’s go­ing to make it af­ter all.

View­ers need peo­ple to pull for, and Rae comes through with a daz­zling vi­vac­ity that’s win­ning. Emmy, take note.

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