Issa Rae dazzling in ‘Insecure’
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.