You can ask Natasha Rothwell about anything but Wonder Woman. The star and writer on HBO’s Insecure has been flipping scripts around Tinsel Town since season three closed out in 2018. When she wasn’t adding her humor to films like Sonic The Hedgehog and Like A Boss, she was doing something she can’t speak about yet with Gal Gadot in the upcoming Wonder Woman sequel. While those films are now available to stream at home, the theatrical release of Wonder Woman 1984 is now TBD due to COVID-19’s current upheaval of Hollywood. “The beauty of being so far down that totem pole is I don’t even know it to spill it,” she teases when asked for any updates on the DC film. “So, when you know let me know.”
What she does know is that Insecure, the hit drama about a group of friends in their 30s navigating love and career in Los Angeles, is back for an emotional and funny fourth season. Her character, Kelli, returns as the sensual and quick-witted anchor to Issa (Issa Rae), Molly (Yvonne Orji) and Tiffany (Amanda Seales). Season three ended with a revealing outdoor screening of The Last Dragon for Issa’s birthday, which Kelli dubbed a “graveyard of sex ghosts past” as Issa and Molly endured several awkward encounters with former lovers at the event. It’s the kind of spot-on observation that makes Kelli a fan favorite and one of the realest friends a TV character can hope to have.
Rothwell spoke to BET.com about Kelli’s growth in season four, returning to her sketch comedy roots and the pros and cons of sheltering in place.
BET.com: How have you been making out in Club Quarantine?
Natasha Rothwell: Club Quarantine has been okay. I think I’m doing as good as I can be. I think we’re all looking forward to a time when we can remember this instead of being in it.
BET.com: What’s the first thing you think you’ll do when you can finally be around people again?
Rothwell: I think I’m just going to hug everyone. I took for granted greeting and saying hi with hugs. It’s something that I miss for sure.
BET.com: I spoke with Taraji P. Henson recently and she said she’s taught herself how to do her own nails and hair while self-isolating. Have you taken on anything new?
Rothwell: A lot of cooking. I’ve been doing my best to play around in the kitchen and I think before all this happened, the time and luxury to just play around with recipes, I didn’t always have. Even though it’s something I’ve always loved to do. It’s been nice getting in the kitchen and figuring out how I would make a chipotle burrito at home, “How would I do that?” So, you look up how to make cilantro rice and refried beans. It’s a good way for to process and make the best of the time.
I think this quarantine is going to be a real creative incubator for a lot of artists who have to create when we have a hiatus at prescribed times. So, this is like a forced hiatus on the whole community, so I’ve been spending my time writing and really trying to make the most of this gift.
BET.com: This has been the longest break between the seasons of Insecure, but you ladies got the band back together for A Black Lady Sketch Show. What do you remember about taping the sketches “Get The Belt 92” and the “Negro League Groupies.”?
Rothwell: I was so happy that Robin Thede asked me to be part of her show. I cut my teeth in sketch, so it was nice to return to my roots. It was just so much fun playing with the heightened drama, especially in Black culture, “you don’t wanna wake mom when she’s sleeping,” playing around with the things from our youth as far as “good batteries” and “letting the good air out.” It was fun to tap into our culture in that way.
The “Negro League” sketch was so much fun, to play around with that era and having so much fun with the ladies in costume and Issa cracking me up with the gold tooth. It was a good day of shooting for both.
BET.com: Getting a fourth season for any show is a big deal. What was the first table read like for the new season of Insecure?
Rothwell: First of all, thank you. No one is promised a season two let alone a season four. So, we’re entirely grateful to have the opportunity to tell these stories.
I remember the first table read for the season, it was like a college reunion because we hadn’t seen each other for a year almost. Everyone from our post production supervisor to the set designer was just hugging and catching up, new haircuts and clothes. It felt like the first day of school.
Being around the table and reading the scripts aloud, everyone was really excited for the season because we really had the time between season three and season four to live our lives and have stories to draw from. Because in so much of the writing process, we use stories from our actual lives to inspire the stories we tell on the show. If we don’t have the opportunity to go out in the world and have experiences, the well is not as full to draw from. We just came back energized and we had so many stories to tell and share. So when we sat around the table to read the first episode we were just over the moon because we knew from that moment “This is gonna be good.”
BET.com: Kelli is my favorite. What is she doing while Issa and Molly are working through their issues?
Rothwell: I think she’s one of the most consistent characters on the show. Her journey has been exploring how she can be there for her friends and to tell them the truth at all costs. She sort of represents a lot of my friends who aren’t necessarily concerned with getting themselves in a couple, they’re just out there having good, safe fun, enjoying themselves, enjoying their bodies and being a successful boss lady at work. This season I think for her is being there for her friends and showing up in ways that we’ve seen before, but also in new ways, which I’m excited for audiences to see.
BET.com: In the Halloween part of the trailer you wear this BAPS costume that you nailed. Was that your choice or was that in the script? And how did you pull off that coif?
Rothwell: I mean, the hair and makeup team and wardrobe team knocked it out of the park. In the writers room I had pitched BAPS and it was one of those things because I’m a writer for the show and I act on the show, I don’t always put it together that I will have to do that. I remember pitching it and we were like “what are some costumes that don’t require explanation?” like as soon as you see it you know it. It took two wardrobe people getting me into this plastic leather situation that I was like “oh I did this to myself.” But it was so much fun to do and just a huge, huge shout out to the hair and makeup team and wardrobe department on Insecure. They really outdid themselves on that.
Insecure is the gold standard. There is nothing like being a person of color and walking into a trailer and feeling seen, understood, protected and celebrated.
BET.com: Kelli has this great line when she’s bartending the mixer: “The stronger the libation the bigger the donation.” How much of Kelli as a character do you relate to as a person?
Rothwell: I think in the Venn diagram of herself and me there is a little overlap, but not as much as people want it to be. I’m very introverted and kind of shy. I think when I get to play Kelli I get to behave and tap into parts of myself that I don’t normally because that’s not where I operate. My base frequency is pretty reserved and pretty quiet. And I think that playing her allows me to turn up the volume on those aspects of my character that are there, like everyone has them, but we listen to those frequencies at different volumes. I just get to play with the knobs a bit.
The areas where we’re pretty similar is I’m fiercely loyal. My friends, I ride or die for them. I’m very protective of my friendships and I think, much like my character, I really do believe in telling the truth at all costs. I think that’s why I call Trump trash every day on Twitter. For me it’s about being honest. One of my favorite quotes is “If you tell the truth you never have to remember anything.”
BET.com: As I’m watching the show, specifically with Issa and Molly, they are both living their version of the truth. At different points I found myself siding with both of them. Do you find yourself siding with one more than the other?
Rothwell: I think there are moments when you feel and understand the decisions that they make, one a little better than the other. But I think this season we’re doing what the show does best, we have a lot of topics and conversations on our show that spark conversations in the real world. We’re not trying to tell people how to live. We’re asking a lot of questions more than we’re telling them answers, which allows for real nuanced conversations. In our show, the relationship between Issa and Molly--and whomever they’re with or not with--it’s an exploration of what they think is right. And it’s not always universal. And I think that’s true to life. Conversations and conflict we deal with interpersonally, no one is 100 percent wrong or 100 percent right. So that nuance is really fun to write, fun to act and fun to watch because it feels real.
BET.com: Given our current lockdown situation, what’s your plan to celebrate on premiere night for Insecure?
Rothwell: Every season for the show we usually all get together and watch and live tweet. But I imagine we’ll try to do that virtually and watch with our fans. As sad a situation it is now and how very, very real it is for people, my hope is that they’re able to tap into our show for a little bit of a reprieve from how intense it is. Just to see themselves on TV and have a little mental break.
I think a part of getting through this is balancing how much you’re educating yourself and self-care, taking the mental breaks you need to laugh a little bit. Laughter is medicinal and our show will be a reprieve from what’s going on.
Insecure Season 4 premieres on HBO Sunday April 12.
Sonic The Hedgehog and Like A Boss are available on digital now and Like A Boss will be on Blu-Ray April 21st.
Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic