Yvonne Orji doesn’t have the luxury of being bored. On another Quarantine Friday during the nation’s current shelter-in-place directive, the actress, producer and comic has been holed up in her home editing her upcoming comedy special and putting the finishing touches on a book. While she has enjoyed dipping in and out of D-Nice’s Instagram parties, folks should not assume she’s about that social distance and chill life.
“Then, of course, when people know that you are home, that’s when they’re like ‘Well, can you do this?’ No, no, no. I don’t like this. People think I’m not busy because I’m home and they have access to me. This is trash.”
Orji manages to joke while remaining dead serious in a way her character Molly from HBO’s Insecure has perfected. It’s a skill that has taken her from the small screen to center stage at Barclay’s opening for Chris Rock, and then headlining her own “Lagos To Laurel” tour earlier this year.
“It is, for me, more than comedy because I got to go back to Nigeria and interview my parents as part of the special, so it has a bit of a documentary element to it,” she says of the upcoming special on HBO. “This was kind of my way of having their voice in something very special and big for me, because they’re such an integral factor in who I am and becoming. It felt like a diary entry, but from my parents’ perspective. I’m putting on for my people in Nigeria and in Maryland. I shot the special at Howard Theater and my mom was a nurse at Howard University so I wanted to bring it back to the DMV. It felt like two separate homecomings, if you will.”
While fans will have to wait a bit to see the finished product, they can get a full serving of Orji when Insecure returns for a fourth season on April 12th. BET spoke with Orji about Molly’s growth in the new season and giving the people what they want.
BET: Congratulations on the fourth season of Insecure. Do you remember where you were when you found out you were getting a new season?
Yvonne Orji: I don’t remember where I was but I do remember being happy as heck because mama got a mortgage. When you got big girl bills, you’re like hallelujah, I will receive and I am available, thank you and God bless. It’s also great because we have a good time. HBO has been a phenomenal home, they’ve been good to us as a show and to me as an individual. I think they’ve spoiled me to be honest. I don’t know that I can go onto another show and have the same kind of environment as Insecure. I’m basically Molly at the Black law firm like, “But at my old firm…” I feel like I’m going to be her when I go to another show or a movie set: “Well, on Insecure we did it this way.”
BET: Speaking of HBO, you did have a mini reunion on A Black Lady Sketch Show. Every time I fly and get an exit row seat I think about your hilarious “Exit Row” sketch.
Yvonne Orji: What’s funny is I actually was in an exit row seat [once] and I had my headphones on and could not hear the lady. I took them off and she was like “Ma’am, are you willing and able?” and I was so tempted to go “Nyaah!” to see what she would say, but I respected myself and said “Yes, ma’am.”
BET: Now the band is back together after more than a year. How did it feel when you saw the full squad again?
Yvonne Orji: It was a while. It really did feel like the gang was back. Not only had we taken summer vacation, but one of us went backpacking in Europe. Everybody was gone doing their own thing, but it felt like we never left. We picked up right where we left off.
It had been a fun journey the last five years and I’m just excited because this season is unlike any other season we’ve had. One, because we heard y’all cries and we gave ya’ll ten episodes. TEN episodes so please leave us alone! Y’all be vocal. “Why the episodes so short?” We’re actually giving you more than the average show because there are no commercials. But you know, y’all never satisfied. We love our fans. That’s just like any good thing. When you go to Cheesecake Factory you go “Why is this menu so extensive?” but you get the Bang Bang Chicken and Shrimp every time.
BET: In the trailer there is a Halloween scene and you are wearing the cheerleading outfit from Bring It On. Did you pick that?
Yvonne Orji: That was written in the script and when I saw it I was like “Oh, y’all don’t want me to eat anything all day?” We shot that scene for three days in a row so I was on a forced fast. They was like, ‘Oh, we going to crafty” and I was like, ‘Yeah cuz you got full clothes on. You can go to crafty.’ I’ll be over here drinking this water and chomping on ice.
BET: How do you feel Molly has grown since season one?
Yvonne Orji: I think Molly is getting there. Change is progressive. In the first two seasons she was experiencing the first stage of change, which is the realization that I’ve got to do something. It keeps you in this pattern of Double Dutch. I know I gotta do something, but what? For some people “but what” is regressing back to what they know because it’s easy. Then I think in season three she’s kind of like “I’m learning, I’m in therapy, I gotta be more open.” It’s so scary and then stuff happens with her dad and it’s ‘You see!’ She’s making the changes putting one foot forward, but then one and a half foot back. So, she’s just trying to find her stride.
I think everyone is growing. This season we see Issa find success in a way that we haven’t seen her. When she decided to leave We Got Y’all, that was a bold move. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re gonna do next, but you know what you’re not gonna do no more. Now she’s going out on her own. And Molly is like now I have a relationship. And I’m just trying to do it how it should be done, maybe how I felt my parents should have done it. Or how I hoped it would be. This is what love looks like. Or is it? She gonna learn.
BET: Speaking of relationships, what’s it like hooking up with Alex Hodge again? Andrew and Molly might be my favorite couple on the show right now.
Yvonne Orji: He has been a true absolute pleasure and joy to work with. I think that speaks to all the men we cast on the show. They’re amazing human beings beyond amazing actors. Jay Ellis is everyone’s favorite. I know there is a #Lawrencehive, but Jay is the real deal. Y’lan (Noel) is phenomenal to work with and now you’re adding Alexander. He’s a great actor. We have a lot of scenes together. Most of the season was me and him and you wanna work with people you like, people you enjoy and people you trust.
As a character Molly and Andrew, they are something else. There’s a lot of good chemistry. Andrew is helping Molly grow up in a way. Because he’s not a push over. He’s forcing her to take a look at what she actually wants. And I don’t think anyone has grown-man’d her in that way before.
BET: Season 3 ended with some real tension between Molly and Issa. How do you two prepare to shoot those scenes?
Yvonne Orji: They’re horrible. Even in season one, I think in episode seven, we get upset and have the big blow out at her fundraiser, that was hard! I was apologizing to her between takes. I had to go home and watch VEEP that night because I was still mad. I needed something to make me laugh. It triggers you. It makes you think of relationships where you’ve had to have those deep conversations with people whom you felt were your friends. But there is no preparation for it.
I think after all these years Issa knows that I have her back, her front and her side. And I think that’s also what adds to the intensity of those scenes. You have characters who love each other so deeply, but are just not communicating effectively. They’re not being honest, they’re not being open and vulnerable with each other. It’s the little things you let slide, the little things you let linger that turn into [misunderstandings].
I think getting ready to shoot those scenes it’s knowing that we all have these relationships in the past and bring those experiences to the moment. Once they yell “cut” we’re able to walk away and say “You wanna get some food at crafty? Let’s go.”
To find out what happens with Issa and Molly, tune into Insecure on Sunday April 12 on HBO.
Photo Courtesy of HBO