Jay Ellis hopes that his new HBO series, “Insecure,” will help to change society’s perception of black America and highlight that black people are far from one-dimensional.
The 30-minute comedy series, created by Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore, follows the friendship of Issa Dee (played by Rae) and Molly (played by Yvonne Orji) as they navigate modern-day experiences that deal with dating, career and social issues as a young professional while living in South Los Angeles, California.
During a visit to AOL’s Build series on Friday, Ellis ― who plays Issa’s unemployed, depressed boyfriend, Lawrence ― discussed the development of the show and his hopes for it to help dispel some past negative preconceived notions of what life looks like for residents of South LA ― which has often been depicted as a poverty-stricken community ridden with gang violence in some of the most memorable ‘90s black films.
“You see movies like ‘Menace II Society’ or ‘Boyz n the Hood’ or anything else that could’ve informed your opinion of what South LA or South Central was and I think what’s really great about this show. As a person who’s lived in some of those areas, it’s not like that, at all,” he said.
“There’s pockets of it [violence], just like there’s pockets of it in any other city, but it’s a middle class neighborhood. And I think what’s so important about this and getting to shoot it in South LA is it will change people’s preconceived notion of what South LA is. It’s safe… Never once did we not feel safe in our movie trailers. So I think that’s really important, because it helps change the conversation about what a black neighborhood is.”
Ellis later went on to explain his responsibility as an actor to change the conversation surrounding black men.
“For me, the older I got and the more experiences I had out in the world I realized that this medium, in a very large way, allows me to change the conversation about black men, not only in this country, but in the world,” he said. “I meet so many people who think that a black man is this, or a black man is that and don’t realize that there’s cats that went to Harvard, and cats that didn’t go to school who still came up and did something amazing.”
He added that being able to change other people’s perception of black men is one of the many things that drives him as an actor.
“I wanted to find a way to change the conversation about black men in this country. Because we’re just like anybody else at the end of the day,” he continued.
“Which is what’s so important about this show, yes, there are nuances and specifics to every demographic of people, but we all kind of boil down to the same few things. We all wanna be loved, we all want happiness, we all want success, we want happy, healthy families. There’s things that we all want as humans, and so I think that’s one of the things that always keeps me going.”
HBO’s “Insecure” premieres on Oct. 9 at 10:30 p.m. EST. Check out more of Jay Ellis’ AOL Build episode in the video above.