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Issa Rae Says a White Producer Tried to Tell Her What Black People Wanted to Watch During an ‘Unofficial’ Pitch Meeting

2020 has brought a lot of success for director and actress Issa Rae. During the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony, which took place virtually on Sunday, Sept. 20, the actress spoke candidly about her first-ever Hollywood pitch when a white producer told her what Black people wanted to watch on television.

Rae, whose show “Insecure,” received eight Emmy nominations this year, said that the “unofficial” encounter gave her the motivation to keep “doing what I was doing.”

Issa Rae recalled her first Hollywood pitch when a white producer told her what Black people wanted to see on television. (Photo: @issarae/Instagram)

“My first Hollywood pitch was kind of unofficial,” the actress revealed. “Basically, I had this web series. It was the third web series I had ever made. The executive was like, ‘Yes, I saw your show. Funny stuff … Funny stuff.’ And I was like, ‘Um, thank you.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, it’s about this Black woman and her Black-woman problems. Hilarious,’ and I was like, ‘That’s not what it’s about. But OK.'”

Rae continued, “He was like, ‘Yeah, but you know, the Black audience, they want to see familiar faces. So, you might need to switch up the characters.’ And, mind you, he’s this executive that’s not Black telling me what Black people like. And it just became very clear to me that he didn’t get the show. And I remember just fuming in that meeting like, ‘Why does he get to tell me what gets to be on TV? Why does he get to tell me what people like me like to see? I’m here! I’m telling you what I want to see. I made it.”

Despite the uncomfortable exchange, the 35-year-old said she used the experience to fuel her ambitions. “For me, that moment was the motivation I needed to keep doing what I was doing,” Rae explained. “To kind of bet on myself. And that fueled me. Like, ‘Oh, OK. I’ll show you.’ And, you know, one of us got fired after that.”

“The Photograph” star found a lot of success with her web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” which premiered on YouTube in 2011. However, it was that show as well her other work on “Ratchet Piece Theater” and “The Choir” that led to the creation of the popular HBO series “Insecure.”

This year the show was nominated for several major categories, including Outstanding Comedy Series, but lost to Canadian comedy series “Schitt’s Creek,” which swept all seven comedy series categories. 

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