If you’re watching “Insecure,” and you have a crush on Lawrence this season, you’re not alone. Issa’s ex-boyfriend is looking good this season — and we’ve been seeing a whole lot of him. Jay Ellis, who plays Lawrence, doesn’t mind the attention. “You know, Issa [Rae, creator and star of "Insecure] has been very up front with saying, ‘Listen this is my show and I’m tired of seeing women have to be naked all the time, so dudes are going to be naked in my show!’” he says over the phone. He laughs, and it’s infectious. “‘If it was your show you would do it, and it’s my show and I’m doing it. I’m doing it for the ladies!’ You gotta love that from your boss.”
The 35-year-old is charming and thoughtful, and it’s no wonder why his “Insecure” character has so very many vocal fans, especially on Twitter. “The response and the conversation is all you could ever ask for — it’s what I dream of as an actor,” he says. “For people to be able to respond and feel a certain way and for it to move people emotionally.”
We talked to Ellis about what to expect this season, making sex sexy again and the sheer brilliance of “Chewing Gum.”
This season is exploring a lot of new ground. What do you make of Lawrence’s journey?
There’s two sides of it. [One one hand,] he’s still missing what he had, but on the other side there’s this whole new world that’s there for him to go and experience. It’s really cool to see those things examined in a way that we just haven’t before.
He’s going through a lot of changes — sometimes he seems like a f—kboi, and sometimes he seems like a good dude.
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I think he’s all of those things, man. I think he’s on this path and he’s completely reactionary. He’s not using his words. And for Lawrence — who typically comes across very much as a thinker — there’s a bit of him being lost, 100 percent. And him being lost is causing him to be reckless. [He’s] not thinking about his actions and the decisions that he’s making.
Between the last episode of the last season and the first episodes of the second season you’re naked. A lot.
We laugh about it. And we haven’t really seen that on TV that much. I was talking with a friend of mine the other day and I was like, "When’s the last time you saw a black dude naked on TV?" Literally, there’s not many examples of it [especially] in a normal way, not in a hyper-masculine way. Our writers do a really good job — the nudity the sex in the show is never just because. It’s never gratuitous, it shows what these people are going through in their lives and in their moments.
It’s also refreshing to see sex be sexy again, and not just awkward like it has been in some recent shows. “Girls” comes to mind, for example.
We’ve all had those awkward sexual experiences. And we get to have them in this show, but we also get to have the sexy ones. And then emotions begin to play into that, and that’s what so cool about what Issa and the rest of our writers do, is they capture that. It’s a part of telling that story.
I know you love “Chewing Gum,” and Michaela Coel, and you have this role in “Insecure.” What draws you to the narrative of young, somewhat awkward black people?
I love any time when people can just go out there and just be us. And I love comedy, so a show like [“Chewing Gum”] gets me, because I get to sit there and just laugh at the world she’s created and all the things that go through her head. It’s brilliant! We don't get to show our truth on television that often. It’s told through someone else’s lens of what they think our truth is. And I just love the fact that we’re getting to tell our stories from a true place, from an authentic place and that’s from us.
Follow Rachael Vaughan Clemmons on Twitter — @rachaelclemz