Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices: Issa Rae was advised to add white characters in her shows for them to be successful

Issa Rae arrives at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 17, 2018, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Issa Rae arrives at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 17, 2018, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

When Issa Rae was writing Awkward Black Girl” and the HBO show Insecure,” a colleague advised her to include a white character in the show. Her colleague said having a white character in her show, which is focused on Black people, would make white audiences care about it and bring more attention to the show. 

“From the jump in creating the show, it was put in my mind that you had to have a white character to be a bridge, and for people to care, for it to get awards, for it to be considered worthy of the television canon,” Rae said in an interview with MIC. 

In the show “Insecure,” the character Freida was a white coworker and friend of Issa's character and was featured heavily in the first three seasons. Issa’s creative team questioned if she should be featured in the rest of the seasons. Issa refused and said this show wasn’t about Frieda but about the black characters. 

Not only do we see how white characters have to be included in our space but how Black shows influence other white shows. “Living Single” was a Black sitcom featuring six Black friends living in Brooklyn, New York. The five seasons ran from 1993 to 1998, then in 1994 “Friends started production.

"Friends" had the same plot as “Living Single” but with six white friends instead. The name “Friends” was also one of the original titles for “Living Single,” so people found it alarming another show with the same storyline was being filmed but in a whiter version.

David Schwimmer in an interview said there should be an “all Black” “Friends.” Schwimmer, like many people, has either forgotten or doesn’t even know there was a previous plot like “Friends.”

Erika Alexander, who co-starred in “Living Single,” said in a tweet “4 yr edutainment. Help me school him,” in response to Schwimmer, referring to him binge-watch the series. 

A lot of people, including co-stars who were supporters of “Living Single,” didn’t like how “Friends” did so well and received more seasons just because it had a predominantly white cast. 

Throughout the entertainment industry, we see white people forced into Black spaces as a reason for them to be successful, whether it’s with characters or the storyline of the shows.

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