Issa Rae on the Challenges She’s Faced Leading a Writers’ Room


-You moved to L.A. when you
were in high school, yeah? -I moved when I was 11,
so middle school — moved back.
-And was it a culture shock to come back, ’cause you were
living out of the country? And how was L.A. middle school compared to what
you expected it to be? -You know, I was
out of the country, and I was also in Maryland
for like five years. And I was watching a lot of TV. My cousins were watching
a lot of TV, which included
“Saved by the Bell,” “90210.” So, I had this fantasy that
when I moved back to L.A., I was gonna be moving back
to Hollywood, even though I never lived there and my parents didn’t tell me
we were moving to Hollywood. But I just was like, “Oh,
I’m about to be Kelly Kapowski
in these streets, I’m about to be Kelly
from ‘90210.’” And I thought I was just
gonna have, you know, boys pining after me. And it was just —
it wasn’t that. -It wasn’t that.
-It was not that at all. -I feel like the good news is
“Saved by the Bell” probably gave a lot of kids
a false expectation of what high school
was gonna be. -We all wanted a Zack Morris.
-Yeah. -You know?
-You didn’t meet a single guy
who could stop time? -No. Not a single guy
who wanted to stop for me. No. Stop time, nothing. -You — Marsai plays a bad boss
in this film. -She does.
-Have you had bad bosses in your life?
-I was thinking about whether or not
I had any bad bosses, and one to came to mind,
but then I realized, “Oh, I was just a bad employee.” I was not —
-Yeah. -She was just like,
“All I want you to do
is do your job. Like, I’m giving you tasks,
and you don’t do them.” ‘Cause I would be, like —
come into work like, “Ugh, she wants me to do stuff?
Like, I’m trying to write.” So, I… I looked at her in
a whole new light. -Do you think that part of that
is that you are a boss now, that you have some perspective
on it? -Yes, definitely.
-Do you — Have there been times that you
have done anything as a boss that you now look back and go, “Oh, I was a bad boss
at that moment”? -I mean, I’m always just — Yes,
in terms of communicating. Sometimes I need to be better
about being direct about what I want. But, you know, it’s just hard
to navigate ’cause sometimes,
even in this industry, I’ve tried — and I’m curious
if you’ve had the same issue — sometimes you’re working with
people that you’re friends with, and especially in a writers’
room, in particular, like, the community
is just so easy, it’s hard to go into, like,
“tell them what to do” mode. -Yeah. Exactly. I think you’re right, that
you’re in a writers’ room, there’s a sense of, like,
we’re a community, we’re all in this together,
a lot of us came out
of improv troupes, where it’s, like, all for one,
and then as the boss, you have to go like,
“Okay, great. Also, this is all bad,
and I need you to start over. We’ve all had our fun, but I can’t say any of this
on television, and I’m gonna go back to my
office now and close the door. Back to work.”
-Yep. Exactly that. It’s hard. It’s hard to
juggle the two, but — -Do you feel — Do you look back
and reflect well on the job you did putting
together this writers’ room, ’cause we’ve had guests on
this show who’ve talked about what a wonderful environment
that is? -Yeah! I saw Natasha Rothwell
was on the show. She’s frickin’ phenomenal. And, you know, I work on
the show with Prentice Penny, who’s the showrunner,
who is the official showrunner. And I’m so blessed because
I had never been in a
writers’ room before, and he had but in shows
like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Happy Endings.” And he’s always kind of
been the only one, the only either black guy,
the only black person, you know? And he just knew that when
he started a writers’ room, he wanted to make sure
that it was inclusive and that multiple voices
were represented and not necessarily just one. And so, that’s what
our writers’ room is, and it really feels like
a family. It allows us to be able
to be comfortable to share these stories
and to share perspectives that are varying but, also,
you know, coming from a place of familiarity. -Well, based on the product
onscreen, you guys are doing
an incredible job.
-Thank you. -So, congratulations
on the fourth season. Thanks so much for being here.
-Thank you so much. Thank you for having me, Seth.
-Issa Rae, everybody.

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