Home / Arts & Life / ‘Insecure’ Season 2 Finale: Prentice Penny on Issa, Lawrence, Safe Sex and Narrative Swerves

‘Insecure’ Season 2 Finale: Prentice Penny on Issa, Lawrence, Safe Sex and Narrative Swerves

The season started with a glimmer of hope for Issa and Lawrence, then their relationship burns to the ground. In the end, you show what they could have been, just before showing her back at Daniel’s door. How do you think viewers will handle this narrative swerve?

People have seen the “will they/won’t they” couple. Our thing was, how do we erase that and completely get away from it? We keep you on your toes because, if you watch a lot of TV, you think you know what’s going to happen. When you see that Lawrence and Issa montage, I think you are kind of heartbroken. So at the end, when you see Issa at Daniel’s, I love that fans don’t know how to feel!

When you appeared on the post-show segment “Wine Down” after the first episode, you said you identified with both Issa and Lawrence. Does that still hold true?

In my younger days, I was definitely a Lawrence. I was that “feel some type of way” kinda guy. I think now, I’m much more like Derek. Maybe it’s because I’m married and he just has a more grown wisdom to him.


The show speaks to a very specific demographic of young, urban, black professionals. Why do you think it’s had such universal appeal?

If I knew, I would be trying to clone that thing! Obviously, our show is about people of color and there’s a lot of language and dialogue that, unless you know it, you’re gonna be like, “What are they talking about?” But I also think that at the core of it, it’s a very millennial show and it’s very woman-centric. You feel like these women genuinely care about each other and they feel like actual friends. I think that’s what people like. And I think Issa’s an amazing actress and her personality comes across on screen, so you root for her.


Prentice Penny, the showrunner of “Insecure” on the set of the HBO sitcom.

Justina Mintz/HBO

This idea that, with people of color, nobody watches them except their own — it’s a very outdated concept. Now, you have shows that are crossing those lines and people are just relating to what they relate to and vibing with what they vibe with.

In the finale, Lawrence, Derek and Chad reluctantly get engrossed in the show-within-a-show, “Due North.” It draws a parallel with male viewers who may have initially seen “Insecure” as just a show for women.

Totally. I remember when my then-girlfriend, now-wife was like, “We should watch this new show called ‘Girlfriends.’” I wasn’t trying to watch some show about black women bashing men! Then I watched the first few episodes and I was hooked, and even went to write for the show. If men watch the first episode of “Insecure,” they’re like, “See? Here we go. Lawrence is a bum!” Then, when they get to the end of that season, they’re “#LawrenceHive.” Dudes are just as invested in our show as women are.

I think it speaks to something, for black men to be able to see themselves on screen as something that isn’t hyper-sexualized, or rappers or entertainers. They’re seeing an honest reflection — they work, they got women, they’re trying to deal with racism.

There was plenty of sex in Season 2, particularly for a sitcom. When you put those scenes in, was there an intention behind it?

The first season, HBO was like, “This is a show about millennials and they have sex. Don’t be afraid to push it.” But I’ve never been in the writer’s room where we’ve gone, “O.K., we need a sex scene here.” We’ve never thrown it in there just for throwing-it-in-there’s sake. We’ve actually pulled moments out if it feels like we’re doing a sex scene that’s not organic to the story or the character in that moment.

Some viewers complained on Twitter about what they saw as a lack of safe sex.

We’re never promoting people having unprotected sex. We’re always assuming that our characters are being responsible, for the most part. But just like in real life, you’re not always responsible. It’s funny because in Episode 6, we have a whole scene about condoms when they’re at the Sexplosion event. And then, people thought we made that after the whole Twitter thing. Guys, TV doesn’t work that way!

I don’t know any other show where people are asking that. It’d be like watching “Power” — “Why doesn’t Ghost have a condom on?!” When I watch a show, I never ask that question. I guess people connect to the characters like real people. I would rather have people care enough to ask than not care and not watch the show.

How do you and Issa split the responsibilities of overseeing the show?

She and I will do everything from casting to rewriting the scripts to being on set giving notes. So it’s like this marriage. Everything we do, we’re doing together — from the germ of the idea to everything you see on the screen. She and I and Melina [Matsoukas, another executive producer] all push that rock up the hill.

Season 1 garnered so much acclaim. Did that affect how you approached the second season?

I think 90 percent of what we do is still the same. The first season, we didn’t have anything to compare it to. When the show started to do well, the instincts from outside were “How do we get bigger?” But our show [isn’t about] going over-the-top. We focus on how to tell stories about people of color that feel nuanced, sophisticated and smart.

From fashion to music, the show is constantly introducing new and emerging talent. Did you set out to be tastemakers?

It definitely was, in the beginning, a thing for us. Issa was wanting to find dope people who weren’t on the radar yet, like Kari Faux from last year and SZA this year. Issa and Melina have really great ears for that. Sometimes I just sit back and watch them, because I’m putting all Snoop in it, if it’s me!

What can we look forward to in Season 3?

I don’t know! Issa and I are getting together at the end of the month to talk about ideas. Hopefully, they’ll start making some better choices. I thought, for the most part, Issa made some really smart choices for the finale. I think she’s in a metamorphosis phase. It’s almost like her having to move out of the apartment is like a cocoon that had to open. What does that look like for her? Where does that character go?

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