"Awkward Black Girl" Talks Turning Series Into TV Show, Hollywood Meetings, Donald Glover Parties, Chris Rock Assists, More

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by Tambay A. Obenson
December 14, 2011 9:45 PM
34 Comments
  • |

America's favorite Awkward Black Girl, Ms Issa Rae (you know her) continues her global expansion... this time New York magazine's Vulture gives the web series some pub in a chat with Issa Rae.

I wanted to especially highlight the following portion, with regards to her plans to turn Awkward Black Girl into a television series, something we've long known was on her agenda. The question, a few months later, is whether that's still in play.

Here's Issa Rae's reply to Vulture:

After meeting with a couple different executives in television, and seeing our visions don’t really align, I don’t want to sell my life to it now. In one meeting, during the first ten seconds, this guy said, “The show is pretty funny. This is about a typical black woman with her black women problems.” And then said big names were necessary to make it to television. Everything we were against, he was for. It was just one meeting, but for me, that was all I needed to realize we’re in the right space, and I realized I’m not ready to hear those things just yet. For season two, we’re working to build our audience and leverage our audience to networks to say, “We’re successful showrunners, give us a chance to have creative control.” I would love Awkward Black Girl to be on television, with the right team of people who understand and get it. If Awkward Black Girl could make it to HBO starring a dark-skinned black girl, that would be revolutionary.

Indeed, indeed. I'm sure it can be tempting to give up and give in, and I'm glad she's instead opting to maintain creative control of the project, and spend a little more time building and solidifying a significant audience, so that when she next returns to pitch and negotiation meetings, she'll have more leverage.

I recall this is essentially what one Mr Tyler Perry did before most of us knew who Tyler Perry was.

In the interview, Issa Rae also talks about some of the perks she's been enjoying thanks to the show's success, like being invited to Donald Glover's birthday party (his sister is a fan of the web series); plus getting Gabrielle Union's attention, enough that she reached out; being recognized by Kim Cole from Living Single while at the Art Walk in L.A.; and Chris Rock and Hannibal Burress helping her get representation.

Ahhh... lifestyles of the soon-to-be rich and famous... and awkward :) 

Get'em Issa Rae!

Read the full New York magazine piece HERE.

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34 Comments

  • mike | March 4, 2013 9:12 PMReply

    Isn't the point that Jae is NOT typical?

  • eshowoman | December 19, 2011 6:22 PMReply

    Chris Rock helps a black woman?? This is the first sign of the zombie apocalypse!

  • bondgirl | December 20, 2011 9:31 PM

    Eshowoman, really? Where're you getting the idea that he's not helpful? He gave Wanda Sykes her big break as a writer on his HBO show. He assisted me recently with a studio project, and we're not friends. You'd be surprised how much people in this business will help you when you open your mouth and ask.

  • Nadine | December 20, 2011 9:06 PM

    Hilarious...but true.

  • Idol-Maker | December 16, 2011 11:38 AMReply

    Good stuff. Best of luck...

    Btw, is it just me or is the order in which these posts & replies appear somewhat confusing?

  • orville | December 16, 2011 11:22 AMReply

    The show is called awkward black girl and I think Issa Rae is smart she's obviously still building her brand. Now I have seen Issa on CNN and now New York Magazine a high profile American publication has interviewed her. Hollywood NEEDS more diversity on television it is simply too white at the moment. Issa Rae is right to be afraid that a major network would destroy the integrity of the show. I can' t see this show on a mainstream network it would need to be on cable I think. I can see this show doing well on BET or Showtime or HBO. Issa is smart she's doesn't want a network to radically change the show and make it white washed or being a sell out.

  • Nadine | December 20, 2011 9:05 PM

    Definitely HBO.

  • Ghost | December 17, 2011 8:47 PM

    What IFC?? They just finished with The Whitest Kids You and have at least 5 series airing on there. I think they would probably air it. They have recently started airing black movies that BET seem to have forgotten were ever made.

    Or better could this be the show Oprah could be looking for to get more viewers? If the CNN and New York Mag crowd know about the series-that's probably more than OWN has in viewers.

  • Nicole | December 17, 2011 7:11 PM

    Not BET. HBO or Showtime would definitely be better. More exposure than BET.

  • Mecca | December 15, 2011 5:50 PMReply

    Cudoos to Issa! Yay! For taking a stand and putting your foot down. Don't sell yourself to suit others needs. You worked hard enough to get your webseries out there don't let some bald, board room, whiteman take that away from you.

    Keep hope alive!

  • Jay | December 15, 2011 12:57 PMReply

    I support her 120%!!!

  • Nicole | December 15, 2011 12:33 PMReply

    I didn't get the feeling that Issa and her team aren't willing to compromise within reason. I think she's afraid a network will "whitewash"(for lack of a better word) the show and it will lose the edgy, awkwardness that has made it a must-see for a lot of people.

    I think she's doing the right thing by exercising patience. Timing is everything.

  • Nicole | December 15, 2011 8:02 PM

    @Akimbo: Ditto to everything you said. And LOLOL at "Nina would literally be played by Gabrielle Union..." This is sooooo true.

  • Akimbo | December 15, 2011 2:00 PM

    Agreed. It simply seems that they're unwilling to "sell out." Maybe this won't be the project that Issa sells for wider distribution and that's fine. She likely has other stories in her. We all know that most networks would scramble to recast J as a Paula Patton type. Cece would be either a Kristin Wiig or Zooey Deschanel, Fred a Shemar Moore soap opera pretty guy, Nina would literally be played by Gabrielle Union, and White J would be a Shia LeBeouf or Adam Brody type (which, I guess wouldn't be the worst).

  • Carlton Jordan | December 15, 2011 11:34 AMReply

    I love the web series. I saw the lead actor on my block one day and kinda stalked him....but as far as biz, hopefully she'll learn the art of compromise...being a showrunner on a major network television show, where you'll be getting notes on each episode from the studio, from the other writers, from the legal dept, from everyone...is a little different than running a web series. but hopefully the ABG team can find balance and leave ego at the front door.

  • Nadine | December 20, 2011 9:24 PM

    umm...Rasheed is right. Do you all even watch Grey's or have you just seen the actors? When you take gender into account... Shonda is crazy... I've been in and out of hospitals ALL of my life (throughout the country), and have NEVER seen these demographics. The gaggle of ALWAYS BRILLIANT size 4 and under white females on that show is really out of hand. So much for blind casting. One Black woman, who is the resident mammy; the undesirable wife of the Black male chief (a chief whose heart has always belonged to the legendary brilliant white female surgeon who happened to be the mother of the main character); the brilliant Black male surgeon who fell in love with the overly-clinical/near heartless female Asian doctor taking him near the point of self-destruction, the half-sister of the already brilliant main character, who was more brilliant that her fellow interns mostly guys, even though she didn't share the same brilliant surgeon mother. I could go on... Kim Whitley playing the annoying friend (talking loudly on the phone in the Emergency Room) who drops dead. Blind casting, my arse... Not to mention that series about doctors in the jungle she tried to get out there, again, not Black women as doctors. Seriously, shall we get into medical school statistics? Having been in and out of hospitals my entire life, my ENTIRE life, I've never seen anything like it. Not ONE Indian, Pakistani doctor, only one Black woman doctor? I have to live vicariously through Callie... please think of gender too, because that's the way Hollywood likes to fool folks.

  • Akimbo | December 16, 2011 11:42 PM

    Sorry, between Weber, Bailey, Cristina, Avery, Callie, all the recurring people of color, and all the multicultural guest stars every single week, I'm not hating on Grey's (on that front). Everyone hates Meredith and Derek anyway.

  • orville | December 16, 2011 11:18 AM

    Because Akimbo even though Grey's Anatomy has a diverse cast the main stars are Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey two white actors. The people of colour on Grey's Anatomy are just stereotypes. Miranda Bailey is the stereotypical black mammy she is the saintly black woman that is asexual and rarely has a love life. The other people of colour such as Sandra Oh used to have a high profile but the main star is Ellen Pompeo a white actress.

  • Akimbo | December 16, 2011 4:06 AM

    Rasheed, why would you name-check Shonda Rhimes when her shows are some of the most diverse on television?

  • Rasheed | December 15, 2011 6:47 PM

    Nah, ain't no ego, homie. This is her maintaining the show's integrity and not allowing the networks to either
    A) "Ghetto" it up with broad slapstick characters so it looks like a TP show
    or
    B) Give the show more "mainstream" appeal by recasting most of the roles with young pretty white people so it looks like a Shonda Rhimes show.

    Stay strong Issa!

  • bohemian_princess | December 15, 2011 11:32 AMReply

    I really respect her decision because a lot of others would have sold their souls (and their rights) just to get in the room. Issa Rae has built a loyal following (she knows it) and I'm glad to see her not willing to make such drastic compromises that would have ruined the integrity of her show.

  • Nicole | December 17, 2011 7:27 PM

    @BONDGIRL: You're right. We don't know what concessions Issa has been asked to make to get the series to TV. But whatever they were, they weren't something she was comfortable with AT THIS TIME. And she obviously doesn't feel pressured or the need to agree to them to get on TV.

    For all we know ABG may never make it to network/cable TV. This may be her "training" ground to understand the industry better. Get better at writing, producing, acting, etc. She may come back with something totally different and sell it to the networks or cable.

    Whatever she does, I see this as nothing but a win-win situation for her.

  • CareyCarey | December 17, 2011 1:27 AM

    @ IDOL MAKER (above) yes, this is a very confusing format. @ BONDGIRL, I believe you've killed another one. Your thoughtful analysis of human nature and your insight into all things business - show business - ceases to amaze me. In short, I believe you're say that in that town, and in life in general, compromise IS the name of the game. And, a person should be wise enough to understand the cards they are holding. Basically, I believe you are saying, there's a time to hold'em and a time to fold'em (lay down your hand). And, what's good for the goose - and the goose necks - may not be good for the gander. I hear ya baby, keep on doing what your doing cuz you got this thang on lock.

  • bondgirl | December 16, 2011 9:14 AM

    @ChampagneVelvet: Apparently you haven't read Hello, He Lied and no, I don't believe Carlton to be a sell out (whatever that means to you). Unlike you, Carlton has produced a successful tv show, knows the industry and the nature of the beast is win-win..not "my way or the highway". The article hasn't indicated what demands Issa or the exec had, but it's irritating that unknowledgable people automatically insist the suggestions were outrageous. Why would it be ridiculous to have Gabby U on this show? Aren't the same critics the ones clowning her Tyler Perry role; so where should GU be...on House of Payne? While I strongly agree that a Paula Patton "type" isn't going to make the same statement as say Adepero would, Issa will ultimately have to make concessions period. It's naive for anyone to feel otherwise, as if you can tell people how to spend their money and use their resources. Aisha Tyler and Jill Marie Jones have excellent comedic timing and acting skills to pull it off, even though they haven't been seen with a "natural" looking hairstyle. Not to mention she shouldn't lowball herself into an HBO show; the audience is limited, you're competiting with NeNe and her garbage, and if you take out the cursing the show will be just as funny. Her syndication deal on a network would give her more buying power and ability for a second project. Chris Rock had a show on HBO and it stunk...having creative control isn't always a great thing when you're growing in this town. I would love to see ABG on CBS or ABC.

  • champagnevelvet | December 15, 2011 11:20 PM

    Apparently, Carlton has not seen the movie "Dancing in September"; or maybe he has just "sold out".

  • artbizzy | December 15, 2011 9:54 AMReply

    Great news, Issa. Creative control all the way! Dave Chappelle walked away from 50 mil because he lost creative control of his work. More of us need to take stands like this that say our integrity and the spirit of what we do can no longer be bought or sold. This paves a way for others to feel courageous enough to take that stand, too. Thank you.

  • Monique | December 15, 2011 9:00 AMReply

    Yes! Keep on, keeping on Issa Rae. HBO did you read that?

  • Orville | December 15, 2011 12:29 AMReply

    Issa Rae is very brave I feel not to give in to Hollywood and radically change her hit web series. I think Issa Rae is a real example of someone determined to make a difference. I hope her show gets on television with a deal she feels is best for her career.

  • Laura | December 15, 2011 12:15 AMReply

    Congrats. Good for her. Best of Luck

  • Margo | December 14, 2011 10:44 PMReply

    I just got into the web series and I love it! Glad to hear what shes doing to make advancements in the success of her show.

  • Darla & Mark | December 14, 2011 10:43 PMReply

    Get it girl, do your thing and don't let anyone shortchange your creative imagination.

  • blaqbird | December 14, 2011 10:23 PMReply

    Yes! So happy for all her success!

  • Shana | January 19, 2012 12:58 AM

    If it makes it to TV, I don't want any other actors than the ones there are now. I especially don't want a different Awkward Black Girl. She is what makes the show sooo good.

  • Shana | January 19, 2012 12:56 AM

    I LOVE THIS SHOW!!!

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