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Sundance Film Festival

HBO teases new season of ‘Insecure’ at Sundance

The hit show will finally return in April after a long hiatus

PARK CITY, UTAH — HBO held a dinner Saturday evening at the Sundance Film Festival celebrating Insecure as part of “Our Stories To Tell,” a series of special events showcasing what the premium cable channel, along with TNT and TBS, is doing to represent diverse storytelling.

The show is entering its fourth season and has helped make Issa Rae a go-to content provider in Hollywood. She has a film, The Photograph, out next month, another movie, The Lovebirds, out in April and her HBO series also returns that month. She also has a number of projects in development.

At the dinner, a trailer was screened for the new season of Insecure and members of the cast, which this night included Rae, Yvonne Orji, Jay Ellis, Alexander Hodge and showrunner Prentice Penny, talked about their growth over the last few seasons.

Rae focused on how she was able to get a show as authentically black as Insecure on the air without having to play to a whiter audience.

Issa Rae (right) and Yvonne Orji (left) attend the Insecure dinner presented by “Our Stories to Tell” Jan. 25 in Park City, Utah.

Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for HBO

“I think timing played a huge part, to be honest. Being able to showcase that there was a desire for these kind of stories on the internet played a huge part,” said Rae, referencing her cult classic 2011 web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.

“And then just having an open line of communication. I do credit HBO for taking a hands-off approach in terms of never questioning our intent or asking what certain things meant. They never did that. They just laughed at all of the jokes like they got it. Or they would say later, ‘I didn’t get that but I figured that was for y’all.’ You need that,” Rae said.

“There’s no excuse of ‘We didn’t have anyone brown to do hair or brown to do sound.’ Either we have all of them on our set or others aren’t looking.” — Yvonne Orji

“Breaking something down for the white audience — I didn’t feel that was necessary. Curb Your Enthusiasm: No one was breaking down all those Jewish words I didn’t know. You just have to figure it out; you roll with it. There’s a universal language that comes with the human experience and HBO counted on that and in building our world we were very intentional about the voices that represented us … and our experiences.”

That was the theme of HBO’s weekend in Park City — giving voices and visibility to disenfranchised groups. Its programming at Sundance, which this year included a focus on Asian Pacific filmmakers, and queer voices, made space for meaningful conversations, panels and casual networking at a time when Hollywood is once again forced to reevaluate how and why it’s not sufficiently representative at the biggest platforms, such as the upcoming Academy Awards.

Much of the chatter at Saturday night’s event was about how diversity isn’t just about what happens in front of the camera. On Insecure, for example, women, black folks and other racial and ethnic minorities fill the behind-the-scenes jobs on set.

“I wouldn’t be able to do this without [Penny],” Rae said. “Finding someone who runs the show who values what you value is the ultimate thing you can accomplish with something like this. So, it’s important to all of us that we can cultivate this culture.”

Orji said that the set is the most diverse she’s ever been on: There’s a female camera operator, a female sound person, a female executive producer.

“If you’re a woman who wants to feel protected, you actually will feel protected,” Orji said. “They went through the trouble of finding that and hiring that. There’s no excuse of ‘We didn’t have anyone brown to do hair or brown to do sound.’ Either we have all of them on our set or others aren’t looking.”

The new season of Insecure has been a little held up because of Rae’s film schedule and growing celebrity. The coming-of-age comedy hasn’t aired a new episode since fall 2018. What can fans expect when the new season premieres on April 12?

“Season four … I do believe people will be very excited about what’s about to happen,” said Penny. “We’re examining everybody’s relationship. Is this a season relationship or a reason relationship? I’m superexcited about what this season will be.”

Kelley L. Carter is a senior entertainment writer at The Undefeated. She can act out every episode of the U.S version of "The Office," she can and will sing the Michigan State University fight song on command and she is very much immune to Hollywood hotness.