‘Insecure’s’ Yvonne Orji on messed-up Molly, throwback TV and how she avoided becoming a doctor
‘I remember praying and God told me to do comedy’
Actress and comedian Yvonne Orji is best known for her role as Molly on the hit HBO series Insecure. Since its 2016 premiere, fans have grown to love the beautifully complicated life of Orji’s on-screen character. From lovers’ quarrels to dating disasters, career success and financial freedom, viewers identify with this flawed yet strong-willed character. “Glowing up ain’t easy” is an appropriate tag line not only for Molly in season three but also for the evolution of this 34-year-old, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.
Orji is currently traveling the globe as part of a stand-up comedy tour, launching a podcast with New York Times best-selling author Luvvie Ajayi called Jesus and Jollof and creating a sitcom pilot, First Gen, which is loosely based on real-life experiences.
The Undefeated chatted with the Nigerian-American performer about her fave throwback television shows, what to expect in season three and the importance of faith and family.
Do you see your character Molly evolving from being a beautiful mess?
I hope she evolves because if she doesn’t evolve, we have problems. I would have to let the writers know we have to do better for my girl!
Who is the funniest person on the set of Insecure?
Natasha Rothwell, who plays Kelli on the show. She doesn’t have to try and be funny because it just comes out naturally.
What is the craziest lie you ever told?
I try my best not to lie because you have to continue to keep up with it and I’m not really good with keeping up with lies.
What will you always be the champion of?
I will always be a champion of other people, especially people who are trying to do great things who go against the grain or against societal norms.
Favorite throwback TV shows?
There are so many! I miss every black show from the ’90s and early 2000s such as Martin and Fresh Prince. If you did not watch either one of these shows and you came to school and weren’t up on the latest episode, it was a wrap. You couldn’t be in any of the conversations.
Most important factor to your success?
My faith, family and immigrant background of being a Nigerian-American. Those are the factors that propel me and keep me on my toes. Just when I think I can rest, I remind myself I have goals for my family so I have to keep going. Nigerians don’t know when to stop, so we are always pushing forward.
Your parents wanted you to be a doctor. What fueled you to go after your dreams despite your parents’ wishes?
It was honestly God. I participated in a pageant and was told I needed a talent, but I didn’t have one. I remember praying and God told me to do comedy. I immediately thought to myself, ‘Are you sure?’ because I don’t do jokes, but I am going to trust in you. I did comedy for the pageant and people laughed. I assumed it was a one-time thing, but then I did it again and realized this is what God had [planned] for me. If I didn’t have such a clear vision and voice, I don’t believe I would have had the fortitude to stand up to my parents in such a bold manner.
What is your go-to karaoke song?
“Heard It All Before” by Sunshine Anderson (2001). That’s my jam because it gets everyone hyped. Another one of my go-to karaoke songs is “Free Your Mind” by En Vogue (1992).
A place you’ve never been that you’re dying to visit?
Bora Bora. It has the most beautiful overwater bungalows. I want to be able to wake up, look out and stand on the ocean because, why not? I’m not exactly dying to visit because I want to live there when I get there, but I really would love to visit.
What was the first concert you attended?
It was an Immature concert. Back then a little-known group called Destiny’s Child was the opening act.
Describe season three in a few words?
Time to grow up.