MINNEAPOLIS – Issa Rae said she feels that women’s voices have been amplified in the film and television worlds and she’s happy to be part of the group leading the change and opening doors for others.
“I do think there’s a renaissance in so many different ways,” the actress said at NFL’s Women’s Summit on Friday. “We have a newfound power, a newly rediscovered power. We’re like, ‘…We can speak up, and we can get stuff done, and we can make a change, and we can reclaim our stories.”
“It just seems so much more attainable (for women) because you are seeing a shift behind the scenes.”
Rae’s words come on the heels of Greta Gerwig’s historic Oscar nomination for best director with “Lady Bird,” making her just the fifth woman nominated for the prestigious prize.
There have been major wins by women’s stories on television at the recent Emmy and Golden Globe Awards by HBO’s “Big Little Lies” and Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” shows where actresses Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Elisabeth Moss also serve as executive producers.
Director Ava DuVernay made history with her Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, while Shonda Rhimes continues to be a force on television, launching hits on ABC with “How to Get Away with Murder,” ”Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.”
When asked by Maria Menounos about there being one opportunity for a minority actor or a woman on a show or project, Rae said, “The one slot thing is ridiculous but there’s truth to it.
“Because I think a lot of executives, people who put stuff on television have that mentality of, ‘Oh, we have our black show, so sorry. Maybe try NBC.’ And that’s really discouraging in a way because there’s so many stories to tell.”
“Insecure,” which Rae created, produces and stars in, earned her two Golden Globe nominations and will return for its third season this year. It’s based on her hit web series, “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.”
She said going from YouTube to HBO “was a long journey of brokenness, you know. The first episode cost me $25.”
Rae launched a Kickstarter campaign to keep the series alive and music mogul Pharrell funded its second season. She said when the show’s fan base grew, networks were interested in building it up but Rae didn’t agree with some of the ideas.
“I had opportunities to take ‘Awkward Black Girl’ to television really early on for big networks, but for them it was about shifting it and changing it to fit their standards, and that never appealed to me. I was not in a rush,” she said.
Rae was one of the women who spoke at NFL’s third Women’s Summit held at the Pantages Theatre on Friday, days ahead of Super Bowl 52. She spent Thursday night at a listening party at Paisley Park for Justin Timberlake’s new album.
The 33-year-old signed a development deal with HBO to produce more content like “Insecure” for the network. She said she’s thankful for her teachers in school who pushed her to reach her full potential.
“I had a lot of good mentors in school, like my high school teachers, a college professor specifically who was just really encouraging in terms of pushing me forward, helping me graduate ’cause Lord knows that was hard to do,” said Rae, who graduated from Stanford University.
“Just because I liked extracurricular activities and I didn’t like going to class, but you guys should go to class,” she said to laughs.