Why Kerry Washington Called Out ‘Insecure’ Stars Issa Rae, Jay Ellis and Yvonne Orji

Kerry Washington has always kept it real in her performances, whether she was playing Olivia Pope on Scandal or Anita Hill in the HBO movie Confirmation. So when she gets behind the camera, Kerry Washington isn’t going to accept any phoned in performances. Washington directed a season 4 episode of Insecure, and the show’s cast – Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji and Jay Ellis – said she called them out when they were ready to call it a day.

Kerry Washington | | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter

Rae, Orji and Ellis were on a Television Critics Association panel for Insecure season 4 and spoke about how Washington pushed them. Insecure returns April 12 on HBO.

This is the episode of ‘Insecure’ Kerry Washington directed

Issa Rae revealed which Insecure episode Kerry Washington directs in season 4.

Insecure: Issa Rae
Issa Rae | Merie W. Wallace/HBO

“Kerry was incredible,” Rae said. “She came ready, she came very prepared, she shadowed on the season finale of Season 2, and we were lucky enough to have her direct. She directed our penultimate this season. To be honest, she is phenomenal.”

Kerry Washington did ‘Insecure’ her way

By season 4, Insecure is a well-oiled machine. They can rotate directors in and out, but the cast knows their characters. That wasn’t good enough for Kerry Washington though.

“As an actor’s director specifically, she really tested all of us in various ways that was just so enjoyable. A lot of directors respectfully come on and say, ‘We know that you’ve been playing this character for three or four years, so you know what you’re doing. We may not focus on the performances necessarily because you got it.’ I think Kerry challenged all of us to try different things and you see on screen that we’re all better for it. It was an absolute pleasure to work with her.”

Issa Rae, Insecure Television Critics Association panel, 1/15/2020

Yvonne Orji reveals how the new director pushed her

Yvonne Orji plays Molly, Issa’s best friend on Insecure. They’ve had their ups and downs over three seasons. When Kerry Washington directed Orji, she got to the heart of it. 

Insecure: Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji
L-R: Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji | Merie W. Wallace/HBO

“Remember that night when we were filming and she said, ‘I will tell you if I don’t believe you,’” Orji said. “She did. We were like, ‘Hold up, we are tired, it is cold, you’re going to get what we believe.’ Then we were like, ‘Let’s take that again because I don’t believe me either.’ It was great. I don’t think anyone had ever done that before at that point. She was very respectful about it too. She was like, ‘I need you to draw from here.’”

Jay Ellis spoke actor with her

Jay Ellis had some intense scenes under Kerry Washington too. He found it helpful that she was also an actor herself.

“She spoke a language that tapped into something that I think we all appreciated really well, especially with a show like this where we go on such journeys,” Ellis said. “Every scene has an emotional arc to it for the most part, and I think what Kerry was really great at was posing a lot of questions and then asking you to think about things, then sending you off to go do the work.”

Insecure Season 4: Jay Ellis and Issa Rae
Jay Ellis and Issa Rae | Merie W. Wallace/HBO

Ellis gave some examples of Kerry Washington’s direction.

“No matter what it was, she could say ‘apples,’ and all of a sudden, it would change the scene,” Ellis said. “It didn’t matter what it was. She found a way to tweak performances and also just try different things. She was also very positive and would say, ‘Oh, we got that. That’s great. Now, let’s just play and let’s find this thing, and let’s find something else.’”

It wasn’t all hard work with Kerry Washington

The cast of Insecure didn’t want to give the impression that Kerry Washington was only tough on them. They had fun with her too.

“I remember our first day,” Orji said. “We were in between scenes, and she was like, ‘This would be a good time to go over your lines.’ We were like, ‘No, it wouldn’t be.’ Then we just started riffing on that and then we were like, ‘Oh, we better know our lines better.’”