Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji's Real-Life Friendship Will Make You Want to Call Your Bestie

Insecure stars Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji have so much to celebrate as they head into the Emmys with acting nods, but their greatest accomplishment is the bond they've built off screen.

By McKenna Aiello Sep 15, 2020 4:00 AMTags
Related: Adina Porter, Issa Rae & Yvonne Orji Talk Fashion at 2018 Emmys

"For me, my longevity will be opening the door for others." 

Issa Rae has built her ever growing entertainment empire on taking a chance on emerging talent—much like Pharrell Williams did when he helped bring her web series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, to the mainstream.

In fact, it's what brought Issa and Yvonne Orji together long before their onscreen friendship in Insecure took a turn for the worse during season 4 of the hit HBO series. (Whether you're Team Issa or Team Molly, this is a safe space.) 

Before Insecure's 2016 premiere, Issa convinced HBO execs to cast Yvonne—who at that point in her career had never acted—as her character's partner in crime and confidante. Despite the pair's onscreen chemistry, what blossomed behind the camera was a friendship built on trust, honesty and cheering each other on every step of the way. 

Both Issa and Yvonne have so much to celebrate going into next Sunday's EmmysInsecure's titular star and creator is nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, while Yvonne earned her first Emmy nod for Outstanding Supporting Actress. The show is also up for Outstanding Comedy Series. 

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Issa and Yvonne's greatest accomplishment, however, is the bond they've built off screen. 

Proof that they're friendship goals is in our gallery below: 

On the Twitter DM That Started it All

It was a mutual adoration for each other's early hustles in the comedy world that first brought Issa and Yvonne together. Around the time Issa's web series, Awkward Black Girl, was gaining popularity, those close to Yvonne told her, "'You should get to know this Issa Rae chick.'" In a 2018 interview with Vanity Fair, Yvonne recalled sending a Twitter message to Issa, who invited her over for a game night.

As Yvonne told it, "Then I get to her house and she was like, ‘I don't invite random strangers through Twitter to my house. I know about you because I'm familiar with your work. I've seen you perform." 

On Taking a Chance on Yvonne

But with no real experience in front of the camera, Yvonne knew the odds were stacked against her when casting began for Insecure. It took five auditions and a proverbial letter of recommendation from Issa herself that helped her friend land the gig. 

Referencing a web series pilot she wrote, Yvonne told CNBC, "It's what Issa was able to see and turn to the producers and say, ‘Give her a shot.' I didn't have an agent, manager, anything. I had never acted. So this is HBO—Home Box Office—this is not, like, a small production. And this thing that I hunkered down and accomplished was what Issa was able to be like, ‘Let's try her out!'"

On the Importance of Fostering Friendships

Issa told Refinery 29 she "would be nowhere" without her inner circle, which is why she loves sharing the spotlight with her IRL besties. "Every female friend that I have has been in my productions, helped behind the scenes, has gassed me up when I've felt like, 'Ah, I don't think I should do this,'" she explained in 2018. 

"They're such a huge part of my life now because in the industry it's hard," Issa shared. "In any industry when you're just surrounded by the same people who do what you do, sometimes it can be competitive. Sometimes there can be resentment or sometimes it's just like you have tunnel vision for that specific thing. You don't realize there's an outside world. A lot of my friends are outside of the industry, so just to be grounded and in touch with this isn't everything. If this doesn't work out for me one day, I tried. But I know I can do other things in this world outside of this, and that I have a support system in there and vice versa. I would do anything for them."

On Celebrating Each Other's Successes

After Yvonne landed her first-ever spot on the Emmys nominations list, she told E! News about the special conversation she and Issa shared. "We had a moment and I thanked her," Yvonne described. "I was like, ‘Thank you for seeing something in me five years ago, for this moment. Thank you.' She was like, ‘Girl, we all did it.' It was a special moment. Batman and Robin. It's still really good."

On Their Lifelong Bond

As Yvonne explained on the Jemele Hill Is Unbothered podcast, her relationship with Issa works so well because they complement each other. Long before finding stardom on Insecure, Yvonne said "it was one of those things like, 'I see you Black girl.' 'I see you Black girl.' It was just this support when there were no stakes."

She went on to say, "Issa's the dopest person in the world. I like making people laugh, she enjoys laughing. We're the perfect ying to yang. Issa's very smart and just so community oriented. She wants to see everybody win... She's an easy person to love."

On Sharing the Shine

In a 2020 sit-down with The Hollywood Reporter, Issa confessed to feeling "guilty" for the mainstream recognition she's received. That's why when Yvonne earned an Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmys nod, she "got really excited." 

I" had been nominated before, but I'm very much aware that I don't do this by myself," Issa explained. "I did feel guilty. It was just like, "Everybody else is killing it and they're really helping to elevate me and they're not getting the recognition."

On Insecure's Impact on Their Friendship

It's no secret that their characters were at odds throughout season four of the HBO series, and Yvonne even admitted she's ready for Molly to move forward from the drama.

She shared with E! News, "Man, I told Issa at the end of the season, ‘Can you never do that again?' Because I missed you. All the scenes we had together, we weren't really together, because of the Condola [Christina Elmore] aspect and then we were fighting."

So what does Yvonne envision for the future of their friendship? "We saw at the end of season four, they both were like, 'We gotta get our stuff together. We gotta be right.' So I'm hoping they really, really strengthen their relationship. Also we have fun, and sometimes fun is messy, so I'm sure we'll still be messy.