Issa Rae is waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Insecure returns to HBO Aug. 12, and Rae is working on two new shows: Him or Her and Sweet Life. The development deal, announced in December, is confirmation that the network believes in the 33-year-old's talents. But as she prepares to air Season 3 of Insecure's, it seems Rae is beginning to doubt herself. "That could go to s--t. This could be the worst season we've ever had. And then what? Then people are all of a sudden like, 'Oh, OK.' Then the calls stop. It's like stand-up comedy: In order to eventually succeed, you have to bomb. That's what every comedian says—that's when the fear goes away," Rae explains in GQ's Comedy issue. "And I feel like I'm still fearful because I haven't publicly bombed yet, in terms of my career. Yeah, Insecure is successful now, but where's my bomb coming? Where are my Will Smith bombs coming? Where, where is that happening?"
Smith, one of the last modern movie stars, has struggled to match the box office success of the 1990s and the 2000s—and he's not alone. (Just ask Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, etc.) He recently started a YouTube channel—and, ironically, that's where Rae got her big break. "He went through a period when he was depressed, when three or four of his movies in a row weren't number one at the box office. So for him that was terrible," she says. "And now he's talking about, 'You gotta fail, you gotta fail.' And I don't want to make Instagram speeches about failing. I don't." Rae doesn't aspire to be a famous actress. In fact, she insists, "I can take it or leave it, to be honest."
Rae is more comfortable behind the camera, expecially since people confuse her for her character. "I do feel like people expect me to be entertaining," she says. "And I'm not. I'm not an entertaining person. I don't put on for anybody. I think about someone like Tiffany Haddish, who's just naturally entertaining, who always has a story. And that's just not my lane. I'm always gonna be the shy one." Regarding publicity, Rae adds, "I only want to make my presence felt when I feel like it's necessary."
For more on Rae, pick up the new issue of GQ.