Lisa Joyce talks to HBO about playing Frieda on Insecure

Lisa Joyce Is Eager to Chat About Overeager Frieda

Lisa Joyce & Issa Rae in the HBO series Insecure 

Lisa Joyce & Issa Rae in the HBO series Insecure 

HBO:

What drew you to the role of Frieda?

LISA JOYCE:

My sister works in education and I have friends who work in the nonprofit world, so I had a little window into that culture through them and the characters they would tell me about. I thought I had an understanding of who Frieda might be, and what I could do with her.

HBO:

How would you describe her as a character?

LISA JOYCE:

She’s a passionate nerd. I mean, she is deeply uncool, but tries so hard to learn, experience, and ultimately do the right thing. I so appreciate that she can admit when she’s wrong or out of touch. She has the buoyancy to keep trying to connect even if she’s gone through something painful or embarrassing. There’s so much comedy to mine from how eager she is, and how uncool she is next to Issa.

No one wants to be offensive or racist, especially in the nonprofit world, and she’s dying to be politically correct. So when she does put her foot in her mouth, there is the painful comedy of watching her try to get it out. We all have to be taught about everyone else’s experience, so to watch someone especially out of touch go through it is helpful for the overall conversation. She’s kind of a fool in that way, but totally well meaning and endearing.

HBO:

Is it challenging to keep her realistic amidst the comedy?

LISA JOYCE:

The writers were wonderfully generous with her; she’s not just this dumb, white, clown saying offensive things left and right. They gave her a little more complexity, and show her growing and understanding new things. For me the comedy comes out of grounding it in trying to make friends and work well with Issa’s character, and connect with the kids. Those are very real things we all go through -- trying to connect with people we might not have a lot in common with but really admire or like. So she’s someone we can relate to and doesn’t feel like a one-dimensional joke.

HBO:

Issa and Frieda’s relationship really develops in Episodes 3 and 4 -- what was the major point of change?

LISA JOYCE:

Frieda wants to be good at her job, so she wants to collaborate with other people. But she can be a bit overeager so I understand why Issa is a little hesitant to dive in right away. The moment Frieda’s caught with the other coworkers and the “secret white emails” hits her really hard; it's the first time she’s understanding how isolated it can be for Issa. In her mind, Issa is very cool and has her s**t together. She doesn’t see Issa as awkward or insecure, so the fact that Issa’s the only black woman in the office is something she might not have thought about much. But after that episode she definitely understands how messed up it is, and she tries to apologize and own it.

HBO:

Is working at We Got Y’all Frieda’s ideal job?

LISA JOYCE:

She really does care about kids, and wants to make the world a better place, so I think right now this is exactly where she wants to be. But she’s so goofy: I could see her running a magic shop in the Catskills or something in 30 years.

HBO:

Do you have a favorite moment from the season?

LISA JOYCE:

The fantasy Daniel in the mirror scene is definitely a highlight for me. It’s written, shot and played so well, it cracks me up.

HBO:

Have you ever talked to yourself in the mirror?

LISA JOYCE:

For sure. It’s not something I would ever want someone to walk in on, and I love in the show when Molly walks in. Even as an actor just auditioning you have to prove yourself, so there is an element of privately building yourself up before you go out into the world, little pep talks.

HBO:

What do you think the show offers women in their late 20s?

LISA JOYCE:

Each character is going through their own version of balancing love and career. It’s not even one or the other, both are always a challenge, and at that age you’re confronting the idea of what you thought success was in both arenas. It’s so nice to see it with women who aren’t perfect and flawless. So many shows now are more of the fantasy -- FBI agents or high-powered doctors or something -- and that’s cool, but I don’t know many people running around like that. I actually relate to Lawrence; I understand having a degree and being over qualified but having to get a job just to make ends meet.

And then with love, there’s this sense that everyone around you knows what track they’re on, or understands how to date and be in relationship. In your late 20s you think, “I need to know how to be an adult.” And it doesn’t really work that way. When you get into your 30s, you realize everyone’s kind of making it up as they go along. You let go of the things you were trying to be that you’re really not.