At some point in their lives, every entertainment journalist has imagined interviewing a big name star at least once and when the opportunity finally presents itself, you spend the hours preceding the interview overthinking EVERYTHING.
I walked into the Multichoice head office assuming that Insecure actress, Yvonne Orji, would be secluded in a luxurious room while the journalists who were there to meet her would be kept in a waiting room and ushered in one by one for their interviews with her. But you know what they say about assumptions…
I found Orji in the middle of an interview with another journalist and took the opportunity to gauge what kind of person she was in preparation for our interview as I awaited my turn.
As a fan of Insecure, the only version of Orji that I was familiar with was that of her role as Molly - a straight-talking succesful lawyer navigating life in the workplace as a young, black woman while failing to emulate the same success in her love life. Not that she has any trouble catching the attention of the men she desires, in fact, Molly is quite the man-eater. It’s just love that has proven to be a bit tricky for her character.
Season one of the show saw Molly on a whirlwind dating experience that landed her in a relationship that she ended up sabotaging. This season finds her single, searching and doing the emotional labour required to make her better at this relationship thing.
Episode three of season two saw the introduction of a new character played by the yummy Sterling K. Brown and he’s apparently set to play a very important role in Molly’s story line.
“This season I think Molly is going to be presented with opportunities that really cause her to look inward. Molly is trying to figure things out but life happens to Molly…” explains Orji.
Does life happen in the form of Sterling and will we be screaming at the TV when we see it happen? I ask...
“You’ll have to keep watching… You’ll probably be screaming at the TV but I don’t know why, there’s many reason that people scream at the TV,” she says.
I figured everyone would be asking Orji about her character and the show, and while it is her job to answer said questions, there was no point in making my way there to ask her yet another question that she has probably answered a hundred times before. So I decided to use the internet to get to know the 33-year-old actress...
Most research into Orji centres on her virginity. You would be hard-pressed to find out much else about her without trying your hardest but while everyone is focusing on her choice not to have sex, they are missing out on the insane amount of things that make Orji a great person.
So that was my first question. “What awesome things about you are people missing out on when they choose to focus solely on your virginity?”
“I’m such an African girl….” she begins.
Before adding“I enjoy working! Like Insecure is over and I’m like ‘what are we doing next?’ It’s like ‘madam! Calm down, we just finished!’ and I’m like ‘I can’t, I can’t, I’ve been without work and I never want to be there again!’ Can’t stop, won’t stop was my theme for 2017."
And she is not joking about that theme. In addition to being an actress, she is a comedian (who appeared at the Goliath Comedy club during her SA trip) and content creator who is currently working on a project called ‘First Generation.’
“I’m writing First Gen to show that we [Africans] are normal. We are your neighbors, the people next door… The same way Insecure normalizes the black experience in South LA, I want First Gen to normalize the African experience and Nigerian-American experience in a middle class community.”
First Generation is a show about being a first generation immigrant in the United States. A topic that is close to home as she was born in Nigeria but her family later went to the US, where she grew up and went to school.
“Nigeria is the most populous country in the world, you can’t tell me you don’t know at least one Nigerian”
Despite our access to people from different backgrounds, Orji understands that people have a lot of questions they might want to ask but they are afraid to. These are the questions that she and the rest of the First Gen team hope to answer with their show.
She aims to educate, inform and spark a different kind of dialogue to what she thinks is already out there. As the daughter of first generation immigrants who was born in South Africa, I relate to a very specific dilemma - code switching.
the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation.
“What’s funny about the code switching that we do is like when you meet someone and you’re like ‘oh, I’m Nigerian’ and people are like ‘really? But you don’t have an accent…’ It’s as if the only authentic thing that makes me Nigerian is my accent.”
That reminded me of something Orji once said in an LA Times interview, “You know, we've never seen African represented as like a normalized thing." It's either like "Hotel Rwanda" or "Coming to America." Love both of those movies, but we're more than a caricature or war.”
Another less-explored part of being African is the vast vocabulary we have access to, which has come in handy considering the fact Orji does not swear - at all. That got me wondering what she does instead. Especially in moments of emotional turmoil, or in her case, being asked about her virginity for 2,336th time?
“I think you can still convey frustration or anger, you just have to be creative in the way you do it. I get upset like the next person gets upset and I use all my words. Nigerians don’t need the F word to dismantle you. Have you ever been called ‘a daft fool’? ‘A foolish goat?’ ‘An imbecile?’” asks Orji in a seamless Nigerian accent.
She quickly switches back to her American accent, saying “It’s like, Geez! Just curse me out, I’d rather you curse me out than call me ‘a worker of inequity’ or an ‘enemy of progress’”
Interviewing Orji felt more like getting to know a new person than an interview and I am not ashamed to admit that it has made me an even bigger fan than I already was.
Season 2 of Insecure currently airs on Monday nights at 21h30 on Vuzu Amp (DSTV channel 103).
Main image credit: Kay Tatyana Selisho