Insecure’s Jay Ellis on Lawrence’s Sexual Escapades and Fragile Masculinity
Spoilers for Insecure season two ahead.
"You worse than a fuck nigga. You're a fuck nigga who thinks he's a good dude." So went Tasha the bank teller's overdue evisceration of former nice guy Lawrence (Jay Ellis) on Insecure's previous episode. This week, Lawrence solidified that reputation, thoughtlessly moving on from Tasha, without considering she might've had a point, and straight into the bed of two roommates who lure him into a random threesome under questionable pretenses. With the tables now turned, Lawrence is left wondering how anyone could so casually and routinely use another person, a crisis of self he faces while parked outside of the apartment he once shared with his ex-girlfriend, Issa (Issa Rae). All season, Lawrence has recovered from the aftershock of Issa cheating on him by dulling the pain with sexual dalliances. It's a sharp turn of character that's torn apart his rabid Twitter fan base (see: #LawrenceHive) and whole black households alike. Vulture spoke to Ellis about whether you should still root for Lawrence, that threesome, male fragility, and his new web series, Hard Medicine.
If you had told me that season-one Lawrence would end up having a threesome with two women he meets at the grocery store this season … at this point, is the show just writing exclusively for #LawrenceHive? I remember one day our showrunner Prentice Penny texted me saying, "Bruh, I got something for you and it's every man's dream. I'm telling you, man, the Lawrence Hive is gonna love it." But he didn't tell me how the threesome ends. That was his way of getting me excited for it, and then when I actually read it, I was like, "Come on, man, why does Lawrence gotta go out like this? This ain't fair!" It's cool, but I've never had that experience. I've had friends who've had threesomes, and it's an interesting take on how those situations can sometimes happen.
You know, we have three really interesting stories this year with Issa, Lawrence, and Molly being single and dealing with the fallout from episode eight of last season [when Lawrence leaves Issa]. What we're seeing with Lawrence is single-male behavior. I can honestly say I've had friends who've walked similar paths, and there are some things Lawrence has done this season that I've even done while being single and dating in Los Angeles. I don't think it's writing for #LawrenceHive as much as it is writing from a real perspective with an honest take of what it's like to be a single male in this city. A single black man, on top of that.
Race comes up in this scenario, too, because Lawrence thinks it's going to be a huge win, but a less naïve audience can automatically see it's a trap: These two women fetishize black men. I think Lawrence doesn't see it because in the previous episode, one of his co-workers tells him he's like a unicorn. He starts believing his hype a little bit. Before, he's like, "Nah, I'm just nerdy Lawrence; that's just me." But when these girls approach him, it's the first moment where he goes, Maybe this is easier for me than I thought. Maybe I am this unicorn. Obviously, that all unravels when he's told by these girls that another black guy can do it much better than him, and Lawrence is far from their first.
How do you film a sex scene like that and have it not be totally awkward? I chemistry-read with the two actresses. From the minute that you get to start creating this story with other actors, you have to be kind, honest, and respectful. You're stumbling through this just like they are, but you're here to protect them first. The most important thing is that they feel comfortable. And we're lucky to have such a super-talented team behind the camera. That day Prentice directed, [executive producer and director] Melina [Matsoukas] was on set, Issa was also producing behind the camera, and we had the writer of the episode. They were all there, but not in the room. You start to see we're in really good hands, so if there's a question or insecurity, they're there. This is Issa's vision, obviously, but we're all in this together, and we're all in search of authenticity in this moment. But it'll always be awkward. You got somebody sitting on your face and thighs who you just met 48 hours earlier. And you're being directed, "Stop! Slower! Faster! Grab his face!"
Lawrence has much more sex this season, and I think it's because men handle being cheated on differently than women. They take it as a direct assault on their masculinity and make it about themselves, then feel the immediate need to nurse their bruised ego with sexual gratification. Oh, absolutely. I've had friends call me after finding out they were cheated on, and one of my closest friends went on a tear for a whole summer. It was just a different girl every day. Because we don't always use our words, you're right, we're trying to reclaim our masculinity and pride. You don't wanna be exposed or vulnerable. So you're out there having to prove that not only can I get girls, I can lay it down with any girl I want at any time. Not every dude, obviously. For whatever reason, we've been indoctrinated to think that's the way to do it. You just end up being more unfulfilled and more lost than what you were before. In Lawrence's case, he's left buck naked in those girls' bed while they move on.
Right, whereas Issa only starts seeking out new sexual partners once Lawrence seemingly kills all hope of a second chance. That they both missed their ho phase in college I think doesn't help the situation. They were loyal together for sooo long. They need to figure out what having a sex life is like without each other. And Chad is very much a proponent of, "Bruh, get out here and smash all the girls you can. Just add them up like trophies and tack 'em to the wall and don't fall in love. And then a few years later, when you're done playing with these zeroes, find you a real one." That Chad mentality rubs off on Lawrence, especially when he gets this affirmation from his co-worker.
But of course, emotionless sex is easier said than done, and we see Lawrence unable to separate the two at the end of the season opener when he has sex with Issa. He also ends up outside of her apartment after the threesome. Do you see their story as being finished? I'd like to think these two people can find a way to communicate with each other, because right now they're not. Issa tried, but Lawrence shut down. They need to use their words. These people love each other. But it's tough — for a dude, being cheated on is probably one of the toughest things to come back from. Not that it isn't tough for women, too, but we as a society have allowed us to say it's okay in one direction and not the other. I think that breakup sex started as confusion and passion and love, but if you watch it, there's this point where he stops looking at her in the face while they're having sex. I think that's where it turns almost into revenge. He definitely moves a little faster and the sex become more aggressive, and that's the point where he realizes he can't just fall back into this and needs to move on. But he's still conflicted, and that's evidenced by the peck on the cheek. He doesn't wanna hurt her, but he doesn't know how to handle the situation. One thing I've learned from working with so many women on this show is that men's messages aren't being relayed the way that they want them to be perceived. It's read as revenge or petty. All cause dude's don't want to be vulnerable. Ever.
That's why it's so great when Tasha finally calls Lawrence out for what he's become: a "fuck nigga." He doesn't respect her vulnerability. Do you see Lawrence as a villain this season? I feel bad for him. He's hopeless and lost, especially in the middle of the season. But he is being reckless because he won't deal with his own feelings. He's just pushing them to the side and won't talk about them. What you see is that anger, frustration, and embarrassment play out in his recklessness. I think it's only after Tasha calls him out, and then the threesome, that he starts to see he's actually just lost. He's a bit of an anti-hero for a second. He's a guy that you want to root for, but he's doing all the wrong things for a good portion of the season. Eventually, he has to face his own demons. But I've seen many men say Lawrence is the GOAT this season. But for women, he's public enemy No. 1. There's going to be an anti-#LawrenceHive that develops specifically to call out his foolishness.
People probably don't know that outside of Insecure, you developed your own web series that just got picked up by the Urban Movie Channel. Yeah! We premiered Hard Medicine on Facebook on August 2, and it's created by a young woman of color named Melissa Effa. She graduated from Loyola Marymount University, and she and a couple of her classmates wrote this amazing web series, and I wanted to help make it become a reality, so I executive-produced it. It's a wonderful story: Melissa's mother is a doctor who had worked in an urban community urgent-care center that was underfunded for most of her career, so Melissa wanted to tell the story of a black doctor who's quirky and doesn't have it all together, and she's not driving a fancy car, and she's trying to save this clinic. It's a comedy in the style of a mockumentary, like Parks and Rec. It's a lot of fun; we're releasing new episodes every Wednesday.
It seems like getting young creators of color through the door has been a big priority for you and Issa. Issa's an inspiration. And I will say, as an actor, coming to Los Angeles and going to auditions where I would read material that just wasn't authentic to me, or always being told, "Oh, we didn't have a writer or we didn't have a director for that voice" — I know there are. There are tons of talented people out there, and we just don't get a chance to get into this system. I want to be a part of that. I want to help these young, diverse, unique voices tell stories. I want to create this pool of talent to draw from, and I hope that people get inspired to make more web series and bring them to me to help develop. I have another project I'm developing at Comedy Central with Tristen Winger, who plays "Thug Yoda" on the show, that he completely came up with called Elephant in the Room. I also think film is the next step for me. I don't ever want to be put in a box. The doors are definitely different now.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
*Washington Township is a township in Burlington County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the township's population was 687 reflecting an increase of 66 (+10.6%) from the 621 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn declined by 184 (-22.9%) from the 805 counted in the 1990 Census. Washington was incorporated as a township by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on November 19, 1802, from portions of Evesham Township, Little Egg Harbor Township and Northampton Township (now known as Mount Holly Township, New Jersey). Portions of the township were taken to form Shamong Township (February 19, 1852), Bass River Township (March 30, 1864), Woodland Township (March 7, 1866) and Randolph Township (March 17, 1870, reannexed to Washington Township on March 28, 1893). The township was named for George Washington, one of more than ten communities statewide named for the first president. It is one of five municipalities in the state of New Jersey with the name "Washington Township". Another municipality, Washington Borough, is completely surrounded by Washington Township, Warren County. Contents 1 Geography 2 Demographics 2.1 Census 2010 2.2 Census 2000 3 Government 3.1 Local government 3.2 Federal, state and county representation 3.3 Politics 4 Education 5 Transportation 6 References 7 External links Geography According to the United States Census Bureau, the township had a total area of 102.706 square miles (266.006 km2), including 99.522 square miles (257.761 km2) of land and 3.184 square miles (8.245 km2) of water (3.10%). The township borders Bass River Township, Shamong Township, Tabernacle Township and Woodland Township in Burlington County; and Egg Harbor City, Hammonton and Port Republic in Atlantic County. Unincorporated communities, localities and place names located partially or completely within the township include Batsto, Bear Swamp Hill, Bridgeport, Bulltown, Crowleytown, Friendship Bogs, Green Bank, Hermon, Hog Islands, Jemima Mount, Jenkins, Jenkins Neck, Lower Bank, Mount, Penn Place, Pleasant Mills, Quaker Bridge, Tylertown and Washington. The township is one of 56 South Jersey municipalities that are included within the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, a protected natural area of unique ecology covering 1,100,000 acres (450,000 ha), that has been classified as a United States Biosphere Reserve and established by Congress in 1978 as the nation's first National Reserve. All of the township is included in the state-designated Pinelands Area, which includes portions of Burlington County, along with areas in Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and Ocean counties. Demographics Historical population Census Pop. %± 1810 1,273 — 1820 1,225 -3.8% 1830 1,315 7.3% 1840 1,630 24.0% 1850 2,010 23.3% 1860 1,723 * -14.3% 1870 609 * -64.7% 1880 389 * -36.1% 1890 310 -20.3% 1900 617 99.0% 1910 597 -3.2% 1920 500 -16.2% 1930 478 -4.4% 1940 518 8.4% 1950 566 9.3% 1960 541 -4.4% 1970 673 24.4% 1980 808 20.1% 1990 805 -0.4% 2000 621 -22.9% 2010 687 10.6% Est. 2014 673  -2.0% Population sources:1810-2000 1810-1920 1840 1850-1870 1850 1870 1880-1890 1890-1910 1910-1930 1930-1990 2000 2010 * = Lost territory in previous decade. Census 2010 At the 2010 United States Census, there were 687 people, 256 households, and 177.9 families residing in the township. The population density was 6.9 per square mile (2.7/km2). There were 284 housing units at an average density of 2.9 per square mile (1.1/km2). The racial makeup of the township was 93.89% (645) White, 1.89% (13) Black or African American, 0.00% (0) Native American, 0.15% (1) Asian, 0.00% (0) Pacific Islander, 3.64% (25) from other races, and 0.44% (3) from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 9.02% (62) of the population. There were 256 households, of which 25.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.5% were married couples living together, 7.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.5% were non-families. 25.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.63 and the average family size was 3.16. In the township, 18.3% of the population were under the age of 18, 11.5% from 18 to 24, 21.7% from 25 to 44, 33.5% from 45 to 64, and 15.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43.9 years. For every 100 females there were 106.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.5 males. The Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey showed that (in 2010 inflation-adjusted dollars) median household income was $96,250 (with a margin of error of +/- $21,869) and the median family income was $108,239 (+/- $9,762). Males had a median income of $19,946 (+/- $15,879) versus $41,250 (+/- $4,961) for females. The per capita income for the borough was $24,808 (+/- $10,822). About 0.0% of families and 21.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 0.0% of those under age 18 and 0.0% of those age 65 or over. Census 2000 As of the 2000 United States Census there were 621 people, 160 households, and 112 families residing in the township. The population density was 6.2 people per square mile (2.4/km²). There were 171 housing units at an average density of 1.7 per square mile (0.7/km²). The racial makeup of the township was 83.57% White, 2.90% African American, 0.32% Asian, 12.08% from other races, and 1.13% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 17.07% of the population. There were 160 households out of which 35.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.3% were married couples living together, 6.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.4% were non-families. 24.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.76 and the average family size was 3.27. In the township the population was spread out with 29.3% under the age of 18, 3.5% from 18 to 24, 23.8% from 25 to 44, 19.0% from 45 to 64, and 24.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 92.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.8 males. The median income for a household in the township was $41,250, and the median income for a family was $42,188. Males had a median income of $32,000 versus $31,719 for females. The per capita income for the township was $13,977. About 8.0% of families and 16.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.4% of those under age 18 and 13.9% of those age 65 or over. Government Local government Washington Township is governed under the Township form of government. The governing body is a three-member Township Committee, whose members are elected directly by the voters at-large in partisan elections to serve three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with one seat coming up for election each year as part of the November general election in a three-year cycle. At an annual reorganization meeting, the Township Committee selects one of its members to serve as Mayor. As of 2015, the members of the Washington Township Council are Mayor Dudley Lewis (R, term on committee ends December 31, 2016; term as mayor ends 2015), Barry F. Cavileer (R, 2015) and Daniel L. James (R, 2017). Federal, state and county representation Washington Township is located in the 2nd Congressional District and is part of New Jersey's 9th state legislative district. New Jersey's Second Congressional District is represented by Frank LoBiondo (R, Ventnor City). New Jersey is represented in the United States Senate by Cory Booker (D, Newark, term ends 2021) and Bob Menendez (D, Paramus, 2019). For the 2014-15 Session, the 9th District of the New Jersey Legislature is represented in the State Senate by Christopher J. Connors (R, Lacey Township) and in the General Assembly by DiAnne Gove (R, Long Beach Township) and Brian E. Rumpf (R, Little Egg Harbor Township). The Governor of New Jersey is Chris Christie (R, Mendham Township). The Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey is Kim Guadagno (R, Monmouth Beach). Burlington County is governed by a Board of chosen freeholders, whose five members are elected at-large in partisan elections to three-year terms of office on a staggered basis, with either one or two seats coming up for election each year. The board chooses a director and deputy director from among its members at an annual reorganization meeting held in January. As of 2015, Burlington County's Freeholders are Director Mary Ann O'Brien (R, Medford Township, 2017; Director of Administration and Human Services), Deputy Director Bruce Garganio (R, Florence Township, 2017; Director of Public Works and Health), Aimee Belgard (D, Edgewater Park Township, 2015; Director of Hospital, Medical Services and Education) Joseph Donnelly (R, Cinnaminson Township, 2016; Director of Public Safety, Natural Resources, and Education) and Joanne Schwartz (D, Southampton Township, 2015; Director of Health and Corrections). Constitutional officers are County Clerk Tim Tyler, Sheriff Jean E. Stanfield and Surrogate George T. Kotch. Politics As of March 23, 2011, there were a total of 536 registered voters in Washington Township, of which 85 (15.9% vs. 33.3% countywide) were registered as Democrats, 271 (50.6% vs. 23.9%) were registered as Republicans and 180 (33.6% vs. 42.8%) were registered as Unaffiliated. There were no voters registered to other parties. Among the township's 2010 Census population, 78.0% (vs. 61.7% in Burlington County) were registered to vote, including 95.5% of those ages 18 and over (vs. 80.3% countywide). In the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney received 221 votes (59.2% vs. 40.2% countywide), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 142 votes (38.1% vs. 58.1%) and other candidates with 7 votes (1.9% vs. 1.0%), among the 373 ballots cast by the township's 533 registered voters, for a turnout of 70.0% (vs. 74.5% in Burlington County). In the 2008 presidential election, Republican John McCain received 250 votes (57.9% vs. 39.9% countywide), ahead of Democrat Barack Obama with 168 votes (38.9% vs. 58.4%) and other candidates with 11 votes (2.5% vs. 1.0%), among the 432 ballots cast by the township's 545 registered voters, for a turnout of 79.3% (vs. 80.0% in Burlington County). In the 2004 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush received 272 votes (62.1% vs. 46.0% countywide), ahead of Democrat John Kerry with 160 votes (36.5% vs. 52.9%) and other candidates with 4 votes (0.9% vs. 0.8%), among the 438 ballots cast by the township's 558 registered voters, for a turnout of 78.5% (vs. 78.8% in the whole county). In the 2013 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 156 votes (66.4% vs. 61.4% countywide), ahead of Democrat Barbara Buono with 61 votes (26.0% vs. 35.8%) and other candidates with 10 votes (4.3% vs. 1.2%), among the 235 ballots cast by the township's 509 registered voters, yielding a 46.2% turnout (vs. 44.5% in the county). In the 2009 gubernatorial election, Republican Chris Christie received 186 votes (62.4% vs. 47.7% countywide), ahead of Democrat Jon Corzine with 91 votes (30.5% vs. 44.5%), Independent Chris Daggett with 17 votes (5.7% vs. 4.8%) and other candidates with 2 votes (0.7% vs. 1.2%), among the 298 ballots cast by the township's 552 registered voters, yielding a 54.0% turnout (vs. 44.9% in the county). Education The Washington Township School District serves students in public school for pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade at Green Bank Elementary School. As of the 2012-13 school year, the district's one school had an enrollment of 37 students and 4.7 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 7.81:1. The school's $5.4 million building opened in September 2006. Since the 2007-08 school year, as part of an agreement with the Mullica Township Schools, Washington Township receives teaching support from the Mullica district and shares its superintendent, business administrator and other support staff. Washington Township students in grades five through eight attend Mullica Township Middle School as part of a program that has expanded since it was initiated in the 2007-08 school year. Students in ninth through twelfth grades attend Cedar Creek High School, which is located in the northern section of Egg Harbor City and opened to students in September 2010. The school is one of three high schools operated as part of the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District, which also includes the constituent municipalities of Egg Harbor City, Galloway Township, Hamilton Township, and Mullica Township, and participates in sending/receiving relationships with Port Republic and Washington Township. Cedar Creek High School is zoned to serve students from Egg Harbor City, Mullica Township, Port Republic and Washington Township, while students in portions of Galloway and Hamilton townships have the can attend Cedar Creek as an option or to participate in magnet programs at the school. Prior to the opening of Cedar Creek, students from Washington Township had attended Oakcrest High School, together with students from Hamilton Township, Mullica Township and Port Republic. Students from Washington Township, and from all of Burlington County, are eligible to attend the Burlington County Institute of Technology, a countywide public school district that serves the vocational and technical education needs of students at the high school and post-secondary level at its campuses in Medford and Westampton Township. Transportation As of May 2010, the township had a total of 54.31 miles (87.40 km) of roadways, of which 29.32 miles (47.19 km) were maintained by the municipality and 24.99 miles (40.22 km) by Burlington County. The only major roads that pass through are County Road 542 and County Road 563. Limited access roads are accessible in neighboring communities, including the Atlantic City Expressway in Hammonton and the Garden State Parkway in Galloway Township, Port Republic and Bass River Township.
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