Hella Dope: Actor A. Russell Andrews Talks Season 2 of HBO's 'Insecure' and Working With Issa Rae
One thing’s for sure: HBO’s Insecure is more secure than ever with the first episode “Hella Great” coming out the gate with tighter narratives, hilarious moments and some unexpected surprises. Season 2 has showed that fans should buckle their seats and get ready for more. The supporting cast to Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji and Jay Ellis are strong and use their screen time well, milking every comic beat without fail.
And from what we hear about A. Russell Andrews’ character in upcoming episodes on Season 2, his moments will be no different (sorry, no spoilers). Andrews plays Vice Principal Gaines who will be introduced to audiences on July 30 on HBO. All we can say about the Gaines character is that he is sure to bring in a healthy amount of jaw-dropping and unpredictable moments.
Many may recognize Andrews from Lifetime’s recent movie Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland where he played Attorney Davis, and his role in TV One’s Runaway Island as Rev. Clinton Hines where he was up for a 2016 Emmy consideration for Outstanding Lead Actor. Both films were directed by Academy Award nominated director Dianne Houston. Prior to his vast TV career, Andrews was gaining national recognition in regional theatre and Off-Broadway.
It was his role as 'Youngblood' in Jitney, that garnered him the 2002 Laurence Olivier Award, along with playwright August Wilson, Roger Robinson, Keith Randolph Smith, multiple Tony Award Nominee, Dr. Stephen McKinley Henderson, and director Marion McClinton for Best New Play performed at The Royal National Theatre in London. In addition to acting, Andrews’ is a formidable director in his own right. His company, StageWalkers, has received over 30 LA Theatre award nominations for his work with Pulitzer Prize winning author August Wilson’s Piano Lesson, Jitney, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
BlackCinemadb.com had a chance to catch up with the busy actor in between his other upcoming projects.
BlackCinemadb.com: Tell us how you landed the role of Vice Principal Gaines?
Andrews: Actually, I was surprised by this one. I'm a HUGE fan of the show and Issa's story is so uplifting and encouraging. If I'm correct, some staff, writers and producers are friends of hers and I'm sure that's reflected in the harmony on the set. Vickie Thomas is the casting director. She's one of the best in the business and a very good reader. I've booked that room a few times before but she's of that select group of casting director’s that won't let you leave until she feels she’s gotten your best. Sometimes, in these circumstances, we (actors), can overthink the obvious. We obviously won't get them all, but I always leave there feeling that I'm better than when I walked in. In this instance, the writing was so genuine...like a conversation you want to have. I just wanted to tell the story that I read and it was my day.
DiverseCinemadb.com: We're dying to know, what it’s like to work with Issa? Her cast? Crew? Any behind-the-scenes moments you can share?
Andrews: All of the work I've done thus far has been with Issa and her co-star, Lisa Joyce. Their relationship is very fluid and that has allowed me an easy transition and flow into the family. I'm so shamelessly excited every moment I'm there, but I think most importantly I'm so proud to be part of the cultural and gender balance on set. I've known of Prentice Penny and his work for a while. My first ever comedy was an episode on The Bernie Mac Show, written by creator/executive producer, Larry Wilmore. I gotta believe that equitable representation is a major part of the show’s success.
DiverseCinemadb.com: Working on a hit TV show like Insecure where the focus is on a (black) woman’s journey must be fun. What was that creative energy like?
Andrews: Magic...the female presence is powerful. A model business feel, and artistically, as strong or better than any company I've been a part of. Everyone works hard and is on point. It's like an articulate, controlled, well-managed, well-organized party.
DiverseCinemadb.com: You've been working with some female directors and producers who kick major butt such as Dianne Houston, Hanelle Culpepper, Arun K. Vir, and now Issa Rae. Is there some magic pixie dust you've thrown in the air to make this happen?
Andrews: I wish I had a profound, art based answer, but so much of it is timing and opportunity. What I am sure of is that I'm a better man and artist because of those experiences.
DiverseCinemadb.com: What's next for you? Are there any upcoming projects (you can talk about)?
Andrews: Next up? Funny you should ask. In keeping with the female theme...Just premiered in Dianne Houston's Michael Jackson: Searching For Neverland for Lifetime. I'm co-starring in Becoming Human at The McCadden Place Theatre in North Hollywood (July 15-30) written by Dr. Nicki Joy Monti, directed by Diana Wyenn. Back to back acting/directing projects written by Ms. LaChris Jordan: The Ridge (film) and Roses in Water (stage). And later this year, Dianne (Houston) has got a little something she's been working on that I can't wait to talk about.
*This interview was originally conducted on DiverseCinemadb.com.