Issa Rae Sets Return To HBO, Criticizes Hollywood’s Current Recoil From Diversity

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 07: Issa Rae speaks onstage during How to Find Your People Brand: American Express panel at the CultureCon NY 2023 on October 07, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

Issa Rae is making a big return to HBO with original content, but she still has very strong thoughts on the dismal state of Black scripted media in Hollywood.

As TIME reports in their new “Closers” issue featuring Rae on the cover, the mogul has two new shows in the works on the platform that mainstreamed her. Though she’s tight-lipped on specifics, Rae’s latest will see her creating, writing, and starring in a show for the first time since Insecure, set in what she only details as an “alternative present.” Her other upcoming HBO project is a corporate-world comedy, co-created with the brains behind South Side and Sherman’s Showcase, Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin.

Issa Rae Sets Return To HBO, Criticizes Rampant Black Cancellations
Issa Rae at the 81st Golden Globe Awards held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Golden Globes 2024/Golden Globes 2024 via Getty Images)

“I recognize that I have to do well economically to be able to make change,” she explained. “That’s frustrating, that’s ugly. But I recognize that money moves things faster—and so much of what I do is with the intention to help make those moves.”

Rae is known for working to create opportunities for up-and-coming creators of color, both in front of and behind the lens. That passion is partially the reason the recent cancellation of her latest MAX dramedy series Rap Sh!t – which she candidly shares with TIME that she doubts would have been greenlit at all in the current post-strike temperatures – hits so hard.

“I’ve never seen Hollywood this scared and clueless, and at the mercy of Wall Street,” she tells TIME of the current climate in Hollywood. “Now these conglomerate leaders are also making the decisions about Hollywood. Y’all aren’t creative people. Stick to the money,” she says. “The people that are taking chances are on platforms like TikTok: that’s what’s getting the eyeballs of the youth. So you’re killing your own industry.”

Issa Rae Sets Return To HBO, Criticizes Rampant Black Cancellations
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 25: (Editorial Use Only) (Exclusive Coverage) Issa Rae attends the World Premiere of “Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé” at Samuel Goldwyn Theater on November 25, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/WireImage for Parkwood)

Still, with new programs developed at MAX as part of the eight-figure overall deal she signed with HBO, Rae is doing her part to keep Black scripted stories on the small screen. However, she admits she’s keeping an eye on methods to move toward independent production if the tides keep in the direction they’ve been flowing.

“I’ve had faith in the talent I have to captivate a very specific audience – and I think about that audience constantly,” she told Porter in a recent feature. “You’re seeing so many Black shows get canceled, you’re seeing so many executives – especially on the DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] side – get canned. You’re seeing very clearly now that our stories are less of a priority.”

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