Issa Rae, on Oct. 6, 2016 in Los Angeles
Issa Rae, on Oct. 6, 2016 in Los Angeles Jason LaVeris—Getty Images

Issa Rae Talks About Diversity In Hollywood And Shares How She Developed Her Confidence

Your new show, Insecure, recently debuted on HBO. What made this project important to you?

I remember feeling insecure in my own life and wondering, "Am I doing this right?" So the show is about just that—two black girlfriends navigating their love lives, jobs and each other. Right now, there is this need to portray black women on TV as strong, flawless and fierce. It's great to have that representation, but I wanted there to be a real, human portrayal. I've never seen two dark-skinned black girls in lead roles painted as regular people. I really just thought that would be cool to see.

There is a lot of talk about the lack of diversity in Hollywood. Do you hope your show will help change that?

Only in the way of it existing and people talking about how they like it. I'm not burdened by the racial strife of it all. I think that by way of existing, other shows with people of color won't have to focus on the struggle of race. They can just be two people falling in love or solving a crime. The statement that I want to make at the end of the day is just existing.

You have said that Shonda Rhimes is a mentor. What has she taught you?

There was a moment when I was scared to speak up. Everybody was behind this one decision, and I didn't want to rock the boat. Shonda told me about a time in her life where if she hadn't spoken up, her trajectory would have been different. She didn't know she could get fired—that's what gave her the confidence! So I try to operate with that same mentality.

How have you developed your confidence?

It comes from knowing that I am walking with purpose and doing what I love. I set out with a goal and am, little by little, achieving that. Everybody has doubts, but I try to embrace them. I'm always going to be afraid of failing, and now that I've attained some level of spotlight, that pressure has only gotten bigger. But I know that if that happens, I am just going to have to get back up—that is part of life. I can only live in the moment and realize that my insecurities make me who I am.

TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.