'Insecure': Natasha Rothwell on How 'Looking for LaToya' Became This Season's Show-Within-a-Show (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
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It's not just Insecure that fans should be paying close attention to this season -- it's Looking for LaToya.
The HBO series always entertains with its shows-within-a-show. They all "in some way comment socially," Natasha Rothwell tells ET, but this time Looking for LaToya appears to hint even more about what's going on in Insecure.
The comedy first started regularly including a show-within-a-show on season two, with Due North. The series, starring Regina Hall and Scott Foley, was a play off of Underground and Scandal -- and Rothwell and fellow writer Ben Cory Jones wrote 13 full episodes of it.
Then, with season three, came Kev'yn, a '90s sitcom reboot (and Jay Ellis' personal favorite). "It reminded me of Hangin' With Mr. Cooper," he tells ET's Melicia Johnson. "That is so much of what I watched in school and then later on in college, watching reruns of that."
Looking for LaToya, however, gets a little more serious. While it provides some laughs courtesy of Ray J and Porsha Williams, it's a metaphor for Issa (Issa Rae) and Molly's (Yvonne Orji) friendship this season... and how it unravels.
"In the writers room, we were obsessing about our own different true crime shows. Like, I was obsessed with To Live and Die in LA... and we also started talking about the metaphor of Molly and Issa's friendship of asking the 'whodunnit' question like, 'Who killed the friendship?'" Rae recalls. "Once we settled on that, it was like, 'Oh, Looking for LaToya should be parallel to this, in a way -- just trying to look at this as a whodunnit for these first five episodes and go from there."
The other layer of Looking for LaToya is the social commentary Rothwell mentions. "One of the things a lot of these true crime podcasts and true crime shows in general have in common is that they're always looking for missing white girls," Rae says. "[Looking for LaToya exposes] the idea that none of these are centered around black girls, and what it would look like if it were -- and finding the dark humor in that."
That humor and storyline will evolve throughout Insecure's fourth season, Rothwell promises. "It's a real fun one. I think audiences will get a real kick out of that arc," she shares. "I definitely think the criminal whodunnit, 'Where are they?' brand of group watching is definitely something that we haven't hit on yet, so it was fun to play on those tropes."
"For me, I think it's just a real treat to see how incredible our production design is, and how different they can make those shows-within-a-show look compared to the show proper, and just the ability for folks to flex comedic muscles that aren't particularly Insecure's brand of humor, but akin... we can sort of play around in that meta space," she says.
In addition to serving as a supervising producer on Insecure, Rothwell also returns this season as Kelli. The character has had plenty of scene-stealing moments over the years (remember that Coachella episode?), and it seems audiences have much to look forward to in season four as well.
"I think Kelli is perpetually frisky," she teases with a laugh. "She's nothing if not consistent, so we'll definitely get to see her do her best to have fun while giving her friends a tough time too."
While Issa and Molly work through their friendship issues in season four, Kelli and Tiffany (Amanda Seales) overcame struggles in season three, as Kelli felt left out of Tiffany's life as a mom-to-be.
"I think they're doing well [this season]," Rothwell says of the characters. "I think audiences will able to clock how Kelli is showing up for Tiffany. In my real life -- and I'm sure in a lot of other women who have friends who got pregnant and they didn't [feel this way] -- you have to sort of assess how to be a friend and what that means, because it means something different when you have a friend who has kids."
"You'll see Kelli show up in new ways because she's not one to be disloyal or to let her friendship wither. She's a fierce advocate for her relationships and for her friends," she adds.
Rothwell wrote Insecure's season four finale, but outside of the show, she also has a lot on her plate. The multi-hyphenate, who inked an overall deal with HBO in 2018 -- will also star in Wonder Woman: 1984. "There's not too much I can say about the movie, but I think everyone is anticipating that I will suit up and wear some intergalactic spandex," she jokes. "I will definitely disappoint if that is the expectation, but I'm excited for folks to see it."
Rothwell is also politically active, encouraging fans to make sure they are registered to vote by mail in the upcoming election. "That is bigger and better and way more at stake than any project I'm working on," she says. Her Twitter feed is a mix of political tweets and Insecure commentary.
"I feel like life outside of quarantine is just going to be endless conversation of 'What did you watch?'" she says, noting how happy she is to connect with fans about the HBO comedy.
"I think it's just fun to watch. And I'm sitting back and watching along with the audiences, because I'm sure you know, so much of the production process, I'm not everywhere all the time, so there are moments in the show where I'm like, 'Oh sh*t, I can't believe they went with that! That's awesome!'" Rothwell adds with a laugh.