Kelli Prenny on “Insecure” may be hilariously unfiltered, but Natasha Rothwell, who portrays the outspoken and sexually liberated accountant on the HBO hit series, hasn’t always felt like her unique comedic voice was heard.
In a Los Angeles Times profile published Monday, the 41-year-old “White Lotus” actor discussed her time writing for “Saturday Night Live” from 2014 to 2015 – and how it was more of a struggle than she expected.
“I didn’t want folks to think I got in to satisfy a requirement,” Rothwell told the paper. “I wanted to show that I belonged. I wanted to be at the table at ‘SNL’ and I wanted them to think, ‘F–, she’s funny. I like what she has to say. And I see her and, oh, that joke is great.’ That’s a lot to carry.”
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She also pointed out how her experience as a Black woman on the iconic sketch series — which famously has a history of diversity problems, though it’s become somewhat more inclusive in recent years — varied from that of her largely white peers.
“I think that’s also an expression of privilege for white writers: They don’t know what it’s like to walk into a room and feel like the audition is not over,” she said. “I didn’t feel seen, always.”
Rothwell even admitted that she felt like she needed permission to speak in the competitive writers’ room.
“Putting my hand up was me wanting to know if my voice could be heard,” she told the Times. “It was Pavlovian for me.”
“Insecure” showrunner Prentice Penny told the LA Times that the timidity Rothwell developed at “SNL” followed her into her next job.
“I remember saying, ‘Girl, you don’t have to raise your hand like that. Why do you keep raising your hand? Just say it,'” Penny recalled of Rothwell when she began writing on “Insecure.”
Penny said that upon learning why Rothwell felt she had to raise her hand, it “broke our heart in the [writers’] room.”
“The idea that anybody would try to f– squash her talent or try to keep her brilliance under a lampshade — like, can you imagine?” Penny said.
Through her writing gig at “Insecure,” as well as a supporting role on the series, Rothwell found her voice again and began to thrive.
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She says that her critically acclaimed performance in the HBO series “The White Lotus” is due to the “confidence” she regained while working on “Insecure” – which emboldened her to speak up to creator Mike White, of whom she had been a fan since he worked on “Freaks and Geeks.”
“Me six years ago would have just said yes to the part, no questions asked,” Rothwell told the Times. “But me now said, ‘I need to talk to the director because as a person of color, in a servile position with a homogenous group, I want to make sure we do this right.'”
Now Rothwell’s career is taking off. She will appear in the upcoming films “Wonka” and “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” In April, she scored a multi-year overall deal with ABC Signature to develop new projects for television via her Big Hattie Productions, Deadline reported.
We’ll let Kelli herself handle it from here: