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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

Can Lawrence and Condola Figure This Co-Parenting Thing Out? Jay Ellis and Christina Elmore Would Like to Think So.

The two sat down with The Root to discuss their characters' trajectories and the enduring legacy of Insecure.

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Image for article titled Can Lawrence and Condola Figure This Co-Parenting Thing Out? Jay Ellis and Christina Elmore Would Like to Think So.
Photo: Merie W. Wallace/HBO

On Sunday night, Twitter timelines were set ablaze with commentary, critiques, and a whole bunch of other thoughts following the latest episode of Insecure.

With the first couple of episodes in this final season being light on any #LawrenceHive updates—save for Issa breaking up with him at the end of episode one—fans and stans of the show were undoubtedly happy, mad, angry and sad to catch up with their favorite fuckboy guy Lawrence (Jay Ellis) as he tried to navigate his new life in San Francisco, new job in tech and new role as father to baby Elijah Mustafa (what a name) with his ex-girlfriend Condominium/Condolences/Contraception/Canola Oil/Cappicola Condola (Christina Elmore), and spoiler alert: it doesn’t start off too great.

“I’m sure Lawrence wanted to be married. I’m sure Lawrence wanted to be a father. I’m sure he wanted a great job and I’m sure that he wanted to buy a house in the neighborhood that he loves, right?,” Ellis explained to The Root. “I’m sure he wanted all those things. And I’m sure Condola wanted those. And Issa. And Molly. And everybody. But sometimes shit happens and sometimes you gotta take a left for many reasons. But that don’t mean you can’t end up back on the path just because you had to take a little detour.”

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And he’s right. It’s clear these two characters aren’t the best at communicating their needs and expectations when it comes to their respective roles and responsibilities and that sad fact made for a hella explosive episode that only magnified both of their insecurities (you see what I did there? I know you do.) But as the saying goes: where there’s a will, there’s a way. So will these two ultimately be able to move forward and cohesively co-parent sans the drama and personal digs? Ellis and Elmore would like to think so, and recently sat down with The Root to explain why, also sharing their thoughts on their characters’ trajectories and hopes for Insecure’s enduring legacy.

*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The Root: In season 2, Tasha calls Lawrence a “fuckboy who thinks he’s a good dude.” If you had to describe where we meet Lawrence as season five unfolds, how would you each characterize him? 

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Christina Elmore: I think he is a guy who knows he used to be trash and is now walking in a “I am not trash no more and can’t nobody tell me I’m trash” path. But old habits die hard and fatherhood is hard for anybody, especially when you’re not in partnership with the mama. He’s trying but he’s struggling.

Jay Ellis: I think Lawrence is a dude who has this vision of what fatherhood is and what co-parenting is. And I think he has not shared that vision at all. I don’t think he’s had a conversation or even thought about how his other partner in this coparenting situation may view parenting. And clearly, she’s doing the brunt of the work and he’s living it all up here in his head and not actually sitting down and seeing what her needs and concerns are and therefore trying to force his way into something. Which, to Christina’s point, I think old habits die hard. I think we’ve, in the past, seen Lawrence trying to force his way onto a certain situation and not paying attention to the people around him, get their counsel or listen to their feelings about a certain thing, only to have those things kinda blow up and fall apart.

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And I think this is one of those same situations and she [Condola] calls him on it. And then, when we get to the backend on episode three, it’s this turbulence. The plane’s probably not gon’ go down but I think it’s enough—if you’ve ever been a new parent and been on a flight that’s bumpy—it’s enough for you to go like: ‘Yo, I just want to make sure I have everything covered in my life in case something does go sideways.’ Like, I just wanna be a better person for my child as well as for this person I’m coparenting with.’

TR: Jay, in a previous interview, you referenced Christina’s character Condola as “the grown-up in the room” who makes everyone realize they need to step their game up when it comes to getting their lives together. Seeing as how episode three, I feel, does a good job at portraying just how much babies can beautifully disrupt your life—no matter how well put-together it may be—how do each of you think Condola and Lawrence can move forward in co-parenting successfully?

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CE: I think it’s a long path forward and it’s gonna be a rocky journey but I’m so grateful that they’re finally on it. To Jay’s point: At the end of the episode, when he’s in turbulence and scared for his life, there’s not a question, I don’t think— and the writers have done a really good job—there’s not a question about whether Lawrence loves Elijah or whether he’s even fully committed to even stepping into fatherhood. But he’s wanting it on his terms. And so when they are finally able to come to terms and figure out what it looks like for them to both feel committed, both feel happy with the arrangement and both feel like their son is getting the best of both of them, I think it’s totally possible.

But it’s hard when the thing, the gift you love the most in the world, you share with someone you don’t even mess with like that. But I think by the end of episode three, we know he [Lawrence] has [Elijah’s] best interests [at heart]; but now, how do we move forward?

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JE: I agree. For someone who is constantly in their [own] way, they don’t know they’re in their way. Right? I think what that argument in the kitchen did—he walked out of it still feeling like he was right—but to Christina’s point, when he hit that turbulence, it made him realize: ‘Oh, I got a long way to go before I actually know what parenting is and what co-parenting means.’ And how you do this with the mother of your child especially when we’re not together? He still has a journey to go.

Image for article titled Can Lawrence and Condola Figure This Co-Parenting Thing Out? Jay Ellis and Christina Elmore Would Like to Think So.
Photo: Merie W. Wallace/HBO
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TR: A sentiment that’s often expressed when it comes to Insecure is how spot on you all are when it comes to accurately portraying different relational, personal, and professional dynamics. To what do you credit that to? What’s the secret?

JE: I’m gonna go with the writing. I think what is so amazing is the freedom of authenticity that we have on these shows. With Insecure, the writers have done so well, it’s taken away—we don’t have to live up to the burden of being perfect all the time. We are perfect in our own way but we’re all messy in our own ways. So I think there’s a freedom in that that allows us to be very real and authentic and complex and it lets us dive into our own moments.

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Christina and I talked about this a lot, especially with episode three with us both being parents at the time. Christina had just had her second child. We were both away from our kids in completely different ways. I feel like we knew what [these character] were going through. It was something that was inside of us and then the writing on the page helped put it into words.

CE:: I think Jay hit the nail on the head. I always talk about with this show and with [Lena Waithe’s] Twenties, we get to just be regular. We get to see how accessible and how extraordinary we can be in our regular-ness. I think for so long we hadn’t been able to see that on TV without having to do a lot of jokes. But these are regular Black people living very regular, authentic lives and are not magical in any way. But they’re also not villains; we’re in South L.A. and this is not a story about drug dealers—and who knew that was possible? It’s so authentically regular, and that in some way is revolutionary.

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TR: Knowing what you both know now about the trajectory of your respective character’s lives and how much it changes: what advice would you give to season one Lawrence and season 3 Condola?

CE: I guess it’s similar to what I would tell myself, Christina, because I had no idea that the character was going to grow in the way that it did. I think Issa knew, Prentice [Penny, Insecure’s showrunner] knew. I didn’t know. But I thought my character was gonna come in for two episodes and I was just grateful. And so I was like, ‘It’s gon’ be a journey. Buckle your seatbelt!’

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I think for me as a person: ‘Folks are gonna come for you.’ But also for Condola: ‘You’re going to get the biggest blessing of your life if you can also endure the worst experience of your life.’ I feel like it’s a ‘both and’ for her and for me.

JE: It’s so crazy because I didn’t know what Condola’s trajectory was gonna be in the show at the time. I knew Condola was important; I didn’t know [what] it was gonna be in five seasons. But in all truthfulness and to be candid, I also wasn’t supposed to make it past season one. So, I didn’t know Lawrence was gonna be around this long.

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I think I would tell season one Lawrence: ‘you don’t know what you don’t know. You’re still in that space of like ‘me, me, me and mine,’ and you don’t know what you don’t know yet.’ And not only that, but if you really wanna do this thing called life with a partner, you’re gonna have to figure out how to communicate with that person and be vulnerable with that person and you’re gonna have to figure out how to listen to them and bring them into decisions in a meaningful way. And not just try to force your way and do it all on your own. And one day, you’re gonna be a dad, bruh! There’s gonna be some words you can’t walk back, so just be careful.

Image for article titled Can Lawrence and Condola Figure This Co-Parenting Thing Out? Jay Ellis and Christina Elmore Would Like to Think So.
Photo: Merie W. Wallace/HBO
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TR: In the premiere episode this season, Kelly opens up her Prenny’s Preguntas podcast with a series of questions; one of them being: “If you knew the end was coming, how would you want to be remembered?” When you think of future generations who will no doubt run this series back much like we do Living Single, A Different World, etc., how would you want the show—or more specifically, your characters—to be remembered?

CE: I think of two things: First of all for the show, I just hope that there’s never a studio exec or gatekeeper ever in the history of ever who says ‘no’ because they don’t think the show will be relatable or acceptable or think that it’s too specific. I hope there’s no more no’s on telling small, specific, authentic stories about Black folk and people of color, in general. I wanna see the Insecure of two South Asian best friends, I wanna see specific stories that I don’t know the culture of. And I think this show has paved the way for that kind of work to continue. And I think Twenties is a part of that legacy already and I’m so grateful.

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When I think of Condola, I hope that people think of her like Jay said. I often say that too—that she was the adult in the room—but sometimes, adults fall apart. I also hope some of these nicknames last forever because they’re funny.

JE: When I think about the show, I think about the wedding [episode] in A Different World. I remember the couch I was sitting on next to my cousin when we watched that episode. I remember the end of that Fresh Prince episode where he’s waiting for his dad to show up and he starts crying and asking ‘How come my Dad doesn’t want me?’ And he hugs Uncle Phil. I remember that moment, sitting next to my homeboy Marshall because we watched The Fresh Prince every week together. It was a moment in time for me that I’ll never forget. I hope that this show does that in a lot of ways; that there are moments in the show that you relate to, you’re drawn to, you learn from or are emotionally engaged with for whatever reason and you never forget them. And that they stay with you and that hopefully you love them and you want to share them and talk about them with other folks. I think that’s the power of storytelling.

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It’s hard to say this when you’re inside of it and it feels odd for me to say it, but—that is the power of legacy. We will forever talk about HBCUs in a way that the light had never been shone on because of A Different World. Like, forever. And I just hope that’s what this show does for Black women, for Black female friendship, for Black men, for South Los Angeles. I hope that’s what this show does globally for folks. And for Lawrence, I just hope [people] know it’s okay if your journey takes a different path. It’s okay if it’s a little bumpy. But know that you can learn from every single turn and every single bump and hopefully, the vision that you have at the end of this journey—if you keep your eye on that, you can still get there. The journey there just might be different than what you expected, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get there.

New episodes of Insecure premiere Sundays at 10 p.m. ET, only on HBO and HBOMax.