When an actor plays a very popular character onscreen, sometimes when they encounter fans off-screen, things can get a little weird. Just ask actor Jay Ellis, who played Issa’s (Issa Rae) ex-boyfriend Lawrence on season 1 and 2 of HBO’s hit series Insecure. Ellis bumped into a super fan at an airport gift shop once, and things quickly went left.
During an interview on ESSENCE’s Yes, Girl! podcast, Ellis discussed his new projects while also sharing some shocking stories about just how invested fans really were in Issa and Lawrence’s relationship.
After two seasons of a love-hate relationship with Lawrence, fans had to endure the couple’s slow and painful onscreen demise, and apparently, some fans’ nerves were still raw.
“I done been punched over Lawrence. I done been slapped over Lawrence. I done been cussed out over Lawrence. I done been chased down the hallway at the airport over Lawrence,” said Ellis. “It’s really interesting. This is one of my favorite things about Lawrence…that he is a dude that polarizes. You either love him or hate him, and as an actor that’s one of my favorite things about what I do.”
While Ellis jokingly explained that, to this day, he’s still sensitive to hearing the phrase “fuck boy” because of how often Lawrence was called one on Twitter, there were a few times when fans confronted him in public and it was no laughing matter.
“I had a journalist slap me and it wasn’t anyone that I had ever met before,” Ellis recalls. “I was at the airport. I walk up to the aisle and this woman is standing in front of me, and I’m like, ‘excuse me can I slide by you?’ She turns around, eyes get wide, and slap! Straight in the face, open hand. I had never had this happen before. It wasn’t a TV slap. It was like a full-on palm open slap. So, then she looked at me and was immediately like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry.’ I watch the show and I’m a writer and I should know better, and my boyfriend he did this to me.’ It was really crazy.”
Ellis did not press charges but said he did explain to the woman that he’s an actor playing a character named Lawrence and her actions were not okay.
“There tends to be a group of women who have been triggered by Lawrence’s behaviors,” Ellis said. “It’s really interesting. He really touched a nerve with men and women. I walked out of a movie theater once and a woman was literally across the street, and she was like, ‘Fuck you, Lawrence. Fuck you! You ain’t shit.’ But she’s also storming towards me and dodging traffic like a superhero…It was crazy.”
In the show’s season 2 finale, Issa and Lawrence’s storyline came to a bittersweet end, but fans looking for closure, definitely got it when the onscreen exes worked through their differences and agreed to move forward as friends. Ellis recently revealed that although production on season 3 has begun, he has not filmed any scenes yet.
While fans continue to hold out hope that Lawrence will return to the show at some point next season, Ellis is staying busy. He appears in new film In A Relationship, which screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in April, and he is the 2018 celebrity ambassador of the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) taking place in Miami in June.
Listen to Ellis’ full interview above, beginning at 26:17.