For a solid week Twitter was saying “bute” and “thick” because of a scene from Insecure‘s first episode of season two. The line came from Thug Yoda (Tristen Winger) who walked into Issa’s (Issa Rae) living room and was immediately drawn to Natasha Rothwell’s character, Kelli.
“It was a long, long shoot because we had to have the fire department there, for the fire portion that was shot on a separate day,” Rothwell told ESSENCE about taping the hilarious scene.
“Laughing happened a lot. In the clip where the Bloods are dancing and they cut to me, and I’m doubled over laughing… that’s like me actually laughing. I was just overwhelmed with laughter.”
For Rothwell, laughter is something she can’t get enough of. Since childhood, as an Army brat, she traveled from place to place with her family, using laughter as a vehicle to make friends in new cities.
“For me, humor was always my passport into new communities,” the former Saturday Night Live writer said. “I was sort of always the class clown, but I think what was confusing for my teachers because I had the grades to back it up. I would be finished with assignments and goof off, because I’m done. And so, it would be like, ‘Oh, she has like a 4.2 GPA, but she’s also just like walking around the halls with the hall pass and bothering other students.'”
After graduating from the University of Maryland, Rothwell moved to New York City where she joined the prestigious Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. There she was plucked into SNL’s incoming class of talent —its most diverse yet— alongside Leslie Jones and Sasheer Zamata.
Fast forward a couple years, and Rothwell is now writing for Insecure and playing everyone’s favorite blunt and sexually-free friend, Kelli. In addition to winning our hearts in this role, Rothwell is also behind that hilarious slave show starring Regina Hall, solely existing in the Insecure world.
“Myself and Ben Cory Jones, we wrote the show within the show called Due North, which is very subversive. It’s like a slave soap opera. We’re there on set all day with both Scott Foley and Regina [Hall], and we would just look at each other like, ‘Why did they say yes to this?!'”
Slave drama aside, Rothwell truly loves writing for the show’s arguably funniest characters.
“What’s so fun to write for Chad and for Kelli is that their function in Lawrence’s life and in Issa’s life —we’re really there to reflect parts of them back to them, that no one else will,” she said.
“We say the hard truth, and we say the thing that the other friends won’t say. And I think that’s so fun to play that honest. Like she’s so painfully honest… first thought, right thought, no edit, just say what you feel, mean what you say and say what you mean.”
Also noting about Kelli, “The show is a rare opportunity to see a woman really embrace her sexuality —and also a woman of her size is not apologizing for how she looks, but embracing it as an attribute. I really, really love that about playing her, because it’s something that I hadn’t seen before and so it feels really sort of sneaky and sort of like selfish because I’m like, ‘Oh, this is a role that I would have loved to have seen before.’ It’s great to have big girls shouting out all over social media, ‘Yes, you is thick and cute!'”