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Kendrick Sampson: 'Insecure' Proved Black Creatives Should Tell Their Own Stories

"We deserve autonomy to tell our stories the way we experience them," says the actor who plays Nathan on the HBO series.

Whether you were a member of #LawrenceHive or you wanted Issa Dee to “do bad all by herself,” you have to admit that Nathan was a strong contender for her affections. Now that Insecure is coming to an end and the fate of Lawrence and Issa’s reconciliation hangs in the balance, there’s a possibility that Nathan might just make his way back around.

While we anxiously await the outcome of the final six episodes of the HBO comedy-drama, we caught up with actor who plays Nathan, Kendrick Sampson, to discuss the final season, what the show has taught Hollywood and what being a part of the series meant to him as an artist. See what he had to say below. 

How are you feeling now that the show is coming to an end?

KENDRICK SAMPSON: I felt like if Issa was good with it, then I was good with it. This is her baby. I don’t think people realize how much work, energy, anxiety and sleepless nights go into creating this type of world. And more than anything, I want her to be pleased with how these characters resolve. I see her confident in what was accomplished and that makes me feel good. 

I think it’s really special and significant to be a part of something that so many people are so emotionally invested in and also has been transformative for Black storytelling. 

Kendrick Sampson: ‘Insecure’ Proved Black Creatives Should Tell Their Own Stories

ESSENCE: How did the community react to your portrayal of Nathan and his bipolar disorder? Did people get it?

SAMPSON: It was received really well. I think it was really effective. To be completely honest, far more effective than I thought it would be. It seemed really vague in the beginning, which I thought was kind of cool. Because we don’t always know what’s going on. You just know there’s a problem. He was having so many problems communicating as he was going through a huge transition. So what does that do to our decision making and communication with people? 

And when that finale episode dropped in season 3, I got overwhelming support. DMs, text messages that said ‘It’s so dope to see a Black man navigating mental health.’ ‘I can relate.’ ‘Oh, that’s me.’ People were really reaching out, especially young men. 

I was so focused on people yelling at me at the airport for the next year for being Ghostbae. I was prepping for that. But I was pleasantly surprised by how many people could really connect with that experience…not to negate all of the women that were triggered by it. 

Kendrick Sampson: ‘Insecure’ Proved Black Creatives Should Tell Their Own Stories

ESSENCE: Do you think Issa and Lawrence should make it work?

Kendrick: I don’t know. I’m awful at decision making. I want to know all the different options and get all the advice before I make the decision. If I was in Issa’s place, I would be very torn. It’s like, is this a sign that we’re just not supposed to be together or is this something that we need to work through? It’s the same thing she had to go through with Nathan. And that’s one of the reasons why I, me, myself personally am not in a relationship right now. 

ESSENCE: What do you think Insecure has taught Hollywood about Black stories being told specifically by Black people?

Kendrick: That we deserve the portrayal of our full existence. We’re denied that portrayal so much. White supremacy and white creatives have way too much influence over our stories. We deserve autonomy to tell our stories the way we experience them. I think it’s proven that our stories are universally relatable. We have a diverse audience and this show is really impactful and has been revolutionary in a lot of ways. 

I think more than anything, for me, I thrive in the gray areas of our existence. I love telling the stories of us making mistakes and navigating through those mistakes. 

We deserve more than anybody to build those spaces for ourselves, by ourselves and stop being extracted by corporations… and colonizers. 

Kendrick Sampson: ‘Insecure’ Proved Black Creatives Should Tell Their Own Stories

ESSENCE: What has being a part of Insecure meant to you personally and professionally?

Kendrick: Personally, I get to make art with Black people that I love. There’s nothing more valuable than that. Not just any Black people. Black people that share my values, that care about me as a human being and that I care for. I can’t ask for more than that. That is just incredible. 

Also being able to build up my platform with a project like this. The fact that I got a character with mental health issues when that’s my number one passion. Black folks are the ones that gave me the job and are supporting me. 

And the fact that they got out in the streets in protest, during the uprisings. The fact that everybody called me–the first people that hit me up to make sure I was ok was Issa and [Insecure showrunner] Prentice [Penny]. 

Season 4 was airing at a very precarious time. Uprisings were happening. I was speaking out and saying some very controversial and political statements…that I 1,000 percent believe and still believe and will spout out any day, all day. But it put me in a position where a lot of people don’t want to f*ck with my platform and who I am. They don’t want that associated with them because they don’t want the heat. 
The fact that I was not only supported but praised and they joined with me, not just for me but for Black folks… That happening is unheard of, I don’t care who thinks they have a better cast.