Loyal viewers of HBO’s Insecure were hit with a shocking end to last Sunday’s Coachella-set episode: the return of Lawrence. Jay Ellis, who portrays the seemingly gone-forever ex-boyfriend spoke with Rolling Stone earlier this week about how he learned that his storyline was not over just yet.
Before Sunday’s episode, Lawrence had last been seen during the Season Two finale. Lawrence and Issa (played by the show’s creator Issa Rae) had spent the entire season trying to find closure and move on from their painful breakup in Season One, and the finale seemed to indicate that they were both finally prepared to move on and rebuild their lives separately.
Ellis knew he would be back at some point, but he had confirmed that at least for the first few episodes, Lawrence would be MIA. “I had snuck in the writers’ room and saw on the board that Lawrence wasn’t in the first few episodes,” he revealed, noting that Rae and showrunner Prentice Penny did not know that he had gone rogue and found out that information.
While preparing to film Season Three, Ellis refused to read the scripts for the first four episodes, wanting to watch as a fan for the first time. He returned to set a month into production, but had to film under the fake name of “Lincoln Washington” — the real name of an AD’s child — for the character “Mike Wallace” to help keep the secret under wraps.
“When we went to go shoot the scene that aired on Sunday, even the director had no idea who Mike was,” Ellis continues. “They were trying to figure out why it was such a big deal that [Issa] was bumping into Mike in the 7-11.”
Ellis also gave examples of his random jobs and gigs to “pay my bills” on his way to becoming a professional actor. He revealed that when he originally auditioned for Insecure he thought he was going to be playing Daniel, the “player music producer.” So he was surprised when he tested for Lawrence and booked it. “I am naturally a very motivated person and I couldn’t understand why this dude was sitting on the couch. … About six weeks before we started shooting, I basically quit doing anything. … I started watching Shark Tank and looking up tech blogs. … I started to live that — which was really tough for people around me. But that’s how I got into that first season mindset. You start to realize he was crippled by fear… because he didn’t want to fail.”
He also said he had a fan react to him — seeing his character Lawrence — when she saw him at a shop at JFK airport. “I’ve been slapped before by a fan,” he admitted. “We ended up sitting down and talking… and she completely apologized for it.”
That segued into his sharing a few hints about his upcoming blockbuster movie role, starring alongside Tom Cruise — “mindblowing” — in the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick movie, which is scheduled for release in 2020.
See a shorter clip where Jay Ellis discusses Season 3 of Insecure below: