Q&A

For Christina Elmore, Insecure and Twenties Are Just the Beginning

Christina Elmore
Photo Getty Images

We live in an age of larger-than-necessary reactions to the drama on their favorite shows. Viewers often mistake a fictional universe for that of the real world, and the actors themselves for the characters they play on television. Christina Elmore knows a thing or two about such a folly: On season four of Insecure, she was cast as Condola, a replacement bestie for Issa (the affable series protagonist played by the show’s creator, Issa Rae), after Issa had just spent the entire previous season falling out with her old bestie (Molly, played by Yvonne Orji). However, when it is revealed that Condola is dating Lawrence, Issa’s old flame, our series protagonist has a hard time keeping the friendship and cuts Condola off.

Unbeknownst to the audience tuning into the beloved HBO series every Sunday night, all of that seemingly petty drama with Condola was building up to something much bigger than a classic case of accidentally befriending an ex’s new girlfriend. Condola and Lawrence break up, and Lawrence and Issa get a small window of time in which they might be able to rekindle their old flame, but when the writers of Insecure dropped the bombshell news in the season four finale that Condola was pregnant with Lawrence’s baby, all hell broke loose on Twitter. Some viewers even threatened Elmore in her DMs, as if she, the actress, was responsible for breaking up a fictional couple.

Elmore called W from her home in California to discuss her character’s journey on Insecure—in addition to the messy drama unfolding on her other big television show, Lena Waithe’s Twenties. She gets a laugh out of some of the Condola hate, but knows more viewers are fans of the character than they might let on, and encourages everyone to have a change of heart after Condola’s big moment in episode three of the final season.

Since appearing on Insecure, have people started calling you Condola in the streets?

I get “Condola” on a good day! They call me “Canola oil” and “Condolences.” [Laughs.] In person, everyone I’ve met has been like, “I hate Condola, but I love you,” or “I know everybody hates Condola, but I actually like her.” The crazy weird stuff is all on the Internet. I’m really low-key and introverted, so the masks have helped.

When you first auditioned to be on the show, did you know Condola would be the one to keep Issa and Lawrence from being together?

The audition started out regular, even though it ended up being one of the craziest auditions of my life. After three days, if I don’t hear back, I usually let the job go. I didn’t get a call back until a month later, when they told me to come in and do a chemistry read with Jay Ellis. I didn’t know who the character would be with because in the script they were acting like Lawrence wasn’t coming back that season; they changed the names in the scripts. When I was cast in the role, I had to start work the next morning at 5:30 A.M.

At first it seemed like Condola was going to be Issa’s new bestie, but then we discover she’s dating Lawrence, and finally, at the end of season four, it’s revealed that Condola is carrying his baby. How did you feel when you found out that’s where the story was going?

I screamed. After reading episode eight, where you see Issa and Lawrence rekindling and how beautiful it is, I was like, oh no! But I still could not have expected that people would come for Condola the way they did, or that they would blame her for the baby. I just did not see that coming. There was no cheating. There was no entrapment. Two people were in a relationship, they had sex. It takes two to tango. It highlights that, as much as we have moved on, there is still a lot of misogyny and strange thinking around women and being pregnant and whose “fault” it is. I think people are more mad at Condola for choosing not to have an abortion. It took both of them to get pregnant, but Condola is making the choice to carry the pregnancy, which is a weird thing to be mad at someone about.

She’s a career woman, she’s got her life together. She has a beautiful kitchen. I’m sure she’s more than capable of making her own decisions.

She has a very beautiful home! And she’s not asking Lawrence for anything more than he’s willing to offer.

Condola also has a very supportive family. In season three, we see that her sister Kyra is played by none other than Keke Palmer, who had previously tweeted about her love for the show—and disdain for Condola—before appearing in season five.

Her tweet was so ratch! [Laughs.] I love Keke to death, that’s my little sister. But that tweet—talking about, “I’m gonna beat Condola!” She manifested being on the show, and it was so great to work with her. She is so talented.

Do you have siblings in real life?

I do. I have a sister and a brother. My sister is so similar to how Keke’s character Kyra is—she rides hard for me. My sister is in the comments on Twitter like, “You’re not going to come for my sister!” When Keke put her tweet up—I think it was re-posted on The Shade Room or something, about how Keke said she would take a role on the show if she could beat Condola’s ass—my sister was in the comments. So for Keke to be my sister the way that my sister is in real life was fun.

At the end of episode three, Condola goes off on Lawrence in an explosive argument at her house. Did you expect her to go there?

I don’t think I did. But what I loved about the way the writers wrote that episode in particular is that, when you are that tired and have not had any sleep, and the person you love the most is so small and defenseless, and you have to try to share this person for whom your whole job is to keep alive and safe, with someone you don’t even like right now? That’s a lot.

Spoilers aside, where do you hope Condola ends up, and what do you hope she gets out of this experience as Elijah’s mom?

I hope she builds confidence in her mothering, and in her power and ability to do it with Elijah’s dad—and that she feels fulfilled and excited about her future and her future with her baby, and a future partner or not. I am a mom of two myself—I have a four-year-old and a little baby—and it’s such a tough transition going from this career woman who’s got herself together, and no matter how much money you have or how together you think you have it, having a baby rocks your world. Doing it without a partner in your house can really rock your world, so I hope she is happy to have the life she wants.

I want to switch gears slightly to Lena Waithe’s BET series Twenties, which is another great comedy about a messy group of friends.

That’s what I love most both about these shows. Twenties is groundbreaking in a lot of ways because it centers a masculine-presenting, queer Black woman [Jojo Gibbs] in a way that we have not seen on primetime television. In doing that, she’s living her regular life. It’s not about her sexuality, it’s not about a stance, or even her coming out. She’s just living, and she’s a whole entire mess, and she doesn’t have to be this perfect, magical, stand-in for all queer women who ever existed. The show is quietly revolutionary in that way.

Selfies taken by Christina Elmore for W magazine.

You star as Marie, a Hollywood career woman with a few secrets she’s keeping from her fiancé and two best friends. Do you find any of yourself in Marie?

Everything is falling apart for Marie. She was holding it together, barely. Now, it’s leaking, out of control! She and I are similar in that we’re tightly wound, and we think that if we can just have control, everything will be fine. But she needs to fall apart to figure out what she wants, instead of doing the things she thought she should do.

There have only been a few episodes of this season so far, but is there one thing you really hope happens for Marie this season? She has so many fun interactions with different guest stars on the show, from Iman Shumpert playing a prospective client (and possible paramour) to Vanessa Williams, and Rick Fox playing her potential in-laws.

If I was Marie, I would marry her fiancé Chuck for those in-laws! It could even be a loveless marriage. But she and I are not the same. [Laughs.] I hope she gets to break some of her rules. I hope she takes a risk, does some flirting—maybe a bit more than that—with somebody she should not do that with, and see what happens. What happens when you break a rule? What happens when you take a risk? If you fall apart, you probably won’t die. Try it!

Your career began in the theater before you switched television, but is there something you haven’t done yet or a role you haven’t played that you are dying to try?

I could write a whole book about all the things I want to try, because it’s truly everything. I have not done much in the way of film and I would love to be in a period drama, or be a spy running across Eastern Europe. What I love about theater is you get to be a lot more transformative than in TV. A few years ago, if you had asked me that question, I would have said, Oh, I want to do a comedy with Black women about Black women. And then I got to do Insecure and Twenties. So now, I’m just about saying what I want. If anybody is listening, I want to be a spy. I want to be in a period drama. I want everything.