Natasha Rothwell Talks Playing The Plus-Sized Friend On Insecure

Photo: Justina Mintz/courtesy of HBO

There are a lot of reasons to love HBO’s Insecure, and Natasha Rothwell is one of them. She is one of the writers on the show that is Issa Rae’s brainchild, responsible for creating some of the awkward and hard conversations we are used to watching. She is among the minority that is women of color shaping programming in the writer’s room. But Rothwell is most recognizable for the role she plays on camera as Issa’s outspoken friend Kelli.

If I had to make the comparison, I would say that Kelli is the Samantha on Sex and the City or the Girls’ Shoshanna (but with Jessa’s sex drive). Season 2 saw her getting her period during a marathon, spilling the tea to Issa about Tasha, and getting fingered under the table at a diner. I identify with Kelli the most, not only in her unapologetic boldness, but because she is the only plus-sized woman in the quartet of friends. So I considered it a special stroke of luck to be able to speak with Rothwell to celebrate the digital release of Insecure: The Complete Second Season. She told me what it’s like to be the fat friend both on and off the screen.

Refinery29: You’ve said before that you’re not at all like Kelli, but can you relate to her as the plus-sized friend in the group?
Natasha Rothwell: "Oh yeah! If you follow me on social media, you know I am a body body-positive, fat loving feminist. I love my curves. That’s a big part of who I am. It’s not something I’m ashamed of. To me it’s so exciting to just see Kelli being visible. To have that visibility is really clutch [for] the types of women that are being represented. It’s been so much fun to really explore her as a character and not just a caricature. I think a lot of times it’s just a funny fat friend. They’re not fully grounded, they’re not making them a whole person. That’s why I think Kelli is different. She has her feet on the ground. She’ll read you in a minute. She’s honest and complicated. It is what makes playing her such a treat because it’s a full body character that I get to embody and have fun with it."

Are there any Black women that you look up to in the industry as either a writer or an actor?
"So many! It would be problematic to even try to name them because there were so many women before me who opened doors to allow me to even be on a show like Insecure and write for it. I think that as many as there were that inspired me, there weren’t enough. And that’s just because the opportunities for women of color in the industry as so few and far between. Being able to represent people who look like me behind this camera and in front of the camera for generations to come is.... We’re out here really doing the best that we can to tell stories. I feel really lucky to do it."

Refinery29 has made a commitment to the 67% of women who wear above a size 14. What’s is the best way to clap back at body shamers is?
"I don’t have a specific clap back because I can’t even give that kind of negativity space in my mind. I feel like with all that is going on in the country right now. Negativity from people that want to body-shame make women feel less than for not being “perfect.” It’s so many economical and political battles… if me wearing a bikini got you feeling some type of way you have bigger problems. If someone comes at me on Instagram (and they have) or Twitter (and they have) I think my biggest clapback is block and delete. I love a block and delete without any kind of back and forth. Because they want you to engage and to have something to say. Maybe the best comeback is to not even give their argument validity by arguing."

Make sure you delete first. Then block.
"Yes of course! That is the easiest way to regain power in that situation. They took time out of their day to seek you out and say something and you didn’t even bother to respond."

Kelli, Molly, Kelli, Tiffany, and Issa on Insecure have become just as quintessential to viewers’ identities as Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. For example, I tell anyone who will listen that I’m a Kelli with a Molly rising. Who do you identify with the most?
"I love breaking them down as astrological signs. When I was in my 20s I was more like Kelli. I was a little bit more fearless. Now the older that I get, I’ve slid into a Molly vibe. I aspire to have my shit together like Tiffany. [laughs] It depends on the day. Today I feel like Kelli because it’s so hot outside, so I have a very short fuse right now."

67% of U.S. women are plus-size. Join as Refinery29 gives these women their own megaphone, doubling down on our commitment as allies, and partnering with them to catapult their powerful conversations into a true historic movement. #WeAreThe67

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