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Issa Rae, YouTube star, gets HBO series order

Issa Rae attends People's

Issa Rae attends People's "Ones To Watch" event at The Line in Los Angeles on Oct. 9, 2014 in Los Angeles. Credit: Getty Images / Frederick M. Brown

Issa Rae, the star of YouTube hit "Mis-adventures of Awkward Black Girl," finally has her HBO series order. The network has confirmed to the trades, specifically the Hollywood Reporter and Deadline, that her pilot, co-written with Larry Wilmore, will go straight to series.

Yes, a big deal and one that answers one of those questions that's been hanging out there for a while ... specifically, whatever happened to that Issa Rae show?

Rae has received a considerable amount of press over the last few years, and in the right places, too. In 2012, the Atlantic asked, "Could Issa Rae save the Black Sitcom?" Then, there was the lavish New York Times Magazine spread in August that consecrated her anointment in Essence as a "game-changer" -- but fortunately didn't repeat the tag that seems to have popped up elsewhere, as the Black Lena Dunham.

Instead, the Times described her character, "J," the "Awkward Black Girl," this way: "...a quirky, misanthropic main character, like Liz Lemon but with more melanin."

Rae, 30, a Stanford grad, initially took a more innovative approach to getting attention than the usual Hollywood way, of hiring a team of agents and managers to squire her around Hollywood for meetings, lunches, and a possible starring role in the next Shonda Rhimes hit. (In fact, she later did land a job with Rhimes, to write and develop another a sitcom, "I Hate Dudes from LA," which went nowhere.) 

Instead, she created her own show, and posted it on YouTube.

Since before and after Justin Bieber, millions of others of course have gone this route, but Rae managed something few ever achieve: She caught the attention of HBO which then ordered a pilot, entitled "Insecure," about a pair of black women who endure the slings and arrows of modern life.

Besides Rae, it will also star Yvonne Orji of "Basketball Wives."

Even better, Larry Wilmore signed on to cowrite the pilot (unclear what his future role will be). That was really hitting the jackpot. "Nightly" host Wilmore was instrumental in "black-ish's" success, and "The Office's" and "The Bernie Mac Show's"....

Timing in life and on TV is pretty much everything, and this timing looks good: In the wake of "Empire's" success, doors have finally begun swinging open for black actors in Hollywood. Rae's "Awkward," however, suggests something special: Authenticity with (yes) a Dunhamesque flavor. In other words, "Girls," but -- to steal the line -- with more melanin.

Until now, Rae's show did appear to have been stuck in development limbo.

No airdate set, but sometime in 2016 is obviously a very good bet, and to narrow that a bit, possibly late spring. 

Rae, meanwhile, has brought other parts of her life online; it will, after all, be the raw material of her series. Meanwhile, above, a "letter" to her younger self, posted in March.


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