This story contains spoilers.
Well … #LawrenceHive, where ya at? In Season 5, Episode 3, aptly titled “Pressure, Okay?” “Insecure” certainly leans into one of its biggest strengths: starting conversations — and arguments — about love, life and how we deal with some of its messiest moments.
Lawrence (Jay Ellis) and Condola (Christina Elmore) reunite in a Los Angeles hospital room, with Condola’s perfectly cast mom (Lela Rochon) and sister (Keke Palmer) by her side. Lawrence hopped on a plane from San Francisco, after Condola shot him a quick text that she was in labor with their child.
Within the episode, audiences see Lawrence (finally) excelling in his career at a tech start-up, building a life in the Bay, and pushing forward with his dating life post-Issa, post-Condola and pre-parenthood. In the words of always prescient Kelli Prenny, Lawrence is having his moment of “growth,” but by the end of the episode, it’s clear he still has quite a bit of growing to do.
“He’s coming into adulthood and what being a man looks like for him. It’s been this wild journey of self-inspiration and frustration and heartbreak, all these things that I think are really starting to shape who this guy is going to become,” actor Jay Ellis, who portrays Lawrence, Issa’s ex-boyfriend, told HuffPost. “It is going to be a bumpy ride, but I think he is really starting to face some things, look at them and go “Oh, maybe this vision that I had all this time and this life that I thought was going to be this one particular way … Maybe I don’t have to be so rigid about it.’”
Those rigid notions surrounding his life’s path were all tested in Sunday’s episode. Condola and Lawrence welcome baby Elijah Mustafa into the world, without much conversation about how they would co-parent their new bundle of joy. Lawrence promises to come down every week to visit the baby, determined not to be a deadbeat dad. Condola, who in the Season 4 finale said Lawrence could be as involved as much as he wanted, hesitantly accepts Lawrence’s re-entry into her life. But throughout the episode, it’s clear that their lack of communication is at the center of their issues: awkward conversations about baptisms and baby doctor appointments and a very public argument — and literal baby tug-of-war — about introducing Baby Jah to new foods.
“He actually hasn’t communicated what his plan looks like. He is trying to force this thing. Hopefully he realizes that maybe this is a thing he can’t force,” Ellis said. “I think he’s conflicted because he wants to do the right thing. I think he is a guy who often wants to do the right thing and maybe doesn’t know how to.”
In the episode’s final act, Lawrence flies down to Los Angeles to take Elijah for his first overnight stay with dad. When Lawrence arrives, the baby is very fussy, and Condola decides she doesn’t think the sleepover is a good idea. Then a big blow-up about Condola’s lack of trust in Lawrence The Father boils over. Condola calls Lawrence a “part-time good dad” and refuses to let him leave with the baby. Lawrence, frustrated by Condola’s “petty, controlling bullshit,” goes … off.
“I’m not doing this with you anymore,” he tells Condola. “We don’t have to talk. But just know I’m going to do what it takes to get my son with you or without you.”
Ellis, 39, said he knows he’s going to be “public enemy No. 1” for at least a month; the best way to encapsulate his reaction to the big fight? Insert Homer backing into the bushes GIF.
“So much of what Lawrence says in that episode — and so much of what he is experiencing — is so obviously one-sided,” Ellis said. “It’s like all the stories that he has come up with are spent between his own ears.”
When he read the script, Ellis said it scared him a bit — so he went straight to creator/actor Issa Rae and showrunner Prentice Penny to talk it all through. He, of course, trusted their vision for how the rest of the season would play out but public perception isn’t always so forgiving: “I don’t want people throwing stuff at me when I’m out in the world,” Ellis said.
But as loud as Lawrence haters will be, there will certainly be a loud chorus of #LawrenceHive singing his praises. (One line in particular will certainly resonate with Lawrence’s biggest fans: “You made a decision without me and now you’re trying to use it as an excuse to keep him from me.”)
The actor takes all the talk in stride, and he looks forward to the social media reaction — just remember he is not actually Lawrence when you see him in the streets.
“Insecure,” which is in its final season, taught the actor to think big about what’s possible in Hollywood, especially since the series broke all conceptions about how a show had to be told and who had to tell it. He’s still not quite ready to say goodbye: “I haven’t really thought about the Lawrence chapter ending yet. I’m still in denial a little bit,” Ellis said. Soon, the actor is set to appear in “Top Gun: Maverick” and is currently filming rom-com “Somebody I Used To Know” opposite Alison Brie and Kiersey Clemons.
In the meantime, he’s ready for all the conversation that his character will stir up for the rest of the season.
“I’m just happy that it moves folks — to me that’s the power of it,” he said. “I’d rather be public enemy number one than nobody talking about it. That’s one of the things that we love. We’re very grateful to have people in their feelings on this show because it means we’re doing our jobs.”
“Insecure” airs Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on HBO.