Y’lan Noel on Why Daniel Is Way More Than Just "The Other Guy"
by Olivia Armstrong
Written by Olivia Armstrong
HBO: How did you prepare for the role of Daniel?
Y’lan Noel: I’m going to be honest: I was nervous about playing Daniel. I love being around women -- I have a lot of strong women in my family -- but I’ve always felt a bit awkward, well, insecure, around women I’ve had crushes on. Daniel doesn’t seem to have any of that awkwardness. To prepare, I started reading and watching videos on how to pursue women. I was driving through L.A. traffic, listening to pick-up artists’ podcasts just so I could have my wind at my back going in to play Daniel -- especially because they had just chosen 6’3” Jay Ellis to play my foil [Lawrence]. Ladies love Jay. My own cousin was #TeamLawrence by Episode 2. Knowing that Jay was my friendly competition definitely pushed me to ooze all the charm and sincerity I could muster.
HBO: Daniel seems to have it together. What are his insecurities?
Y'lan Noel: I feel like he has an insecurity about companionship. There is a part of him, because of his confidence, that knows what his career trajectory could be. There are moments, especially in your late-20s when you’re ascending -- you have women around that haven't necessarily been a part of your life prior to your success. You question: “Should I have pursued some of the women who I trusted instead of those I currently find myself around?” I see his insecurities starting to form around Episode 5 when he asks Issa why she didn’t give him a shot. He genuinely means it when he asks, “What if I’m ready now?”
HBO: What do you think it means for him to be “the other guy.”
Y'lan Noel: He doesn’t think much of that because he has a history with this woman. The attraction is still there -- for both of them. Daniel’s extremely confident and goes after what he wants -- I don’t think that light mutterings of Issa having a boyfriend is much of a hurdle. I don’t think he even knows the boyfriend’s name at this point. He has no empathy for this person. All Daniel sees is the way Issa looks at him.
But I’d like to go on record that I, Y’lan Noel, would never broadcast my interests in a woman who is already taken. I would never attempt to stick my spoon in another man’s pudding. That’s something that I take to heart. Daniel’s action’s wouldn’t necessarily be mine, but I understand where he’s coming from.
HBO: What do you think Daniel offers Issa that Lawrence doesn’t?
Y'lan Noel: They met in high school. Daniel knew Issa before Issa transitioned into the whole adulting part of her life. He understands her in a way Lawrence doesn’t, and Daniel sees sides of her she may not feel comfortable expressing with Lawrence. He offers her comfort and the ability to return to who she actually is. Daniel’s also a shining example of someone who pursues his dreams and is actually doing pretty well at it. There’s some solidarity Issa receives from Daniel that she doesn’t necessarily receive from her guy.
HBO: While Insecure is very much about the female experience, why do you think the show is relatable to men?
Y'lan Noel: Your late-20s is a time when it’s necessary to do some introspection about where you are, where you’re willing to go and where you see yourself going based on decisions that you’ve made -- and to to make choices that bring out what you’ve wanted. I see that being displayed through Lawrence and Issa. They’re both thinking: “It’s time to get my life right by any means necessary.”
HBO: Is there anything you hope audiences will take away or learn from Daniel’s experience?
Y'lan Noel: Daniel goes after what he wants and he takes accountability for his actions. To me, he’s a man of integrity -- he came to make things right at Issa’s job. He comes to her aid at Career Day and when the video goes viral. It’s hard to hear from audiences that he’s no good, not husband material or he’s an f-boy. Look at his actions. He follows his gut and his emotions. He has really good intentions and he’s honest. That’s something that men and women can all follow.
Whether you’re #TeamLawrence or #TeamDaniel, the greatest part of this show is that it’s written in a way that everybody’s actions are justified. It’s hard to assassinate Daniel’s character when you see all of the nuances of his relationship with Issa.