From Howard University to the Insecure Set: Contest Winners Make It Big
BY ALLIE WAXMAN
Last year, Hollywood hopefuls Kindsey Young and Candice Scales entered the Insecure On Set Contest on a whim. The contest called for two best friends to apply together, “because Issa knows the importance of having your go-to person around.” After their creative submission caught the eye of Insecure creator and star, Issa Rae, the best friends from Howard University packed their bags and moved across the country to begin their new lives as Production Assistants on Season 2 of the breakout HBO comedy. HBO talked to the pair about how they applied to the contest, their responsibilities on set, and what they took away from the experience.
HBO: What first sparked your interest in the PA contest.
Kindsey Young: We both heard of the contest individually. Multiple people sent it to me saying, “Kindsey, this would be perfect for you!” and I know Candice’s mom sent it to her.
Candice Scales: Just randomly, my mom sent me the link. The Thursday before the contest was ending, I sent the link to Kindsey. We got it done in four days.
HBO: Did either of you have interest in working in television before you applied?
Kindsey Young: I went to school for TV production and got my Masters in producing, so it’s something that I was trying to get into. Both of us were planning to move to L.A., so the timing was absolutely perfect.
Candice Scales: Yeah, I actually went to school for psychology, but I choreograph; I’ve always been a dancer. I wanted to crossover to acting. It’s something I’ve always been interested in but, didn’t necessarily pursue. Winning this contest helped push our travel plans a little quicker.
HBO: Was there something specifically about Insecure that drew you to the opportunity?
Kindsey Young: I watched [Issa Rae’s web series] Awkward Black Girl back in 2010 and ‘11. I was telling [Candice] how I admire Issa and was planning on coming to L.A. to work with her. And then the contest happened and we ended up winning.
Candice Scales: Yeah, Kindsey introduced me to ABG, and I thought it was really funny and innovative. I’d never really seen anything like it. Kindsey sent Issa an email, way before any of this ever happened, talking about how she wanted to work with her. It manifested.
HBO: What were your job responsibilities on set?
Kindsey Young: They changed — mostly we were lock-up [an on-set role where the Production Assistant ensures a set remains closed].
Candice Scales: It was usually duties as assigned, whatever needed to be done in that moment. Definitely really, really long hours. We became really acquainted with everyone pretty quickly.
HBO: What was it like working on a show with so many women behind the camera?
Candice Scales: It made me wonder what all the other sets were like. It’s very inspirational.
Kindsey Young: I think it’s important to Issa to see women in control of things like this. Seeing the women in power was really inspiring.
HBO: Was there anything about the experience that was surprising?
Candice Scales: All the food!
Kindsey Young: That was one of the greatest parts. What surprised me most was just how down-to-earth and cool everyone was. I knew Issa would be great, but I didn’t know she would be as great as she actually is. Candice and I were really lucky to end up with a crew and cast of humble, down-to-earth people.
HBO: Are there any moments that stand out to you as “pinch me” moments?
Candice Scales: I want to act, so I also got the opportunity to be a background actor on a couple episodes. That was crazy because I didn’t think I would even be close to this for another couple years, but here I am doing background work and being a stand-in. For me, that was like “wow.”
Kindsey Young: Being a stand-in was cool, but I want to be a writer and I was able to sit in the writers’ room. That was a really good experience. I felt like I fit in and it’s where I should be. Issa’s given us encouraging words, as well as Jay [Ellis, who plays Lawrence] and Yvonne [Orji, who plays Molly].
I showed [Issa the message I wrote] to her. She was really touched and said, “You must be here for a reason.” That stuck with me the entire time. Even on days where I was frustrated, tired or sick, I just had to keep in mind that if Issa said it, I must really be here for a reason.
Candice Scales: One of the things [Insecure showrunner] Prentice Penny said to me was, “Keep doing exactly what you’re doing and you’ll be fine,” and I was like, “You know what, you’re right.”
HBO: What advice do you have for people who are interested in being PAs in television?
Kindsey Young: Learn to balance doing your job and making sure you’re showing [people] who you are. Obviously, there’s a job to do, but it’s important you let people know who you are while maintaining your professionalism.
Candice Scales: Kindsey and I made sure were were always positive to work around, because it’s more than just doing your duties..
HBO: If you could describe the Insecure set in 3 words, how would you describe it?
Kindsey Young: Humbling, hilarious and inspiring.
Candice Scales: Inviting, enlightening and inspiring.