We Need to Talk About Kev’yn
By Kindsey Young
This season’s show-within-a-show will give you the dose of nostalgia you’ve been missing. Read about how Kev’yn was created and the three writers behind it.
Hey, Insecure Fam! Real ones know that Insecure has a history of doing these shows-within-a show — you know, the show that our characters are watching… within the actual show. Season 1 it was Conjugal Visits, a reality show about women behind bars. Season 2, there was Due North, the critically acclaimed slave show that explored a love affair between a slave and slave owner. This season, we introduce Kev’yn — a ‘90s reboot, that plays on typical sitcom tropes from popular shows. It will still very clearly serve its duty as being comic relief for our characters, but it will also address topical issues in today’s society.
The Idea: In the beginning of the season, the idea for the show-within-the-show was going in a completely different direction until one day, our showrunner Prentice Penny spotted an extra on set reading a book about “How to Write a Sitcom.” He thought the concept behind that was hilarious, and per usual, when he discussed it with the writers, the jokes started flowing in. Not to mention there’s been an obsession with TV reboots lately. And that was it. He came up with Kev’yn. Genius. I mean, really, who doesn’t love a classic ‘90s sitcom? Answer: No one.
The Unexpected Opportunity: In the past seasons, the show-within-a-show was written by actual staff-writers. This time around, Issa and Prentice were open to trying something different: They gave Syreeta Singleton (Script Coordinator), Nicole Bilbrew (Writers’ PA and Showrunner’s Assistant), and myself (Writers’ Assistant), the opportunity to write it! One day they said, “By the way, y’all are writing Kev’yn.” I thought they were kidding at first. They weren’t! Obviously, this was a big deal to all three of us for a number of reasons, but I think what resonated most was how big of an honor it was to be trusted with the vision. They gave us creative control over the process, and the freedom to exercise our own ideas. We knew it was a part of the show that viewers would definitely be looking forward to seeing, so we were really excited and determined to make it great! No pressure…
The Process: Syreeta, Nicole and I grew up watching ‘90s sitcoms, so the brainstorming process was a lot of fun. We started by doing research on some of our favorites: A Different World; Martin; Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; Sister,Sister; Family Matters; Living Single… the list goes on. We knew we had to make it topical, so between the #MeToo movement, accusations, cancellations, terrorizations, and hater-ation, there was a lot to cover. Writer Syreeta Singleton shared her thoughts on the process: “Kevy’n was such a fun project to write. We really dove into the process: watching ‘90s sitcoms, discussing common character tropes, outfits and hair. We treated it like another episode of Insecure with a writers’ room, rewrites, production meetings, casting and design. It was an incredible learning experience. We got to oversee the project from start to finish. And we got so many fun and unexpected moments on set.”
Being on Set: The filming of Kev’yn was absolutely the most fun I’ve had during filming. Not only was catering on point this day, (they had lobster) but, it was the last day of production and we literally had a set full of ‘90’s icons: Bill Bellamy (Def Comedy Jam), Erica Alexander (Living Single), Darryl Bell (A Different World), and Kim Fields (Living Single) as our director! Can you say nostalgia? The cast was perfect, the energy was there, and everyone was super-friendly. We just had a genuinely good time making Kev’yn happen. I remember Syreeta, Nicole and I sharing a moment like, “Wow. This is real.”
The Original and the Reboot: We are first introduced to the show-within-a show in the Season 3 premiere. Daniel’s sister is watching a rerun of the original Kev’yn from the ‘90s. In the original episode, we meet a young Kev’yn, his girlfriend Yolanda, best friend Percy, and Lil’ Chris — the neighborhood kid who always enters through a random piece of furniture followed by the triggering catch-phrase, “Boo-yaaa!” We decided to do the original episode of Kev’yn on gender roles because that was such a humorous and recurring plot device used in ‘90s sitcoms. Kev’yn and Yolanda have decided to switch roles for a day due to a bet. Percy fails at doing laundry, Kev’yn struggles to cook a cornish hen, and an uninvited Lil’ Chris enters through the fridge claiming to smell ‘bougie pigeon.’
Later in the premiere episode, Issa is watching the new reboot of Kev’yn — where Kev’yn and Yolanda host their own protests... in their now updated living room. Yolanda argues that “Black Wives Matter” while Kev’yn believes “#Knee-Too” is a viable campaign.
The Takeaway: I’d say there’s something really special about Syreeta, Nicole and I being able to share this experience in writing Kev’yn together. In Nicole’s words, “From laughing together in our mini writers’ room, to collaborating on last-minute costume and hair/makeup decisions, to working with actors that I love and grew up watching — there were so many things that made this experience a dream.” The process was indeed a learning one, and I think in the end, it made the three of us better writers. I truly appreciate both Issa and Prentice for their mentorship and for giving me a shot. With that being said, make sure you all keep an eye out for Kev’yn and check out the FULL episodes on the Kev’yn hub! And in the words of Lil’ Chris — “Boo-yaaa.”