C.J.: 'Insecure' Co-Star Yvonne Orji Lives Her Values, Not Her Character's

Orji, who has freely talked about being a 30-something virgin in interviews, has a personal life that is the opposite of her character, Molly.

Yvonne Orji

MINNEAPOLIS (STAR TRIBUNE) -- Stories about Yvonne Orji’s vow of celibacy “already exist in the zeitgeist and there is nothing to add,” said the co-star of HBO’s “Insecure.”

But one has to try, so I did last week during a phone call before Orji’s appearance at Bethel University in St. Paul for Super Bowl Gospel Celebration. The event was a spiritual component to the NFL’s biggest game.

Orji has freely talked about being a 30-something virgin in interviews with Vogue and the L.A. Times. Her personal life is the opposite of her character Molly, an attorney with a spicy sex life on the comedy-drama created by the star, Issa Rae, and Larry Wilmore, host of Comedy Central’s dearly missed “The Nightly Show.”

On my phone call with Orji, her PR person interrupted when I asked if the comedian’s hormones were confused or if she wants to marry a virgin.“Can we skip this one?” PR said.

Q: Have you noticed any interesting looks while wearing the T-shirt you created that reads: “Keeping It Locked Until I Get That Rock”?

A: It limits conversations. You already know what time it is when you have a shirt with such a bold declaration. It kind of answers any questions the reader may have.

Q: Your character Molly is a poster model for positive mental health — seeing a shrink because she was partying and behaving like a garden tool.

A: What we like to say on the show is that you can have everything going great and you still need somebody to talk to; you can have things you don’t understand. It [could be] rooted in something that happened to you as a child or at work. I definitely think [even] if you’re good you should still go see a psychiatrist. If you’re unsure, you should go see a therapist. We try to normalize that because in the African-American community, going to see a shrink, you know it’s like, “No you don’t need to do that. Just go to church.”Yes, we can definitely go to church, you can definitely seek the Lord, but there are actual professionals you can talk with and complement your faith. If somebody tells you they are sick, you can pray and believe in their healing; but at the same time, there is still [medicine] they can take.

Q: How often do you get to church?

A: A lot of times I’m traveling over the weekends. But I have my go-to service that I watch online and throughout the week. If I’m home on Wednesdays I go to Bible study. I get my God time in, definitely. I don’t think God would bless me, be like, “You’ve got it now and you don’t have time for me?”

Q: What do your parents think of the Molly character?

A: I was poised to go to med school. Getting into comedy was difficult for my parents to comprehend. I think now they are really proud I stuck to it. A lot of their friends, Nigerians, who are here [have said]: “Man, Yvonne is really Africa’s daughter.” They have seen the interviews, they have seen me mention Nigeria a lot. I haven’t forgotten home; I haven’t forgotten faith.

Q: Did you by any chance turn down a part in the “Black Panther” movie?

A: Am I crazy? That is not a part you turn down; I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed for “Black Panther 2.”

Q: The African movement in Hollywood suggests it’s almost better to be African than black American out there.

A: Black people are from Africa. It’s a good time to be a person of color, period. I’m Nigerian, so I rep hard for my country. I have a saying: Nigerians don’t fit in second place. Everything we do we go hard. I remember growing up it wasn’t sexy to be African. We got called names ...

Q: You got called for Tarzan movies ...

A: Yeah. But now there’s [an] upswing of creators from the continent. There was just a New York Times piece about African immigrants; having that dual lens of being African and American. It’s beautiful: There are four distinctive plays — on and off Broadway — telling different stories, and there is room. I’m creating a television show [featuring a Nigerian family neither as caricatures or refugees of genocide] called “First Gen,” that David Oyelowois executive producing.

C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject.