Issa Rae—the show’s creator who also plays Insecure‘s main protagonist Issa Dee—strives to showcase Los Angeles County as “rich with culture and extremely diverse.” She told Deadline, “It’s something that we wanted to put in the best light.” Set primarily in South LA, Issa Rae’s mission triumphs in displaying the ins and outs of LA’s inner life.
Issa Dee’s office
As Issa Dee wrestles with the fact she’ll turn 30 within a year, she plunges headfirst into her job as liaison at a non-profit called We Got Y’all. This organization—which Issa Rae actually works at off camera—helps young, underprivileged kids achieve higher aspirations and academic skills through after-school programs. The show’s office headquarters is at the Fernando Pullman Community Arts Center. This West 43rd Street center offers theater and free kids’ art classes. Similiar to We Got Y’all’s mission, the center works to create outlets for young people in the community.
Where Issa grew up
Windsor Hills is both the setting of the main character’s home neighborhood, as well as Issa Rae’s real-life place of origin. Together with Ladera Heights and Baldwin Hills, these three palm-tree-lined districts make up the West Coast’s highest concentration of diverse affluence, earning the collective nickname of “Black Beverly Hills.” Windsor Hills boasts wide streets with Mediterranean-style and Spanish-inspired houses. For Issa Rae—both on and off Insecure—highlighting Los Angeles neighborhoods like Windsor Hills is a high priority. The writer-producer-actress said in a Vanity Fair interview that you don’t really get to see [Windsor Hills] on television. “That was very important to me, to actually film in that neighborhood and not, like, pretend to film in it.”
Issa Rae didn’t need to fudge much while portraying her character’s living situation—because the apartment on the show is the filmmaker’s actual home. Following the show’s plot, Issa Rae lives there with her real-life boyfriend, while on the show Issa Dee and boyfriend Lawrence (Jay Ellis) live together at The Dunes. As portrayed in the series, The Dunes is a 52-unit stucco-faced complex located in Inglewood, complete with classic-LA palm trees standing tall out front.
Insecure’s Issa Dee frequents a favorite hang out spot at Maverick’s Flat. It’s also the place of choice to bump into her love-interest Daniel King (Y’lan Noel). Located in Crenshaw, the music venue was once a hot jazz and soul nightclub during the 1960s and 70s. Then called the ‘Apollo of the West,’ it was one of the hottest clubs in Los Angeles. Now named Maverick’s Flat, the South LA nightclub remains a hub of music, the arts, and its subcultures.
Issa’s birthday dinner
In the show’s pilot episode, Issa’s 29th birthday showcases Los Angeles’ Little Ethiopia district. She spends her celebration dinner at Merkato Ethiopian Restaurant, a late night spot in the Cathay neighborhood. Frequented by many millennials in South LA, it’s one of many Ethiopian boutiques, shops, and cafés along this one-block stretch in the Mid-Wilshire District.
With best friend Molly Carter (Yvonne Orji) and a few other girlfriends in tow, Issa Dee spends a lovely brunch at The Commissary. This greenhouse-style eatery boasts one of the best brunches in all of Los Angeles. It’s inside the Line Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard and is run by highly-regarded chef Roy Choi, who is best known as the founding father of the gourmet food truck movement. At The Commissary, some of L.A.’s hottest Instagram foodies are caught snapping selfies while surrounded by hanging succulents and sipping mimosas.
Inglewood High School
Through her work at We Got Y’all, the series follows Issa Dee working with school kids at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. She leads the kids on after-school programs, a field trip to the beach, and other academic work. The campus, however, isn’t a middle school at all: the desks that Thomas Jefferson Middle School kids sit at actually belong to high schoolers. Filming took place at Inglewood High School—a four-year public school in the town of Inglewood.
In a memorable show moment, Issa Dee is outraged after learning that native-Los Angeleno Molly never went to the beach until she was an adult. Issa takes her We Got Y’all kids to the west side’s Santa Monica Beach. To ensure these Thomas Jefferson Middle School students don’t miss out on something like the beach, she forms a field trip to this particular shore: one of the most recognizable beaches in the world. The ever-picturesque Santa Monica Pier features in the background of the episode’s scene, completing this honoring of a Los Angeles emblem.
Where Molly’s friends meet Jered
Early on in Insecure’s first season, Issa and Molly gather for a house party. The party takes place at the Auguste Marquis Residence, the city’s 602nd historic-cultural monument. Once owned by wealthy Death Valley gold miner Auguste Marquis, it’s not the first time HBO Network used this Arlington Avenue property for its filming. Six Feet Under also used the home as one of its top filming locations—referred to as Fisher & Sons Mortuary in the HBO classic. Back on the Insecure set, many underlying prejudices are made apparent through Molly introducing her new informally-educated beau, Jered (Langston Kerman), to her high-powered and high-paying friends.
Early on in the series, Insecure exposes many of Molly’s weaknesses, particularly when it comes to men. A high-powered lawyer, Molly throws herself at men with much less than a relationship on their mind. At a friend’s engagement party, Molly’s neediness becomes apparent when she swindles a hesitant hook-up into being her plus-one. Though there’s an awkwardness in the scene, the host building for the friend’s engagement party is the Carondelet House outside MacArthur Park. The 1928, Italian-inspired, brick building is a rental space for events in Los Angeles, mainly used for high-class weddings and glamor functions.
“I Taste Wine”
For a girls’ getaway, then-feuding Issa and Molly (along with friends Kelli and Tiffany) head to the hills of Malibu. The girls stay in a lavish rental home and go on shopping excursions, hit on men in dance clubs, and attempt to develop their taste for wine. As tensions continue to rise between friends, Molly attempts to one-up Issa by boasting her abilities to detect finite notes in the wine. Issa’s sarcastic quip, “I taste wine,” meets Molly’s display of pomposity. The winery the girls attend for their tasting is Saddlerock Ranch. Known for their safari wine tours, the winery’s grounds are also home to African-native animals like zebras, giraffes, and buffalo.