Within minutes of his very first appearance, Kendrick Sampson's Insecure Season 3 character, Nathan, had already been given an affectionate moniker by fans. Issa's new #LyftBae, as fans called him on Twitter, definitely received a warm welcome — one he might not have expected coming onto the show as a potential love interest for Issa while the "#LawrenceHive" still reels from her ex's departure. But Sampson tells Bustle that he's happy fans are giving the newcomer a chance, because Nathan might be just what Issa needs right now.
"I think both of them have been kind of yearning for a love — somebody to talk to," Sampson tells Bustle in mid-August. "They both have been going through huge transitions in their lives, and scary transitions. You know, he’s moved all the way from Houston to Cali, and she’s gone through breakups and job transitions. …[They're] looking to somebody to confide in. That void has been there for a while."
In Episode 4, when Nathan makes his triumphant return after a few weeks' absence, he and Issa embark on a bit of a journey. They spend the night running around together against the backdrop Los Angeles, getting to know where the other comes from, and Sampson says this could be the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship. "She has somebody that she can help for the first time, and he has somebody that he can get help from for the first time," he says. Nathan needs a tour guide in his new city, and Issa's been craving a romance that's not constantly on the verge of destruction.
Fans Have Been Ready For This
Issa seems to actually have been moved by the time she spends with Nathan. The day after their date, she's in a whole new space. She throws out Lawrence's stuff that she's been holding onto for way too long, and finally quits the desk job that's been wearing on her nerves and her patience. Sampson says he thinks Nathan gave her the extra lift she's been looking for to finally shed some extra baggage.
"I think she’s been considering [quitting her job] for so long, and been so unhappy that she needed that final boost — that inspiration — that little nudge to finally make the decision. I think she gets it when they have this adventure," Sampson says. "I haven’t ever had an adventurous date like that, and so it’s inspiring and kind of a reminder that life is short, and we have to seize the day, and all those cliches that are really true. I think after having that... she’s like 'Why am I gonna waste my life doing sh*t that I don’t wanna do?'"
One good night with Nathan likely won't change the minds of fans who are seriously rooting for Issa to end up with either Lawrence or Daniel, the latter of whom's status with her still remains a little unclear. But Sampson says he wants viewers to keep an open mind, and realize what the ultimate goal should be. "Just keep in mind [Issa's] perspective. She has a need and a desire to be and feel loved, and she deserves that," he says. "Whatever happens with her and Nathan, that’s the first priority: her complete health. Her wellness, you know?" Are you swooning yet?
He says when he took the role on Insecure, he was "thoroughly warned" about passionate fans of both Lawrence and Daniel, but he's no stranger to being the new guy who shakes up a show's established relationships. Sampson's had brief roles in both Vampire Diaries and How to Get Away With Murder which both required him to usurp an existing love interest. "I’ve been in a few situations like that, but I’m not sure [the fans] have been this excitable, for lack of a better term," he continues.
Passionate viewers aren't the only ones he's expecting playful digs from as Nathan continues to woo Issa — even behind the scenes, it's clear who's rooting for who. "Even on set, people that worked on the show were like, 'Well, listen, I’m not gonna say anything. But I’m Team Daniel. I don’t know how I feel about you coming in here.'" he laughs. "I’m like, 'You wrote it!'"
He got his first taste of fan admiration days after the premiere, Sampson tells Bustle. "Some of the articles that came out [after the premiere] were like, 'Oh, LyftBae.' But I don’t know, I just wasn’t paying attention. And I finally was retweeting one after Yvonne [Orji, who plays Molly] texted me and was laughing about it, and she put that hashtag ... then I went and researched it or clicked on it on Twitter and just started laughing. The tweets were really funny and the way that they use GIFs are like … it’s like a science." If he thinks the premiere love was hilarious, Sampson is definitely in for a treat as the season — and his possible romance with Issa — unfolds.
In any case, Sampson is excited for people to get to know Nathan as the season continues. He feels a connection to the character — they're both LA transplants from Houston, and he says Nathan reminds him of who he might've become if he hadn't left his hometown so young. Even after his audition, Sampson says that the possibility of landing the part was too good to be true. "I kind of dismissed it because, you know when things are too perfect?" he says.
But Insecure was already important to him, and exactly the kind of project he wanted to be a part of. "It’s on par with what I wanna see in the world. More diverse portrayals of, and less stereotypical portrayals of, people of color, and women," he says. "And having more dark skinned women as leads who are complex characters. It’s a groundbreaking show in a lot of ways."
He also can't say enough about working with Issa Rae, who not only stars in the show but created it, and is involved in pretty much all aspects of its production. "She’s the ultimate collaborator. She brings everybody into the process," Sampson says. "Don’t get me wrong, she’s definitely about her work and getting things right. But she’s a collaborator, she even … let me do what I wanted to do, and played off of me like any other good actor would. We played off of each other’s energy."
Sampson promises that "exciting things" are coming up between Issa and Nathan, though he can't divulge too much just yet. "He’s got the perfect tour guide and she’s got the perfect person to encourage her," he says. Issa could use some encouragement these days, and Nathan just might offer exactly what she needs.