"I didn't want folks to think I got in to satisfy a requirement," she told the Los Angeles Times of her 2014–2015 tenure writing for NBC's long-running sketch comedy show. "I wanted to show that I belonged. I wanted to be at the table at SNL and I wanted them to think, 'F---, she's funny. I like what she has to say. And I see her and, oh, that joke is great.' That's a lot to carry."
She continued, "And I think that's also an expression of privilege for white writers: They don't know what it's like to walk into a room and feel like the audition is not over. I didn't feel seen, always. Putting my hand up was me wanting to know if my voice could be heard. It was Pavlovian for me."
Since 2016, Rothwell has stolen scenes as Kelli in 2016 HBO series Insecure (on which she's also produced, written and directed), and this year she parlayed the empowerment she felt on Issa Rae's set into another standout part in a buzzy HBO series.
"The confidence that I had coming into White Lotus ran laps around what I started Insecure with," acknowledged Rothwell, 41. "There's no way I would have had that confidence had it not been for Insecure — and also the confidence I had as a writer, to be able to pitch jokes and pitch moments to [White Lotus creator] Mike White, who I've been watching since Freaks and Geeks — to feel like I belonged at the table with him."
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Rothwell previously stressed the importance of spotlighting stories of the Black experience, as she spoke to PEOPLE's Morgan Evans for an episode of the :BLACKPRINT Instagram Live series #NoFilter last year.
"I think so often there's a very narrow view of what people can accept as our stories, and I think it comes from the top down as far as what is allowed to see the light of day," she said. "I want to continue to tell stories that are unique, that are diverse and that can show us in lights that we haven't had shined on us."
Insecure is currently airing its fifth and final season Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.