Sarunas Jackson On Persuading ‘Insecure’s Writers to Make Dro Panamanian

Sarunas Jackson and Yvonne Orji in 'Insecure.' Courtesy of HBO

The writers on the HBO hit series Insecure managed to wait almost a full ten minutes before bringing Dro Peña back during their season three premiere. And although it was merely his name popping up on Molly’s (Yvonne Orji) phone, just like that, Sarunas J. Jackson, who is on his second season portraying Peña, was back in her life and ours.

The Afro-Panamanian actor spoke to Remezcla earlier this year about what fans can expect from the comedy, ahead of making his improv debut as part of the “Spanglish Aqui Presents” variety show in Los Angeles. At the time of the interview, production was shooting episode three which is set to air August 26.

“[Season three] is very different from the first two, just because we’re exploring different worlds,” Jackson said. “You’ll get to know some people more and you’ll see some growth and some changes [from others]. But it all comes full circle. It’s still hilarious but a lot more intimate this season.”

Things get intimate real fast for Jackson’s and Orji’s characters, who are childhood friends that became lovers during season two. Peña is married but in an open relationship with his wife Candice (Gabrielle Dennis). Fans love seeing Dro and Molly together, but that doesn’t mean the pair will end up together.

Sarunas Jackson in ‘Insecure’ season 3. Photo by Merie W. Wallace. Courtesy of HBO
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“It was a challenge for them to write this season because after two successful seasons, you don’t want to succumb to writing just what the fans want to see,” he explained. “Even though it’s hard, you can’t fall into that trap. Maybe you give a little but you have to stay as true and real as possible. At the end of the day when you’re on a show like this one, you want it to be as close to real life as possible.”

Fans may not be able to sway the writers, but Jackson did influence certain characteristics about Dro that were originally penned differently. Thanks to one specific change, it made a difference when it came time to cast the actor who would play his father Jorge.

“The writers are pretty collaborative and I respect them for that,” Jackson said. “In the beginning, my character was supposed to be black and Mexican but I asked them if he could be black and Panamanian. If he’s already Latino, just let me be me. Later when Carlos Carrasco came, this gave an opportunity to another Panamanian actor.”

Y’lan Noel and Issa Rae in ‘Insecure’ season 3. Photo by Merie W. Wallace. Courtesy of HBO
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He added, “I’m not sure if you guys know, but Y’lan Noel who plays Daniel is also Panamanian. As soon as he saw me on set he told me, ‘Oye Meño!’ I was like, ‘Damn, what are you talking about?’ I was excited to learn he was also Panamanian.”

Though Jackson’s and Noel’s ethnicities are similar, their physical appearance is not. The former admits it’s the right time for the world to understand that Latinos come in all colors and he hopes this comprehension will help create more opportunities in Hollywood.

“It’s good to give opportunities to different types of people who have all these different stories to tell,” he said. “We need to tell our own stories, especially for Latinos so that we can show how diverse we all are. People think we only have this one type of look, but even me and Daniel look different and we’re both Afro-Panamanian. He has more African descent than I do but we’re both Latinos at the end of the day. In Panama, there’s an area that has a large community of Asians but they speak full on Spanish. These are the types of stories I hope to tell one day when I create my own content.”