Jean Elie is having one hell of a summer.
Not only did the Insecure alum propose to his longtime girlfriend Randall Bailey while on vacation in Greece in June, but his new ALLBLK original series Send Help will also be debuting on the AMC streaming service on Aug. 11.
The actor is best known for his performance as Issa Rae’s hilarious TV brother Ahmal Dee on the Emmy-award-winning HBO series. His character’s longstanding beef with his sister’s friend Kelli (Natasha Rothwell) provided some of the show’s funniest moments, and he tells Complex that a lot of them were “riffed.” Aside from that role, he has also appeared in the Netflix hit series, Colin in Black and White and previously worked on The Eric Andre Show.
Now he is gearing up for the Send Help premiere, which he created with producing partner Mike Gauyo, who also wrote for Insecure. The new comedy series is inspired by Elie’s personal experiences and it centers around a first-generation Haitian-American named Fritz Jean-Baptiste from Brockton, Massachusetts who is trying to make it in Hollywood while coming to terms with a recent family tragedy. Things seem to be falling into place for Fritz until his show gets unexpectedly canceled, leaving him to deal with his grief, imposter syndrome, and the struggles of having an incredibly demanding Haitian family across the country. (Elie knows those humbling feelings too well; he shares that just minutes after wrapping Season 1 of the show, he got a text saying his mom’s house was at risk of foreclosure.)
“I’ve constantly been going back and forth with telling this type of story for a very long time and it just rings so true to me,” Elie tells Complex. “What I’ve learned as a creator is to tell the stories that make the most sense to you, because that’s going to resonate with people the most…Especially first-generation Americans.”
While he makes jumping from the Insecure series finale just last year to being the showrunner and starring in his own show look easy, Elie has been putting in the work. During a recent conversation with Complex, the actor shared that he has taken jobs behind the scenes, in writers' rooms, as a production assistant, as an assistant director, and more, just to prepare for this moment. And that’s also because he doesn’t want to do any of it alone. Elie founded his entertainment studio Bassett House Pictures in 2019 with a mission to support and help creators tell stories from and about marginalized cultures the way other people have helped him. Now he hopes to extend to other creators the same level of guidance and support people like Eric Andre and Rae gave him at the start of his career.
Complex sat down for a conversation with Jean Elie where he told us all about his life, creating Send Help, everything he learned from working with Issa Rae on Insecure, and how he was finally able to impress his mother.