We love a man who isn't afraid to speak his mind and keep it all the way real, and when it comes to love and relationships, Jean Elie certainly doesn't hold back. It's no surprise that Elie caught our attention on HBO's Insecure as Ahmal Dee—Issa's smart-mouthed little brother who appears on the last few episodes of Season 2.
But while we certainly appreciate having a little eye candy on the show, we have our eye on Elie for other reasons. Beyond the humor, the Haitian-American is proving himself to be one to watch, snagging credits on ABC's American Crime and visually directing music videos for Timbaland co-signed artist Brandon Tory. Not bad for someone who just a few years ago decided to quit his day job and hopped on a one-way flight to Los Angeles with only $1,000 in his pocket to pursue his acting and directing career.
That kind of ambition alone makes us just a bit curious about the actor after the cameras stop rolling, so we sat down with Elie for some real talk about his insecurities, his thoughts on cheating and why he prefers tomboys over supermodel types.
What was it like when you found out that you landed the role of Ahmal Dee on Insecure?
I was shocked! (laughs) It literally took two weeks before I heard anything back. And usually if I don't hear anything back within a week, it's out of my head. Then, I got a phone call at the most random time of the day and they were like, “Hey, Insecure called and said they want you to play Ahmal." Then my boys were like, “Yo, what's wrong?" And I was like, they called and said I got the role for Ahmal, to play Issa's brother. I was like, this is crazy. Like that's nuts. What does this even mean? What happens next?!
What are you most excited about with playing Issa's brother? Where would you like to see this role go?
I would love to see him extend into a third season. I'd like to get more back story on his character, to see what he gets himself into-what his MOUTH gets him into because he has a smart mouth. I'd also like to see what his life is like outside of Issa and his beef with Kelli. Like, what's going on with that?
Insecure deals with a lot of the modern complexities of dating. Molly and Dro, in particular, have blurred the lines of their friendship and have become lovers. Do you think it's ever okay to blur the lines or do you prefer to just keep friends as friends?
It's cool to blur the lines, but it's more important to have a conversation. As awkward as it may be, have that conversation to know that this is what it is and this is what we're doing. Being with your friend can make it the best experience in the world, you know? Because it doesn't have to be about sex, you're actually enjoying each other's company. You're able to be honest and open with one another. Communication is key in any relationship – as long as you have an open channel to talk to one another it'll always work out. But you also have to accept the fact that someone's going to end up hurt in this situation if you guys don't make it an official thing some time down the line. Especially if that conversation isn't had.
Molly's professional life is flourishing. But her personal life and her love life is kind of trash – especially with her making the decision to hook up with a married man. Is there something to be said about ambitious and successful people and their dating life? Do you think it's hard to balance being successful while also trying to date successfully?
Yeah, I think anything is possible. It's not impossible, but it's hard. Molly is a strong, black, independent queen who does her own thing but she's also flawed like everybody else. I think once she gets rid of expectations, which is what we all should do, we'll all do better.
Expectations on relationships, on careers, on anything that we have – it usually ruins things. We have an idea of what things should be instead of really accepting what it is. I try to get rid of my “should." Everybody has their own time. Everybody has their own process. Things will happen when they're supposed to happen, not when you want it to happen. Especially in relationships. I try my best not to look for something. I let things come to me.
"We have an idea of what things should be instead of really accepting what it is. I try to get rid of my 'should.'"
So, you're not sliding in any DMs?
Nah, I'm not sliding in any DMs. But I am liking the 100th picture though. I will scroll down your whole timeline (laughs).
How do you navigate dating and finding a genuine person to spend your time with?
My friends, they help hook me up. I don't like those dating app situations. I've tried a couple of them before and I always end up with some type of weird person (laughs). Like you really have to read people's bios and some people don't have them. I went on a couple of dates with this one girl and she was talking a mile a minute – she was looking for a sponsor. So, my homegirls usually try to hook me up. Sometimes the relationship works, sometimes it doesn't. Usually my relationships start off as just friends, which is great, so it's like alright, I know you're not crazy. I know you're actually doing the things you said you're doing. But again, sometimes things just don't pan out.
Are you dating right now?
Yeah, I'm dating, but I haven't found anything serious yet. I'm still out here mixing and mingling (laughs). I have to feel like we're best friends and I can really talk to her about anything. I don't believe in cheating, so once I get in a relationship, that's the relationship I'm in. Nothing can come between me and the person I'm with, which is why we have to be super honest with each other. A lot of the time relationships fall to the wayside because people don't communicate properly or they start talking in circles and they end up breaking up. I try to be as honest as I possibly can with whoever I'm talking to.
"I don't believe in cheating. Once I get in a relationship, that's the relationship I'm in."
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
One of the songs on Insecure's soundtrack this season is called “Supermodel" by SZA. SZA also has a song on her album CTRL called “Normal Girl" and those two are arguably juxtapositions. What kind of woman attracts you more? Are you more drawn to the Supermodel IG Famous types or the girl-next-door Normal Girls?
I like the normal girls, the girl next door. I like them a little tomboy-ish. I'd like a girl that's nice, cool, pretty, cool with her family even if she still has to work some stuff out, likes the outdoors, and someone that can joan around with me (laughs).
What would make a woman stand out to you?
I love when a woman doesn't feel like she needs somebody to make her complete. If she doesn't feel like she needs me, then that makes me want to be there for her. If a girl is doing her own thing, that's attractive too. I don't want her to need a man in her life, I want her to want one. Because if the want is mutual, then everything will work out.
The name of the show is called Insecure and for good reasons. What's one insecurity or fear you have when it comes to relationships?
My fear is that I might leave a person in fear of my heart. Or that I might get scared and feel like this is it. I don't believe in cheating, but I've seen a lot of cheaters. If I get married, it's a wrap for me and her and I don't want that to happen. So, in fear of that actually being something that happens to me, that keeps me from locking stuff down.
There was a meme floating around Instagram that read: “If the love doesn't feel like 90's R&B, I don't want it." But what does Jean say?
90's R&B is cool. It's amazing (laughs). If the love doesn't feel organic, if it feels like we're forcing it – then I don't want it. If it doesn't feel like a natural thing, like we grew into it, I don't want it.
"If the love doesn't feel organic, if it feels like we're forcing it – then I don't want it."
Now Listening: Brandon Tory, Chance the Rapper, SZA, DRAM, Childish Gambino
Best Impersonation: Barack Obama
Favorite Food Places in LA: Comfort LA, Wurstkusche, The Federal
Favorite Food: French fries
Currently Binge-ing: Narcos, Viking, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones
Neo-Soul or Trap Music: Neo-Soul
Team Lawrence or Team Issa: Team Lawrence (his reasons were kind of legit ladies, cut him a break)
Featured image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images