This Is Why Issa Rae Wanted to Do ‘Barbie’ Despite Her IP-Fatigue


The Big Picture

  • Warner Bros. and Mattel took a unique approach with Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach’s live-action Barbie, delivering a fresh and resonating cinematic experience.
  • Issa Rae joined the ensemble despite suffering from IP fatigue, inspired by the creative control and freedom given to the filmmakers.
  • While Rae hasn’t actively pursued IP adaptations, seeing what Gerwig and Baumbach accomplished with Barbie has given her hope and made her more open-minded about that kind of storytelling.


Arguably one of the most anticipated titles of 2023 was Greta Gerwig‘s live-action Barbie. In a market oversaturated with remakes, reboots, and other projects from existing IP, Warner Bros. and Mattel seem to veer far away from the “rinse, wash repeat” approach to adapting a popular property and rather, give Gerwig and co-writer Noah Baumbach the creative control to use the iconic doll to deliver a highly unique cinematic experience, one that has been resonating with audiences around the world. That kind of creative freedom is what inspired Issa Rae (President Barbie) to join the ensemble despite suffering from some IP fatigue.

During the interview, conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike, Peri Nemiroff noted her admiration for how the Barbie filmmakers were given the opportunity to swing big and tied that back to Rae’s own work as a prolific producer in the industry. When asked how seeing what was possible on Barbie might impact her own producing ambitions, Rae noted her IP fatigue, but also told Nemiroff that Gerwig and Baumbach’s approach to Barbie made her more open-minded about that kind of storytelling. It gave her hope where IP adaptations are concerned:

« To be 100% honest, I’ve been IP-fatigued, you know? I’m just like, “Why does every movie have to be IP?!” But to see what Greta [Gerwig] and Noah [Baumbach] were able to do with the film, they made it their own. It was fun. They were able to make fun of Mattel in a way and Mattel embraced that. They got to write, essentially, what they wanted. Margot didn’t think that this would be made, and it seemed like they accomplished a lot of what they set out to do. So it gave me hope that, while it’s not something that I’ll pursue actively first, but that if it comes my way I won’t rebuke it. »

Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

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Continuing the IP thread, Nemiroff asked if there was any other IP that stood out to Rae as a potential future pursuit. Rae shared, « I haven’t thought about that. I’d have to get back to you on that. I don’t know. » Currently, Rae has been largely focused on original content, especially when it comes to behind-the-scenes work. She is best known for co-creating HBO’s Insecure, along with Larry Wilmore. The series ran for five seasons, completing its run in 2021. A little more recently, Rae executive produced A Black Lady Sketch Show and created and executive produced Rap Sh!t.


What Is Barbie About?

Barbie brings the iconic Mattel doll to life, set in the perfect society of Barbie Land where each Barbie takes on a version of the doll. Margot Robbie leads the charge as the Barbie, who begins to have an existential crisis when she notices changes in her life such as her impressively high arches going flat. So, she heads on a journey to the real world to search for answers, accompanied, of course, by Ken (Ryan Gosling). The film was written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, and directed by Gerwig. The ensemble cast also includes Simu Liu, Kate McKinnon, Emma Mackey, Ncuti Gatwa, Will Ferrell, America Ferrera, Dua Lipa, Hari Nef, Alexandra Shipp, Nicola Coughlan, Kingsley Ben-Adir, John Cena, Sharon Rooney, Ritu Arya, Michael Cera, Emerald Fennell, Scott Evans, and Anna Cruz Kanye.

Barbie is in theaters now. Watch the trailer below and Nemiroff’s full interview in the player above:

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