Writer, showrunner and actress Lena Waithe spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about a host of topics in a brand new feature released Monday, including the need to support the ideas of creatives of color, as well as Black queer representation on television.
The 36-year-old creator of The Chi, Queen & Slim and Twenties discussed the importance of working with people of color behind-the-scenes in Hollywood. This is a professional attribute of the utmost importance to Waithe, as noted by the president of the TV and film division of Waithe’s development and production company Hillman Grad, Rishi Rajani (“[Waithe] wants to keep earning that [Emmy Award] every single day and to do that by bringing other people up with her,” she explains.)
“What any artist wants is the strongest team with the most access,” Waithe tells THR. “You’re more successful when you have a team that thinks outside of the box but also a team that has friends in high places. Oftentimes those people aren’t people of color, or women. But I do think that’s changing.” She then likens her diverse team to a “Benetton ad,” noting that they are “fucking phenomenal.” She also adds that it’s important to teach creatives how to be strong workers in Hollywood so that they can perform the work required of those in higher-level positions at optimal levels.
Waithe also muses about the significance of sharing stories experienced by people of color who identify as members of the LGBTQ community, especially since queerness is not a one-size-fits-all experience.
“People have these ideas of what a gay woman looks like. There’s a chance I may fit into a stereotype of what a lesbian is because I’m a little more masculine-presenting,” she details while discussing one of the stars of her show Twenties, a “butch” lesbian. “That said, the bisexual community still doesn’t have a ton of representation on television. There are still people whom we haven’t explored—people who identify as asexual, nonbinary, gender queer, trans. It’s important that people of a queer experience help tell those stories.”
Waithe’s crusade to further the representation of people of color is one of the hallmarks of her creative and professional approaches. In July 2019, it was announced that she signed an overall deal with Amazon, and was praised by the head of Amazon Studios Jennifer Salke for her “gift for identifying exciting and authentic voices.”
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