One of the most genuine voices in Hollywood belongs to Lena Waithe. Whether she’s penning deeply personal stories for TV or playing roles on the big screen, Waithe is known to deliver both thought-provoking scripts and performances. And with multiple projects coming up in 2019 alone, the writer, producer, and actor’s rising career isn’t slowing down any time soon.
In 2017, Waithe won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series—becoming the first black female to do so—for the “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None. Now she’s seen success with her breakthrough series The Chi and hopes her next show Boomerang will take off, too.
Besides her impressive work in the industry, Waithe is also a mentor for aspiring creators and an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community. We recently caught up with her to talk about the upcoming February 12 Boomerang premiere on BET and all things personal style.
The Window: A preview of Boomerang was held recently at Sundance. What were some of the fan reactions?
Lena Waithe: People loved it!! Everyone was so riveted the entire time. Folks seem to think we have a hit on our hands. I hope they’re right!
How did you take elements from the 1992 movie, starring Eddie Murphy and Halle Berry, and weave them into a modern story line?
We were very subtle. Real fans of the film will see us winking at them.
What was it like collaborating with Halle Berry as an executive producer?
Halle was so great to work with—super chill and trusted me to tell a new story!
The original series The Chi, which takes place in your hometown, is also returning this year. What can we look forward to in season two?
It’s definitely blacker. And more rooted in the community.
Your new film Queen & Slim is set to premiere this November. What can you tell us about the plot?
Basically, a black man and a black woman kill a cop in self-defense and go on the run. And then a very interesting journey for them and society begins.
How would you describe your personal style, and how has it evolved as your career has grown?
My style is always comfort first. Then I focus on making it fashion.
Do you take elements of your personal style into the characters you play, like with Denise on Master of None?
Yeah, luckily a lot of the characters I’ve played dress like me. So that’s been amazing.
Fashion presents the opportunity to both inspire and make a statement. You made an incredible one last year at the Met Gala—can we expect more looks like this from you in the future?
It just depends on what I’m feeling at the moment. But I love making statements with fashion.
We’ve read that, growing up, you always wanted to be a writer. Did you always want to act as well?
No, acting was God’s plan.
How do you manage to juggle so many different projects at once?
I have a lot of help—a great exec, Rishi Rajani; WME (my agency) is amazing; my awesome assistants; and I work with really hardworking collaborators.
What types of stories do you hope to tell next?
More black and queer stories.
As a mentor, what is one important piece of advice you give to aspiring writers?
Be loyal to the craft, not the business.
How do you hope to keep the momentum going on diverse representation in the industry?
I’m just gonna keep making dope shit, and I wanna help other diverse artists get their stories told.