Few have leveraged an Emmy win like Lena Waithe, who won Best Comedy Writing for the “Master of None” coming-out episode inspired by her own experiences. She tells Gold Derby in an exclusive interview about her new show “Twenties,” which semi-autobiographically picks up a few years later, “Some people say awards don’t matter and for me, that one really did because I was in such an interesting space in my career. I was feeling very powerless.” She recalls about the 2017 ceremony, “There was a standing ovation just because I was the first black woman not only be nominated in that category, but obviously to win in that category, so it was a major moment where everybody — and a lot of them were white men — had no choice, but to stand up and take notice that I do know what I’m doing, I do have a unique voice, people do want to hear what I have to say and everything changed after that.”
Waithe was one of this television season’s most prolific producers, yet she also squeezed in a recurring role on “Westworld” and her feature screenwriting debut with “Queen & Slim,” a film that she also produced. She relates this success back to her Emmy, “This is like a weapon and I want to use it as such and I want to use it to break down barriers and doors and really help people populate this industry that often are ignored or are invisible, so that’s why this Emmy campaign with ‘Twenties’ is really important.” The half-hour comedy originated as a pilot presentation on YouTube in 2013 and Waithe remarks, “It was a journey to get this show on the air.” She explains about the eight episodes that aired on BET this spring, “It took ‘The Chi,’ and Emmy, me being on the cover of Vanity Fair, all these things that I had to do just to get ‘Twenties’ on the air, just to get a show about a queer black woman in the center on the air.”
Bringing the interview’s opening conversation full circle before moving onto the characterization in “Twenties” and the themes of her “#blackAF” episode (watch the video above), Waithe closes: “The revolution that’s happening right now is reminding people that we are tired of sitting in the back of the bus, particularly in the entertainment industry. We want to be seen and we want to be equal and BET has never had a show nominated in a category at the Emmys and people can’t say anymore that the content isn’t worthy of that recognition, because it is. It was worthy of it with ‘The New Edition’ movie; it’s worthy of it now with ‘Twenties’ and so, the academy eventually is going to run out of excuses as to why they can’t nominate a show for an Emmy just because is it’s on BET.”
Will “#blackAF” score Waithe her first Best Comedy Guest Actress nomination? Make your Emmy predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how their shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until the nominations announcement on July 28. And join in the fun debate over the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums.