×

Why Lena Waithe Almost Didn’t Write Her Emmy-Winning ‘Master of None’ Episode

In September, Lena Waithe became the first African-American woman to take home an Emmy award for comedic writing for her work on “Thanksgiving,” an episode that chronicling her coming out story, on Netflix’s “Master of None.” However, the history-making win almost didn’t happen, given Waithe’s initial hesitance to tell the story, let alone write it herself.

Speaking at a Q&A at the 13th annual New York Television Festival on Tuesday night, Waithe revealed that she “never intended” on sharing her coming out story on-screen, and was confident in turning it down, if it wasn’t for the urging of “Master of None” creators Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari.

Waithe said the idea for “Thanksgiving” came about from a brainstorming session with Ansari and Yang. After Waithe detailed her coming out story, which she equated to a “one-woman-show version of the episode,” Yang and Ansari were instantly convinced that it would make a great addition to the series’ second season. However, Waithe needed some convincing.

“Literally I got back to my hotel and they both called me on the phone and were like, ‘Let’s do the episode. Let’s do it. You need to help us write it,’” Waithe said. “And I was like, ‘My plate’s too full. Not going to do that. But I trust you guys. Make it happen.’”

After some nudging from Ansari, who eventually helped Waithe co-write “Thanksgiving,” Waithe agreed to pen the episode. Though, she wants to set the record straight: the reason she originally turned the offer down wasn’t because she was lazy.

“Aziz was like, ‘No. I can’t be that specific. That’s your world. It’s very niche.’ So I was like, ‘OK,’” Waithe said. “He always says I didn’t want to do it because I was being lazy, but that’s not true. He’s the lazy one. That’s why he enlisted me. I just had a lot happening.”

And though the episode eventually led Waithe to an Emmy win months later, she doesn’t credit her achievement strictly to her talent. “The only reason that door was opened was because so many funny women of color have been beating on it for so many years prior,” Waithe said. “If I’m standing tall on that stage, it’s because I’m standing tall on their shoulders.”

Waithe credits black female writers like Susan Fales-Hill (“A Different World”), Yvette Lee Bowser (“Living Single”), and Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Love & Basketball”) for pushing the needle forward, and hopes that her win will open similar doors for women of color in the future.

“My mission is to make sure I’m not the last,” she said, “it’s about making sure that other women of color not only have a seat at the table, but that they’re the best in the writer’s room. It’s not enough to have a seat at the table. You want to be so good that you sit at the head of it.”

(Pictured: Lena Waithe at the 69th Emmy Awards)

More TV

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolosnaro attends the

    Bolsonaro Threatens Brazil’s Central Film Fund with Censorship or Closure

    In typical shoot-from-the-hip remarks, Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has declared that Ancine, Brazil’s powerful state-backed federal film agency, should accept “filters”or face closure. “If it can’t have a filter, we’ll close Ancine, or privatize it,” Bolsonaro added, attacking Ancine, which plows some $300 million a year into Brazil’s film and TV industries, for supporting [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    CBS Stations Go Dark on AT&T's DirecTV, U-verse Platforms Amid Contract Battle

    CBS’ 28 O&O stations are going dark for about 6.6 million subscribers of AT&T’s DirecTV and U-verse platforms as the Eye and AT&T battle over a new retransmission consent contract. The blackout affects CBS and CW-affiliated stations in 14 major markets including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Also off the air are the CBS [...]

  • Orlando Bloom Comic Con Immigrant San

    Orlando Bloom Claims San Diego Mayor Ran From Comic-Con Exhibit Featuring Immigrant Characters

    Did an immigration storyline cause Republican San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer to run out of Amazon Prime Video’s Comic-Con activation this week? According to “Carnival Row” star Orlando Bloom, that’s exactly what happened. At Amazon’s “Carnival Row” panel, Bloom told the audience that Faulconer stopped by the Prime Video activation and chose the “Carnival Row” [...]

  • 'Game of Thrones' Cast Calls Final

    'Game of Thrones' Cast Calls Final Season Backlash 'Media-Led Hate Campaign'

    What is life like now after “Game of Thrones?” That’s the question that fans have been asking themselves and that cast members had to answer at the show’s final Comic-Con panel. But first, Conleth Hill, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and several others cleared the air and addressed the perceived negative response to the final season. “I don’t [...]

  • SDCC Roundup: AMC Drops 'The Walking

    SDCC TV News Roundup: AMC Releases 'The Walking Dead' Season 10 Trailer (Watch)

    San Diego Comic-Con has become a hotbed of entertainment news in recent years, especially for the television industry. In today’s SDCC TV news roundup, AMC dropped a trailer for the 10th season of “The Walking Dead” and FX released a first look at “Mayans MC” Season 2. FIRST LOOKS AMC debuted the trailer for Season [...]

  • ARCHER: 1999 -- "Cubert" -- Season

    'Archer' Renewed for Season 11 at FXX

    “Archer” has been picked up for an eleventh season. The announcement was made Friday at San Diego Comic-Con. The news comes less than a week ahead of the Season 10 finale. Season 11 is slated to debut on FXX in 2020. While the show initially focused on the agents and support staff of a covert [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content