×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Master of None’s’ Lena Waithe on Emmy Nom for Comedy Writing: ‘I Didn’t Know I Was the First Black Woman’

Emmy nominee Lena Waithe — who earned that title for writing, with show star and co-creator Aziz Ansari, the “Thanksgiving” episode of “Master of None” — says she was surprised to learn that she was the first black woman to be nominated for comedy writing.

“I didn’t know I was the first black woman,” she told reporters, at a GLAAD-programmed panel at the Television Critics Association press tour. But her publicist checked with the Television Academy and confirmed it was true. (Mindy Kaling, nominated in 2010 for the “Niagra” episode of “The Office,” was the first woman of color nominated in the category.)

Waithe spoke at length about the milestone during GLAAD’s panel on lesbian, gay, and bisexual trends on television, which also included “My So-Called Life” and “13 Reasons Why” star Wilson Cruz, “Brooklyn 99’s” Stephanie Beatriz, and “How to Get Away with Murder” showrunner Pete Nowalk.

Initially, Waithe said, when she was working on “Thanksgiving,” she didn’t intend to be on-screen. “But Aziz, to his credit, said ‘I can’t tell your story.’ And I’m really grateful to him,” she added. “It’s the blackest piece of television,” she said. “It’s very black, it’s very female, it’s very gay.” But she has been moved by how many loved the episode — including white, straight, male people. “When a straight white guy says ‘”Thanksgiving” is my favorite episode,’ that’s when art is doing its job,” she said.

The panelists discussed the value of queer writers behind-the-scenes in order to avoid some of the harmful tropes often seen on television, such as queer women being killed off in certain shows and stilted, un-demonstrative queer stories on others.

“25 years ago when I came out — in 1994, good lord! — I think that I was adamant about being out,” Cruz said. “There were so few people — there wasn’t anybody out on TV at the time playing a series regular character. I wanted to send a message directly to young people that they could be themselves, have a wonderful life and love someone of the same sex.”

“There’s so many of us now, thank god, that there’s not that same pressure,” he said. “You don’t have to get on the cover of Out Magazine, you can get on Twitter and do it there and have control of the narrative.”

Beatriz spoke about how particularly inspiring she finds performing on the children’s show “Danger and Eggs.” “I believe in that show so much that I literally got one of the characters tattooed on my arm,” she said, praising how it presented complex ideas to children “in this very gentle way.” 

“And it’s streaming on Amazon Prime for anyone to just show their kids,” she added. “I’m gobsmacked.”

Nowalk laughed during the presentation on harmful tropes, because — he said later — “that applies to everyone on ‘How to Get Away With Murder,'” a show where so many of the characters are doing nefarious things. But that bad behavior has an upside. “I got really lucky in not having to make my characters perfect,” he said. “Because they’re all bad people… you don’t necessarily have to make them do things that aren’t real.”

“Viola’s character [Annalise] — we’ve never said, but I think she’s pansexual,” he added. “She gets to just be bad in all the best ways. In that way it’s very liberating to write any LGBTQ character on the show.”

 

 

More TV

  • Steve McQueen VSS

    Amazon to Launch Steve McQueen's Anthology Series ‘Small Axe’ in the U.S.

    Amazon has boarded “Small Axe,” the upcoming anthology series from “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen, and will launch the series in the U.S. It will bow on the BBC in the U.K. and BBC Studios is selling it internationally. Amazon’s European content chief Georgia Brown revealed its involvement in the series, Tuesday, at [...]

  • Paula Pell

    Quibi Orders Comedic Murder Mystery From Lorne Michaels, 'SNL' Alums

    Quibi keeps shelling out cash for content: Jeffrey Katzenberg’s richly funded startup has ordered a short-form murder-mystery comedy written by and starring former “Saturday Night Live” writers Paula Pell and John Lutz, and executive produced by Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video alongside Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker. In “Mapleworth Murders,” Pell (pictured above) is Abigail Mapleworth, [...]

  • Sky

    Comcast Expected to Appoint Maximo Ibarra as New Sky Italia CEO

    Colombian-Italian executive Maximo Ibarra is expected to be appointed CEO of Comcast-owned pay-TV operation Sky Italia, which has been without a chief executive for the past seven months, a source close to Sky Italia tells Variety. An announcement is believed imminent that Ibarra will be the Italian paybox’s new chief after it was announced Tuesday [...]

  • Lil Nas X arrives at the

    Lil Nas X, Young Thug, Jamie XX Highlight Adult Swim Festival Lineup

    The second annual Adult Swim Festival is set to take place on Friday, November 15 and Saturday, November 16 at Los Angeles’ Banc Of California Stadium. Music acts on the bill include Lil Nas X (pictured), Jamie xx, Vince Staples, Young Thug, Dethklok, Captain Murphy and Tierra Whack, among many others. Additional offerings include comedy [...]

  • 'Live P.D.' Host Dan Abrams Brings

    'Live P.D.' Host Dan Abrams Brings New Order to Law-Focused Media

    Each weekday at 2 p.m., Dan Abrams talks to America for an hour about the law, politics and media. He’s been working steadily to expand the conversation. Abrams hosts an afternoon show on satellite-broadcaster SiriusXM, where he holds forth on the Mueller Report (if you haven’t read it, don’t try to debate him on what [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content