Lena Waithe accused two of the biggest movie stars around for failing to do all they can to get more black-led films made.
The writer/producer/actress behind the upcoming thriller Queen & Slim was speaking with New York Times reporter Kyle Buchanan about whether getting movies made by black directors into theaters will soon be easier.
Waithe, whose on-screen work includes episodes of Master of None and Dear White People, said her latest project, which she produced and wrote, would not have been possible without the success of Jordan Peele’s Get Out and the fact that Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight won the Oscar for Best Picture. The success of those movies, as well as box-office behemoth Black Panther, made studios pay attention to it.
“I think black people in this industry are making art that is so specific and unique and good that the studio heads have no choice but to throw money at us,” Waithe said. “They’re saying, ‘How can we support you and stand next to you?’ The tricky part is that they want to be allies and they want to be inclusive, but they also want to make money.”
Waithe lamented that the movie industry is “still trying to play catch up” when it comes to diversity, although she said black film is experiencing a renaissance.
“And don’t get me started on black financiers! How many of those do we have? I’m not [going to name] names because I know better, but there are some very big black movie stars out there, and they could pay for two or three or even five small independent movies to get made by black directors and black writers,” she said. “Let me give you two movies that are very important to the black community: Moonlight and 12 Years a Slave. Whose production company put those out?”
Buchanan acknowledged that it was Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B.
“Wasn’t Denzel [Washington]. Wasn’t Will Smith,” Waithe said. “You won’t catch me making $20 million a movie and not paying for at least four or five independent movies a year. I do give credit to [director and producer] Ava [DuVernay] for trying to build something that hasn’t been built before, but that’s a lot on Ava’s back.”
“I’m over here trying to build a community, and I don’t see other people doing it,” she said. “I really do feel like there’s a way for us to change the movie business from the inside out, but we’re all in our own silos doing our own thing.”
Forbes estimated that, as of July 2018, 10 months ahead of the release of his Disney blockbuster Aladdin, Smith had a net worth of $42 million. In 2017, the magazine estimated Washington had raked in more than $290 million before taxes since 2003, when its reporters began keeping count.
Yahoo Entertainment has reached out to Smith. A rep for Washington declined to comment.
Others weighed in on social media. Some cited the fact that actor Jason Mitchell was fired from the Showtime series The Chi last month after he was accused of harassment. Waithe, who created the series, didn’t fire Mitchell when the allegations first surfaced, although she now says she wishes she would’ve handled the situation differently.
Lena Waithe ignores sexual harassment on shows she’s executive producing..... https://t.co/9CnnwuPrUz— trump has dementia (@screwyoumegn) June 21, 2019
Lena Waithe has no business coming after anybody especially after she protected a sexual Predator who threatened the health and well being of at least two black womxn in her employ. Smh https://t.co/xvSQWerEVz— Athena's Daddy ala Blaque (@claudius_jr) June 21, 2019
Lena Waithe is highkey one of the last people who should be calling out anyone in the entertainment industry for anything at the moment. 🙃🙃🙃— Marq Thee Power Bottom (@angryblkhoemo) June 22, 2019
Let’s call out Lena waithe for allowing Jason Mitchell to act badly on the set of The Chi.— Nicole Huggins (@nikki_huggins93) June 21, 2019
Still, there was some support for Waithe’s words about the film industry.
Talk to 'em! @LenaWaithe— Ucal S (@uk3s_) June 21, 2019
You're on point with this one💯
The Black community needs to continue to reach hands down and uplift our demographic in this volatile and uncertain film industry, as we know the reality of it. #FilmFriday #lenawaithe #WillSmithhttps://t.co/EetAlEAGpM
Honestly, I have so much respect for @LenaWaithe right now. Bout to see EVERYTHING she produce 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽— Jonathan Braylock (@jonbraylock) June 21, 2019
Read more on Yahoo Entertainment:
Want daily pop culture news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle's newsletter.