Lena Waithe wants more Black TV shows to gain Emmy consideration

'The Chi' showrunner took a journalist to task for what she said was a skewed view of potential nominees

“Twenties” Premiere Event LA
Lena Waithe attends “Twenties” Premiere Event LA at Paramount Pictures on March 02, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for BET)

An Emmy win changed Lena Waithe‘s life and career. She’s now a showrunner for The Chi on Showtime and for Twenties on BET and wrote and produced the critically acclaimed 2019 film Queen and Slim. On the side, she does a little acting, appearing in Steven Spielberg‘s Ready Player One and on the popular HBO series Westworld.

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But none of it could have happened without the Emmy. Waithe won it in 2017 along with comedian Aziz Ansari for the “Thanksgiving” episode of Master of None on his Netflix show. Waithe was the first African American woman to win the award for comedy writing for a primetime television show.

Lena Waithe
(Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ)

That is why she was incensed when Hollywood Reporter journalist Scott Feinberg wrote an Emmy forecast for the trade publication that included the frontrunners for 2020 Emmys – a group of predominantly white TV shows that have dominated the awards in the past few years.

After voicing her objection to Feinberg directly, Waithe was asked to pen a response for the publication, which she did. She shared that Emmy campaigns, which help beat the drum for big-budget shows like Netflix’ The Crown or Apple TV’s The Morning Show are not always possible for smaller-budget shows.

She also said that when forecasters like Feinberg aren’t more inclusive of the wide variety of shows on network, cable and streamers, they basically hand the Emmys to those favored shows as they’ve already been anointed as the chosen ones.

“As white people continue to accumulate trophies and dominate the awards conversations, it makes it difficult for Black and brown people in Hollywood to gain wealth and power,” Waithe writes.

“The vicious cycle continues. Now don’t get me wrong. We don’t want pity nominations. All we want is to at least be a part of the conversation when Emmy season rolls around. We’re worthy of it.”

She referenced perennial Emmy also-rans like Queen Sugar, Insecure, All-American, Power and others like Vida, Never Have I Ever, High Fidelity, Gentefied and more that have Black and brown casts and/or LGBT and disabled stars or storylines.

Whether any of those shows ultimately achieve Emmy glory, the important thing Waithe says is that voters see a wider variety of programming.

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“After having a lovely conversation with Scott Feinberg, who wrote that Emmy forecast, we both agree it’s time to bring in more inclusive voices throughout awards season. It’s no longer OK to just report on what the voters think will be nominated,” she continues.

“It’s time to remind voters that there are other shows out there they should be paying attention to, especially now. It’s time for white voters to get out of their comfort zones and start watching shows about people who don’t look like them. It might not change the world, but it’s a start.”

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