9:50pm PT by Trilby Beresford
Lena Waithe Recalls Early Career Lessons: "You Need to be Connected to a Black Person"
Lena Waithe, the star of Showtime drama The Chi, reserved an interview seat at Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Tuesday, where she talked with the late-night host about the many television shows she's working on.
"How many shows are you producing right now?" Kimmel asked, to which Waithe replied, "About 17." She went through some of them, naming The Chi, Boomerang, Twenties and How to Make Love to a Black Woman (Who May Be Working Through Some Sh*t).
Waithe then shared how she entered the entertainment industry in 2006, interning and working at Blockbuster. One time during her two-year job assisting Love & Basketball director Gina Prince-Bythewood, Waithe was asked to "get Whoopi Goldberg on the phone in 30 minutes." She wasn't given Goldberg's phone number, nor any numbers that might lead her to Goldberg.
She described scrambling for phone numbers in the office, "It was a black version of The Devil Wears Prada." Waithe called ABC and they hung up on her. She later got an African American on the phone, and he connected her to The View. After several more times being hung up on, eventually she found out that Goldberg didn't have a phone, though Waithe was connected to her assistant who finally called her and connected Bythewood to Goldberg. "Boom," said Waithe, recalling the story to Kimmel.
"What did you learn from this?" the late-night host asked. "You need to be connected to a black person," said Waithe. "Get me someone who knows what it means to be black with a dream and you'll find your way to freedom."
Waithe was recently named by The Hollywood Reporter as an agent of change empowering diverse voices in the entertainment industry, along with influential figures such as Michael B. Jordan, Greg Berlanti, Jon M. Chu, Ryan Coogler, Laverne Cox and Ava DuVernay.
The Chi, which is created by Waithe and filmed in her hometown of Chicago's south side, has been renewed for a third season.