Lena Waithe is having a moment. Actually, the Master of None star is having many moments. Some follow each other, one after the other, like dominoes laid out on a massive surface, ready to produce a beautiful mosaic with the push of a finger. Others, like her experience writing the critically acclaimed “Thanksgiving” episode with co-star Aziz Ansari, happen concurrently with other massive projects, like her role in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Ready Player One adaptation. In either case, one thing is clear — Waithe is an entertainment polymath in the making, and she won’t be going away anytime soon.
At least not if she can help it, for as the 33-year-old television writer turned showrunner turned film actor told Uproxx, she wants to be like Mark Wahlberg. “Wait a minute, that Mark Wahlberg?” Yes, the very same man whose acting and producing credits range far and wide. And thanks to his appearance at the 64th Golden Globe Awards in 2007 — in association with at least three different titles, no less — Waithe envisions a career in Hollywood in which she will don just about every hat there is. Judging by her writing for, and performance in, Master of None‘s “Thanksgiving,” we have no reason to doubt her.
It’s really exciting, because at the root of it all, we’re artists and that’s something we always get a little nervous. It’s like dropping your sophomore album after coming out with one that everybody loved and really connected with. There were definitely some nerves. But when I heard we were going to do a second season, I knew that Aziz [Ansari] and Alan [Yang] are the kind of guys who — realizing they have even more freedom than before, which they don’t take lightly — wanted to make sure the show came back swinging. They wanted it to feel different than the first season, but still familiar. They also wanted to take a lot of risks. When I was first hearing their ideas for new episodes early on, like about the religion one, I was like, “Man, they’re really going to go there.” I love that they took big swings with it. So for me, it was really validating because I know how nervous we all were about coming out the second time, but the love has just been wonderful. It’s heartwarming.
Especially since, unlike most major television networks, Netflix tends to keep a tight lid on things. Master of None‘s renewal, for instance, was a long, drawn-out process.
I know people had to wait a little bit longer for us since we took a bit of a longer beat to come back. The thing is, Aziz really gets ideas from his life, as well as from Alan, the actors and the writers’ lives. He really had to go live a little bit, to have those experiences, in order to come back. A lot of people were saying, ‘Why is there such a huge break between the first and second season?’ And I always will tell people, “It’s all about Aziz getting his thoughts together and making sure he’s had enough to give everyone a really strong second season.” It’s not like everything else, and I think that’s what’s so exciting about it. This is a cool, hip way to take in television, and I love being a part of it.
You co-wrote “Thanksgiving,” which is based on your experiences, with Ansari. How did that come about. Did you approach him and Yang, did they come to you, or some combination therein?
Actually, it came about very organically, which me and Aziz loved about it. It’s also honest to how the show works. I went to New York, where the writers’ room was happening, just to sit with the guys. We talked about what was going on with my life. I was being very mindful because I knew we were going to have a second season, so I thought, “Maybe my character will have a girlfriend.” I wrote down all the funny little weird things that have happened between me and my girlfriends. As a result, I came to the writers’ room equipped with ideas, thoughts and real life stories. And in the midst of all that, Alan asked me how I came out. Just out of curiosity. Like, “What was the coming out process like for you?” So I told him about it. I come from a family full of black women, and not just family, because black women were always coming over to the house.