Lena Waithe is a juggernaut.
In just 35 years on this Earth, she’s already become a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. She’s broken boundaries as a queer black woman, creating high-level content that tells the stories of Black Americans that the world so rarely gets a chance to see.
Her portrayal as Denise on the “Thanksgiving” episode of Netflix’s “Master of None” was groundbreaking, as it won her an Emmy for the way it detailed the character’s coming out story to her family.
She has producer credits on films like “Dear White People,” will appear in season three of HBO’s “Westworld,” and has been the brains behind Showtime’s “The Chi” and BET’s “Boomerang” series.
Waithe is dope as hell.
But, her dopeness is also why it’s been so uncomfortable watching what’s taking place over the last few weeks. The Shadow League previously touched on how Jason Mitchell’s conduct led to him being booted from “The Chi” and an upcoming Netflix comedy titled “Desperados.”
Tiffany Boone, the actress who Mitchell’s character’s girlfriend, Jerrika, on the “The Chi’ and the show’s second-season showrunner Ayanna Floyd are the women at the heart of the allegations against Mitchell. It’s been reported that Boone would even have her fiancée come to set, and asked to be released from the series.
Mitchell is trash, and it appears that everybody knew about it, including Waithe.
“When I took the helm in season two, it was Lena who informed me of the issues between Jason Mitchell and Tiffany Boone from season one, and that Tiffany was thinking of leaving the show because of it,” Floyd wrote in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “As a result of this information, I discussed Tiffany’s claims with the studio’s HR department and set up HR presentations for the writers, cast and crew. Ultimately, everyone was well aware of Jason’s behavior and his multiple HR cases, including Lena, the creator and an executive producer of the show, who is very involved at the studio and network level.”
Floyd goes on to mention that she even became a target of Mitchell’s rage and inappropriate actions and also had to report him to human resources.
Waithe has yet to comment on Mitchell, but instead decided to release a statement about Boone.
“I think Tiffany is a wonderful actress and an extremely brave woman. I wish her nothing but success in the future. I look forward to getting back to work on season three.”
This is where things get uncomfortable.
On one hand, I hate the fact that the spotlight is on a woman for something that a man did. But on the other, Waithe’s possible “inaction” with Mitchell doesn’t line up with the things she’s said in the past about these types of situations.
Last March, Waithe broke her silence to Vanity Fair when it came to her friend/colleague Aziz Ansari’s sexual misconduct allegations.
“At the end of the day, what I would hope comes out of this is that we as a society . . . educate ourselves about what consent is—what it looks like, what it feels like, what it sounds like. I think there are both men and women who are still trying to figure it out. We need to be more attuned to each other, pay more attention to each other, in every scenario, and really make sure that, whatever it is we’re doing with someone else, they’re comfortable doing whatever that thing is, and that we’re doing it together. That’s just human kindness and decency.”
Waithe’s response feels like that of a person who has put a lot of time and thought into the topic.
Three months later, Waithe did a roundtable discussion with other showrunners for the Hollywood Reporter and had this to say on the #MeToo Movement.
“I’ve been very involved in Time’s Up and that movement, and for season two, we’re making sure that women feel safe on the set and we’re hyper aware of what that means because there are sex scenes. We want to make sure we’re talking to these actresses and also talking to our male actors and making sure they’re aware. ‘Cause I don’t play. I’m like, “It’s the city of Chicago, people die every day, so if you want to play that game and be disrespectful or misbehave on set with an actress or anyone, I’ll happily call Showtime and say this person has to go, and you will get shot up and it’ll be a wonderful finale.”
But according to Floyd, Waithe was well aware of Mitchell’s actions long before she came aboard, as the quote suggests that things on set may have needed to be on reiterated due to his past actions.
And in April, Waithe did an interview with Vice about an episode of “Boomerang” that dealt with the fallout and conversations that were taking place in the black community due to the #MeToo movement.
“Well I mean I think there’s still the element in the black community that we don’t want to tear each other down. We as a community want to really hold each other up, even when we aren’t on our best behavior. And that’s just from other people tearing us down, we don’t want to tear each other down, at least not in public. That’s something particularly black women have had to get over, not wanting to tear down black men. But it doesn’t matter who he is, what color. Wrong is wrong.”
There are some of you out there that will always be in Mitchell’s side. There are others whose only concerns are Floyd and Boone. And then there will be people like me, who are just stuck wondering how all of this was allowed to happen, cringing at the fact that everything about this feels like Waithe “talked the talk” but didn’t necessarily “walk the walk.”
Because if “wrong is wrong,” then it sounds like Mitchell should have been gone from “The Chi” a long time ago. And if we want to be angry with powerful white men like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer, then we have to keep that same energy for Waithe.
The only people who really know what actually happened on that set are the ones who were involved, and only Waithe knows what she did, and didn’t know.
As I said, this is uncomfortable.
But sometimes, that feeling of discomfort is what ultimately leads to change.