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Justin Simien & Lena Waithe ('Dear White People') Strike Again w/ 'Twenties'

Shadow and Act By Masha Dowell | Shadow and Act April 15, 2013 at 3:22PM

Justin Simien & Lena Waithe ('Dear White People') Strike Again w/ 'Twenties'
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We’ve featured director and writer duo Justin Simien and Lena Waithe a few times here on Shadow and Act. Lena was recently featured just a few weeks ago as a 2013 WGA Diversity winner, and Justin gained massive career momentum as his indie project “Dear White People” took off online. The film will go into production this summer.

One may think that the duo would stop there. Nope, they are moving fast forward with a new TV series entitled, “Twenties”. 

I caught up with them on set last week in LA, as they shot a pilot presentation for the project.

About the project:

It's all about being in your 'twenties', finding yourself, speaking your mind, and making a conscious decision to have healthier relationships. In short, it's a show about three girls who are just trying to get their lives together. 

As I sat and listened to the dialogue of the characters; I realized that the storylines and subject matters reminded me a lot of HBO’sGirls”, and NBC’sA Different World”. The dialogue for the most part was unapologetic; yet, comical, and it made you question your own tastes.

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There’s this one line in the pilot where the lead character talks about her love for the film, “Wizard of Oz”; and then she specifically states that she prefers the white version and not the black one. I laughed at the line, because I related to it; but it’s not something I’d openly tell people. I personally hate to slander anything black in public, but then it comes a time when you have to accept your own standards. This project invites us into the world of a young black woman that openly voices her personal standards.

Lena shared the following statement about the show:

My goal for the project is for it to be on TV. I feel like there are a lot of shows out right now that feature black people in extremes. We're either really rich and bougie or broke and ratchet. There isn't much middle ground. And "Twenties" is definitely a show that's somewhere in the middle. Getting a show on the air with three black leads seems impossible, but it can be done. I think we just need the people to speak up and demand that networks give them a show that reflects their lives a little more accurately. 

The project was written by Waithe who describes it as a complete reflection of her life as a woman in her twenties. The pilot presentation was directed by Justin Simien, first AD was Chelsey Monroe. The cast was as follows: Courtney Sauls, Brandon Bell, Nia Jervier, Ashley Blaine Featherson, Marque Richardson, and Lenne Klingaman.

Hollywood super producer Shelby Stone will act as the executive producer for the project.

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Shelby shared the following with me about the project:

I was a big fan of Dear White People that Justin wrote and directed and Lena produced. So when someone slipped me the script for “Twenties”, I just loved it. It’s such a funny and fresh original voice. It’s the voice of a young African –American female that we have not heard from. And it’s not a traditional black female voice. At Flavor Unit, we want to explore many voices. So, I shared my enthusiasm for the show to all at Flavor Unit, and they thought it was great --- and that Lena sounded like someone we should support.

I saw firsthand on set how professionally the cast and crew worked, I watched on as Shelby provided leadership, and mentorship as needed; I mean it was a total dream career situation. I then watched the cast and crew in action late into the night when the camera was rolling. I left the set inspired.

But, I then thought to myself, why don’t we have a show like this on TV right now? My set observations made me realize that at the end of the day, we all make up Hollywood. Yes we do. We are Hollywood. And when we don’t show the studios what we want via our voices, support, and more, we give our power away.

Are you really ready for a show like this and will you demand that networks get behind it?

*All photos associated with this article were taken by Abigail Aldous.


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