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Interview: Writer/Producer Lena Waithe Talks New Series 'Twenties' + Watch Pilot Presentation

Shadow and Act By Masha Dowell | Shadow and Act August 13, 2013 at 12:35PM

Back in April, we informed readers about, “Twenties”, a new TV show created by Lena Waithe (Dear White People).
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Lena Waithe

Back in April, we informed readers about, “Twenties”, a new TV show created by Lena Waithe (Dear White People).

Fast forward to today and the project is ready for your viewing pleasure.

You can watch clips from the pilot presentation below.


Executive producer Shelby Stone had the following to say about writer/creator Lena Waithe.

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.

On Monday, I caught up with Lena to discuss, “Twenties”, via Minnesota where she’s working on “Dear White People”. As we’ve mention on the site, she is producing the project alongside Stephanie Allain-Bray, Ann Le, Angel Lopez, Effie T. Brown , and Justin Simien serves as the projects director

Shadow and Act: How did Flavor Unit get involved?

LW: My agent sent the script to a few production companies that we thought might respond to the story and the characters. And I was lucky, because a lot of production companies were interested, but Flavor Unit made me feel like they would be in it for the long haul. And as a young up and coming writer that’s what I wanted. I knew selling a single camera comedy about three black women in their twenties wasn’t going to be easy, but Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere, and Shelby Stone made me feel like it wasn’t impossible. We knew we had to be creative and that we couldn’t take “no” for an answer. And that’s really how the pilot presentation came about.

Shadow and Act: What is a pilot presentation? Why did you opt for this route?

LW: A lot of networks read the script and loved it, but they either thought there wasn’t an audience for it or that it already existed. Of course I became extremely frustrated because I knew neither of those things were true. So I realized I had to show these network executives that TWENTIES was one of a kind and that there was nothing on TV like it. And I figured the best way to do that was to shoot a pilot presentation, which meant we would shoot a few pivotal scenes from the script, edit them together, and give people a sense of how the show would look and feel. Lucky for me, Justin Simien (writer/director DEAR WHITE PEOPLE) offered to direct it and Flavor Unit was willing to pay for it. Now I had the opportunity to show people what I was going for instead of trying to explain it to them. My plan wasn’t just to show it to executives, but to show it to the world so that the people could have a voice in this as well. And just so we’re clear: this is not a web series! I repeat this is not a web series. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing a web series. I’ve done one. My goal is to partner with a network that understands what I’m going for.

Shadow and Act: What inspired you to write TWENTIES?

Lena Waithe: An unhealthy relationship, Lena Dunham, and my friends. And I’ll be honest; I didn’t write this pilot just because I wasn’t seeing myself on television. I wrote it because it was a story I needed to tell. And usually when a writer sits down with that kind of fire in their belly it always strikes a chord with audiences. TWENTIES is the most personal script I’ve ever written and I don’t think it’s a surprise that it’s also gotten me the most attention. People like it when you tell the truth. And this is mine. But I also think it’s universal. Because who can’t relate to being in your twenties and sucking at life? It’s a magical time when you don’t have to have everything figured out. It’s a ten-year window when you’re free to have awkward sex, unhealthy friendships, and a boss you can’t stand. Usually when you see young black women on television they’re either perfect and pristine, or they’re trying to accidentally get pregnant by a professional athlete. There’s very little middle ground. And the truth is that’s where most of us live. Somewhere in the middle.

Shadow and Act:  What do you want us to do after we’ve watched it?

LW: The good news is I don’t want your money. There’s no Kickstarter or IndieGoGo attached to this project. All we want you to do is commit to sharing TWENTIES with twenty of your friends. The more you spread the word the better chance we have of getting it on TV. We’ll keep pitching. You keep sharing. Let’s do this!


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