Lena Waithe talks writing for 'Master of None,' why #RepresentationMatters, and more

Out writer, actor, and producer Lena Waithe is blowing up right now! She has received heaps of well deserved praise for the "Thanksgiving" episode from the second season of the Netflix hit series Master of None. Inspired by Waithe's own coming out story, "Thanksgiving" takes place over the course of two decades of Thanksgivings, and tells the story of Denise's (Waithe) coming out, bringing dates to family dinner, and her relationship with her family. The episode, co-written by Waithe and show creator Aziz Ansari, is a beautiful and personal look at the often overlooked stories of queer women of color.

Waithe is writing and executive producing the upcoming Showtime drama The Chi, a coming of age drama set in the South Side of Chicago. She is also set to star in Steven Spielberg's upcoming film adaptation of Ready Player One. Check out what she had to say about writing "Thanksgiving," the first queer character she saw herself in, and more.

GLAAD: Tell us about how the idea for "Thanksgiving" came about, and the process of writing and acting in something so close to home? 

LENA WAITHE: I went to hang out with the writers and tell them stories about my life and somehow how I came out came up. Alan and Aziz were really intrigued by the way I was telling my story and they decided to center an episode around it. The process of writing it was amazing. Aziz and I wrote it in London in a few days. I got a chance to reminisce about my childhood and what it was like to come out to myself, my friends, and ultimately, my mother. Looking back on it you realize how brave you have to be to come out. It's a humbling thing - to come out to the people you love. Living through it was tough the first time around - but the second time around, it was a blast. 

GLAAD: "Thanksgiving" did an excellent job of showing coming out as a process as opposed to just one event. What inspired the idea to have it stretch over 20 years of Thanksgivings?

LW: That was the writers' room. I've heard Aniz (Aziz's brother) came up with the idea of telling the story over a series of Thanksgivings. And then Aziz and I ran with it. It was the perfect way to cram a lot of story into one thirty minute episode of television. 

GLAAD: The episode has received rave reviews, as well as having a deep individual impact. What feedback have you gotten that's stuck with you the most?

LW: Honestly, my queer people of color have reached out and said that for the first time they really saw themselves on TV. And that's the greatest compliment I could get. I would never want to misrepresent us. Our images are too scarce to do that. 

GLAAD: As "Thanksgiving" demonstrates, there's something very powerful in getting to tell your own story. Are you optimistic about more queer writers of color getting the opportunity to do this?

LW: I am optimistic. My mission is to help as many writers as I can and make sure that they get to tell their stories without it being filtered through a mainstream lens. That's when we all lose. 

GLAAD: Do you remember the first time you saw a queer woman, or a queer woman of color specifically, on television who had an impact on you?

LW: Shug Avery leaning in to kiss Celie in The Color Purple was a huge moment for me. Even though they weren't defined with labels in the film - it showed me the power two black women could have just by being intimate and joyful. It showed me myself before I even knew who I was.  

GLAAD: Can you share anything about your upcoming Showtime series The Chi, and what your hopes are for the series?

LW: I hope we make a show that humanizes the people of the south side of Chicago rather than exploit them. We've been exploited for far too long. It's time to tell a story about the people that are thriving and those that are fighting to keep their heads above water.

Check out Master of None on Netflix now!  Keep up to date with Lena on her Twitter, @LenaWaithe.