Circuit Q&A – Who can follow in Lena Waithe’s writing footsteps?


Lena Waithe is a major talent. She always has been. But it’s only recently that she has been taken seriously and given the types of opportunities worthy of her gifts. She started out writing for minor television programs like Nickelodeon’s “How to Rock.”

Her big break came as part of the cast of Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series, “Master of None,” but things really took off for her when she earned the chance to write an episode of that show. That autobiographical episode entitled “Thanksgiving” would go on to earn Waithe the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, opening several additional doors.

Fast forward to today and she is releasing her first feature film as a writer and producer, “Queen and Slim” and positioning herself as a creative force for the future. That made us wonder who might be next to have a similarly meteoric rise. Who can follow in Lena Waithe’s writing footsteps?

One obvious choice is a woman who has already started to enjoy success on television and that is Issa Rae. Having gotten her start on YouTube with “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” she is now the creative force behind HBO’s “Insecure.” With feature film acting credits already starting to accumulate, it is only a matter of time before she receives a high profile opportunity behind the camera. In fact, her first such opportunity appears to already be in the works. She is writing the script for a film starring Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o, which will be directed by Ava DuVernay. Expect big things for her going forward. 

Another woman making waves on HBO is Robin Thede, whose “Black Lady Sketch Show” has received nearly universal acclaim. After getting her big break as head writer for “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore,” she has been climbing the television ladder in a way that is reminiscent of Waithe’s rise. Her next project is a comedy series based on her life that is currently in development at ABC. 

When looking for someone who seems set to make the jump from television to movies, Nahnatchka Khan seems like a ready-made candidate. In fact, after finding success with ABC’s hit series, “Fresh Off the Boat,” she parlayed that into a chance to direct Netflix’s “Always Be My Maybe.” As an underrepresented minority and member of the LGBT community, she appears set to break down any number of barriers as she continues to rise. 

Another name to watch is Sara Hess. After getting her start writing for HBO’s “Deadwood,” she has gone on to write and produce Fox’s “House” and Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black.” With the latter show coming to an end this year, it will be interesting to see what her next project ends up being. A jump to the silver screen seems like the next logical step. 

Finally, Tanya Saracho seems like an obvious addition to this list. She has made groundbreaking strides to diversify the writer’s room for her show, “Vida,” on Starz. This is her fourth television program after stints on ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder” and a lengthy career as a playwright. A move to feature films would make a lot of sense. 

The beautiful thing is that the list could certainly go on. While we are far from parity, the opportunities for women and those from marginalized communities to get high profile work are growing every day. And these women are taking control of the narrative by working to support one another as they rise together. 

There are countless names that could appear here, but we want to hear from you!

Who do you think is most likely to follow in Lena Waithe’s footsteps? Let us know in the comments!