Lena Waithe says 'Queen & Slim' is still an 'anomaly' in 'scared' Hollywood (exclusive)

Tom Beasley

Queen & Slim writer Lena Waithe says movies like hers are an “anomaly” because filmmakers are “scared to make art like this”.

The movie, which is the feature debut of music video director Melina Matsoukas, follows two black people who are forced to go on the run after an encounter with a police officer ends with the cop shot dead.

It’s Waithe’s first feature script, released just over two years after she won an Emmy for her work on sitcom Master of None.

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Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith play the title roles, with the supporting cast including Bokeem Woodbine and Chloë Sevigny.

Waithe tells Yahoo Movies UK she believes the industry is “going in the right direction” when it comes to diversity.

“We have a long way to go,” adds Matsoukas.

Melina Matsoukas and Lena Waithe attend The National Board of Review Annual Awards Gala on January 8, 2020. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for National Board of Review)

Queen & Slim does still feel like an anomaly. There's not a lot of them,” Waithe says.

“I think a big part of it is because people are scared to make art like this.”

Waithe refers to the fact that Queen & Slim was a box office success, more than doubling its budget with a global box office haul of $44.5m (£34m).

Read more: Waithe calls out Will Smith and Denzel Washington

She says: “People really showed up for this. Because I think it does feel different, it does feel urgent, it does feel special, it does feel authentically black.

“And I think what we hope to do is to encourage other filmmakers and artists to not play it safe, to not do the thing you think the audience wants, to not let people come and watch your art passively, but to do something that's vulnerable, that's dangerous, that scares you.

“I think that's what will get people really coming to the theatres and get them really talking.”

Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya in 'Queen & Slim'. (Credit: eOne)

Matsoukas says casting the film was made very easy by the talents of Kaluuya and Smith, with the latter presenting her and Waithe with the rare opportunity to “break a new, black actress”.

She adds: “Obviously one of our purposes in life is to diversify the industry. We found Jodie, and she was royalty. We had to really bow in her presence."

Matsoukas won the National Board of Review award for Best Directorial Debut and made the shortlist for the equivalent prize at the Directors Guild of America Awards.

Read more: Female directors make waves at London Film Festival

She spoke out earlier this month against the Hollywood Foreign Press Association after Queen & Slim failed to secure a single nomination at the Golden Globes.

“We held three screenings for the HFPA and almost no members attended,” said Matsoukas.

“It’s extremely discouraging. It’s extremely infuriating. And it just represents an archaic system that is full of people who don’t value us.”

Queen & Slim is in UK cinemas from 31 January.