Lena Waithe slams Will Smith and Denzel Washington for not doing enough for black-led movies

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Lena Waithe (Credit: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Actress and writer Lena Waithe has taken aim at Will Smith and Denzel Washington for not helping to get black-led movie projects made.

The star and co-writer of Master of None and producer of Dear White People added that the likes of Brad Pitt's production company Plan B is doing more for such projects than prominent black stars, having financed movies like Oscar winners 12 Years A Slave and Moonlight.

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“I think black people in this industry are making art that is so specific and unique and good that the studio heads have no choice but to throw money at us,” she said in an interview with the New York Times.

“They’re saying, ‘How can we support you and stand next to you?’ The tricky part is that they want to be allies and they want to be inclusive, but they also want to make money.

“And don’t get me started on black financiers! How many of those do we have? I’m not [going to name] names because I know better, but there are some very big black movie stars out there, and they could pay for two or three or even five small independent movies to get made by black directors and black writers.

“Let me give you two movies that are very important to the black community: Moonlight and 12 Years a Slave. Whose production company put those out?

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“Wasn’t Denzel. Wasn’t Will Smith. You won’t catch me making $20 million a movie and not paying for at least four or five independent movies a year. I do give credit to Ava [DuVernay] for trying to build something that hasn’t been built before, but that’s a lot on Ava’s back.

“I’m over here trying to build a community, and I don’t see other people doing it. I really do feel like there’s a way for us to change the movie business from the inside out, but we’re all in our own silos doing our own thing.”

She also notes that without the likes of Jordan Peele's hits Get Out and Us, she'd have struggled to get her latest movie Queen & Slim, which she's also producing, made.

The thriller stars British breakthrough star Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine and Chloe Sevigny.

It's due out in November.