“The Chi” Creator Lena Waithe Blames Oscar’s Diversity Problem on Lack of Opportunity


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Lena Waithe’s tells a story featuring a mostly black cast set in Chicago, and she landed rising star Jason Mitchell in one of the lead roles.

In discussing her actor and show at the Television Critic’s Associaiton’s winter press tour Saturday, Waithe also mused on why young black actors becoming as high-profile and sought-after as Mitchell is so rare, wading into the perennial #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

“If you look at any of these covers featuring the ‘best movie actors,’ those covers are very pale,” Waithe said. “What we could do is say, ‘well why are those covers not more inclusive?’ and one of the big answers is there are not enough films where the lead roles are substantial enough where we could have these people on these covers. So I think a big issue is not a lack of talent, it’s the lack of writers having the opportunity to tell complex, interesting stories. Like Lady Bird, like Call Me By Your Name, those come out every year. We get Moonlight every ten years. We get Mudbound every 12 years. We get The Chi once in a blue moon.”

Much of The Chi is based on Waithe’s own experiences growing up on the south side of Chicago, so the show feels real and lived in and that is part of the key to more inclusivity in the industry, according to the writer and producer.

“My hope is that with the success of The Chi there will be more opportunities,” Waithe said. “People and studios, like Showtime, they’re taking a real chance and saying, ‘oh, you’re showing brown people as human beings.” As simple as an idea as that is, it’s a revolutionary act. So I’m happy we’re a part of that revolution – because it is being televised. We’re showing America how to see us. So I’m hoping you’ll see us as human beings. Not three-fifths of a human being, but full flesh human beings.”

  | TV Editor

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