For Lena Waithe, working with Halle Berry is a dream come true. The 34-year-old screenwriter may be getting shows greenlit left and right, but she's incredibly humble about the experience of collaborating with Berry, who in 2002 won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Monster's Ball, on the remake of Reginald Hudlin's hit film Boomerang. Set in Manhattan during the 1990s, the original film starred Eddie Murphy as a high-powered cosmetics executive and ladies' man who is challenged to leave the dating game behind by Halle Berry's character. When Waithe found out about BET's television continuation story, she offered to come on board and was made an executive producer alongside Berry. "For someone to look like her, and to be as genuine and as sweet and as kind as she is, is uncanny," Waithe tells Broadly. "I don't even know what to make of it, because [she's] also someone who's had the success that she's had. Typically, once you get the Oscar you can hang it up. I'ma be like, 'OK, done.' But the fact is that she still is making movies, and she's so excited by it, and she still has fun going to these awards shows, and she's so supportive of the cast."
When Berry won her Best Actress Academy Award 17 years ago, she was the first Black women in the award show's history to win in that category, and no other Black actresses have won since. While there's a lot of contemporary discussion about Hollywood's need for diversity and inclusion, Waithe is not subtle about Berry's contributions to the movement.
"Talk about somebody who inspired me. Seeing her win the Oscar was a huge, huge moment for me," she says. "In my mind, I didn't say, 'Oh, one day I'm gonna win.' That wasn't in my head. What just came into my head was, 'Oh, I can do anything.'
In 2017, Waithe also made history by becoming the first Black woman to win an Emmy for Comedy Writing. The award honored her work as a co-writer on Master of None's “Thanksgiving” episode, which detailed her character's coming-out process to her mother (Angela Bassett) over the course of Thanksgiving dinners through the years. Waithe also won a GLAAD Award for the episode—and it was presented to her by Berry. "To me, you can't tell me that being the first to win the Emmy in that category was not connected to her win. There's a string connecting us," Waithe says.
"If she can break down that barrier, and do that, and make history, then maybe I could too—and I did."
Additional reporting on this was done by Leila Ettachfini.