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Lena Waithe Made a Love Story for Black Millennials

The executive producer of BET's 'Boomerang' says that for her 'black people are love.'

by Alex Zaragoza
Mar 5 2019, 7:40pm

Love is messy, and seemingly getting messier thanks to the ever changing dynamics of modern dating. The internet has made meet cutes a digital affair, and working 10+ hour days has a profound effects on finding someone while balancing a professional life. We’re working on spreadsheets in the office, then spreading those sheets after hours, and expect, née demand, parity in both spaces—the same amount of money, the same amount of pleasure.

When Boomerang hit theaters back in 1992, dating looked vastly different in many ways. No one was, say, pretending to be a young Joseph Stalin on Tinder as a social experiment. But at its core, the film still resonates today through its story of Marcus (Eddie Murphy), the chauvinistic ad exec who finds his match in Jacqueline (Robin Givens), who happens to be not only his boss but what the people of the 90s referred to as a total player. After a lot of back and forth, Marcus ends up in the arms of his sweet, sexy co-worker Angela (Halle Berry).

Twenty-seven years later, the story continues on BET’s Boomerang, which premiered February 12 and stars Tetona Jackson and Tequan Richmond as the offspring of Marcus and Angela and Jacqueline, respectively. Like their parents, the two navigate love, dating, and the workplace, only in 2019. To say it’s complicated is an understatement. Still, no one pretends to be Joseph Stalin at any point, so there’s that upside.

The series is executive produced by Halle Berry and Lena Waithe. For Waithe, building on one her all-time favorite movies to tell a story of black excellence and love was an exciting challenge. They’re themes the Emmy-winning writer and producer has tackled before as a writer and star on Netflix's Master of None, and does so again with the humor and honesty that reflects her experience.

Waithe hopped on a phone call with VICE to talk Boomerang, depicting dating in the workplace in the #MeToo era, and her choice for the greatest rom-com of all time.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

VICE: First off, what made you want to work on this, and make it a sequel as opposed to a remake?
Lena Waithe: Well, I don’t believe you can remake a classic. I think all I could do is say hey, let’s continue this story. But again, why remake something so brilliant? If people want to watch Boomerang, that’s what you should tell them to do. Watch Boomerang. Watch it all day long. It’s an amazing movie.

What I wanted to do was something that you can’t see anywhere else. That’s where Boomerang the series was born in terms of giving Angela a daughter and Jacqueline a son, and have them be 26-year-old hot shots trying to sort of one-up their parents and also step out of their parents’s shadow, and also try to figure out life and figure out who they want to be. It’s actually what made me want to do that.

VICE: We’re seeing so many remakes in Hollywood. Is this almost your stand against that when it’s not necessary when the original is so perfect?
Waithe: I don’t know if I’m taking a stand against it. If people want to make remakes, that’s their prerogative. Everyone has a different way of doing it. To me, the way that you shouldn’t do it is by trying to do what’s already been done, because there’s just no point. I can’t go grow a little young Halle Berry or a young Chris Rock or a young Eddie Murphy. You can’t do that.

It’s like I always say, we have Michael Jordan and now we got LeBron, and somebody can argue LeBron is no Jordan. Great! He shouldn't be. But LeBron gives us these cool new moments and he gives us these dope plays that are inspired by Michael Jordan, but he has to be himself. And I feel like that’s what Boomerang is trying to be. We’re trying to be the LeBron to the movie Michael Jordan, if that makes sense.

VICE: For sure. Boomerang revolved around sex, dating, and people striving to elevate in the workplace. How will you bring the story of sex and work in 2019, especially with the conversations we’re having right now around gender parity, racial equity, and sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond?
Waithe: Well, we definitely delve into it so all I can really kind of tell people is keep watching. We have a very unique episode called “Us Too,” which is sort of a take on the #MeToo thing and we delve into some stuff about how that movement has affected us as the black community. How our heroes have fallen as well, but it seems oftentimes when our heroes fall, they fall even harder because those heroes mean so much to us. So yeah, that’s all I’ll say on that.

VICE: Why was it important for you to create a show where romance and love and all the mixed up things that come with falling for someone can be told within the black experience?
Waithe: Well, look, we go through that stuff too. For me, it’s always about humanizing, making things relatable, making things grounded. It was really important to me to do that, to show that we deal with the same shit. We go through the same stuff as everybody else. I don’t even think it’s a thing about putting it in the black experience, it’s about showing everybody that this is some stuff we go through and this is how we go through it. We want to make it cool and young and interesting and fresh.

VICE: What comes to mind when you think of black love?
Waithe: I think of black people honestly. Because it’s more than just romantic love, it’s more than just the love you have with your family, the love that you have with your friends that are more like your family sometimes. I think, to me, black people are love. We come from a very dark past and we made something bright and beautiful out of it. When I see a black person I see love no matter what.

VICE: For you, what’s the best rom-com of all-time?
Waithe: That’s hard. You know, for me, I kind of think of Boomerang as a romantic comedy to be honest with you. I would say it’s up there for me. And then, something that could not be more of the opposite spectrum, but I gotta say what’s pretty perfect is My Best Friend’s Wedding, which is the Julia Roberts movie shot out of Chicago. It’s the perfect movie. It’s the rom-com everyone’s trying to copy and get right but they haven’t been able to. It’s hard to have Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz and Dermot Mulroney all in one movie. There’s something about that script, that setting, those actors, that time, that place. It’s just a phenomenal rom-com. You can’t beat it. You can’t pass it.

Boomerang airs Tuesday nights on BET.

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Lena Waithe