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Lena Waithe talks Emmys, Ready Player One, and getting Jimmy Kimmel to slip Jennifer Aniston her email

Lena Waithe, Jimmy Kimmel
Screenshot: Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Lena Waithe was no doubt booked on Tuesday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! to plug Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Ready Player One (she plays Aech). But the conversation between Waithe and Kimmel quickly revealed how much more the Chicago native has going on right now. Sure, a meaty role in a likely Spielberg blockbuster is nothing to sneeze at, but she and Kimmel spent equal time talking about her Emmy win for writing Master Of None’s “Thanksgiving” episode, and her inspiring acceptance speech.

Following up on that vibe, Waithe noted that, while she’s the first black woman to win the award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, she’s “definitely not the first black woman to write a funny script.” And, sure, Waithe expressed how meeting Spielberg was a serious head trip. (Mainly, she said, because he made The Color Purple, “the movie that all black people watch at least twice a year.”) But her tale of interrupting the “rich white people” conversation between Spielberg and Leonardo DiCaprio at a lavish fundraiser saw Waithe playing it admirably cool. She also said that the movie blew the speakers at a “secret” SXSW premiere, so take that as whatever omen you will.

Wearing a personally gifted (if “reject”) baseball cap from Chance the Rapper, Waithe didn’t even have time to get into The Chi, or her upcoming TBS comedy Twenties, instead chatting with Kimmel about her approaching wedding to fiance Alana Mayo and her deep, enduring, perhaps unexpected love for the TV show Friends. Noting that her affection for the venerable, infamously white sitcom includes repeatedly watching the full DVD boxed set (plus instructive commentary tracks from creators Marta Kaufman and David Crane), Waithe also tied her “Thanksgiving” character’s bedroom poster infatuation with Jennifer Aniston to her own formative appreciation for the “fine like wine, getting better with time” present-day Aniston. Half-joking that she’s sure Aniston hasn’t seen her thinly veiled crush play out on Master Of None (otherwise she’d have gotten a “well-crafted email” from the actress), Waithe made sure to ask Kimmel to pass along her address to her “back on the market” now-colleague the next time the Aniston is on the show.


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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.