The sun is oppressive on this March day, but the only thing warmer than the Louisiana sun is Lena Waithe’s embrace of her director, Melina Matsoukas. Waithe has welcomed Matsoukas into the circle of reporters visiting the set of their feature film debut, Queen and Slim. The friendship between the two is palpable. What started as a professional interaction for the Emmy Award winning “Thanksgiving” episode of Netflix’s Master Of None, morphed into a bonafide “we have a group chat” type of work wife connection.
“People have chemistry. I think of us like Michael and Quincy,” says Waithe. “I was like, ‘Oh great she’s gonna direct this episode cool, cool,' and Melina said, ‘Nah man, we about to be friends and this about to be a thing.’ It was almost like in school when someone comes up and says, ‘We gonna be friends.’ And it became a special thing. People joke and say it’s the ‘Lena and Melina Show.’ We’re very much like sisters…we make a very wicked team. We’re just meant to be together. She’s a gift. Her bringing this world to light is a gift.”
Queen and Slim is a necessary and challenging thesis on Black love that dares to explore the challenges of connecting with other souls while walking across the broken glass that is American racism, violence and misogyny. This script is based on an original idea by bestselling author James Frey and stars Danielle Kaluuya and Jodie-Turner Smith. What starts out as a simple date between two people with very little in common veers off into a “reverse migration” as Waithe calls it, where they must run for their lives from the cold Midwest to the sweltering South after shooting a police officer in self-defense. Even in the trailer, Bokeem Woodbine’s character refers to them as the “Black Bonnie & Clyde,” referencing the Depression-era bank robbers who were also lovers, but Waithe pushes back a little on this description. When asked if Jay-Z and Beyonce’s ode to rogue love “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” would be featured in the film, she rattled off triplet of “Nah, nah, nah.”
“I think there is an interesting comparison obviously, but the difference here is that these are two strangers,” she begins. “They don’t know each other. So, if you’re thrown into a situation with somebody you’re not familiar with, you learn about that person real fast. Especially in a situation like this. They’re very different. They relate to each other differently. They walk through the world very differently. The other thing that I was playing with with these two characters was which one is more important: to live a decent, honest life or to bend the world? And there’s my own stuff in there. I think I just wanted to live a decent life and write, and then I wound up sort of being in a position where I could affect the world in a way. Both sides are valid. He just wants to live a quiet life and she’s like, ‘Why do that?’”
Queen & Slim is in theaters this Thanksgiving. Keep checking back to BET.com for more interviews with the creators.