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Lena Waithe on new show Boomerang and why she thinks depictions of black wealth are valid

28 Feb 2019

Lena Waithe is one busy woman – at one point last year, every second audition that came my way was a project that she was a part of. The Emmy award-winning writer, actor and executive producer is changing Hollywood one story at a time. Between writing and acting on Master of None, creating The Chi, having several film and TV projects currently in development and being a devoted LGBTQ activist, it’s hard to imagine that she has time for anything else.

Her latest endeavour? Here’s a clue for you – what goes around and comes back around? BOOMERANG – the film that is. Low hanging fruit, I know, but I couldn’t help myself and I know some of you are thinking it – am I right?

If Boomerang doesn’t ring a bell for you it may be because, like me, you were three years old when the film came out in 1992. Here is a recap:

Marcus Graham (Eddie Murphy), a hotshot advertising executive and serial womanizer, gets a taste of his own medicine when he falls in love with his new boss, Jacqueline Broyer (Robin Givens). Heartbroken and hella confused, he winds up in the arms of Angela Lewis (Halle Berry) who loves him despite his playboy track record and a little incident which saw him leaving to meet Jacqueline and not coming home.

The reboot of Boomerang is not that – whew – because the original film was problematic AF. The show picks up 27 years later and follows Simone Graham (Tetona Jackson), the child of Marcus and Angela Graham, and her childhood friend Bryson (Tequan Richmond), Jacqueline’s only son.

“The reboot of Boomerang is not that – whew – because the original film was problematic AF”

Allegedly born with a “rose gold spoon in her mouth and a kente cloth wrapped around her head”, Simone Graham is black Atlantan royalty and not in the reality show sense. Fed up with being in her parents’ shadow, Simone decides to put her inherited business smarts to work by helping her friend Tia (Lala Milan), a woke stripper with a mission to topple the patriarchy – let that sink in. Tia isn’t the only one touched by Simone. Bryson wishes nothing more than to have been Marcus Graham’s son but crushes on his daughter instead. He lets his soft spot for Simone get in the way of his work, almost costing him his job at the Graham Agency. The show follows Simone and Bryson and their tight knit squad as they each try to carve out a space for themselves in the world.  

When BET and Paramount decided to pull Boomerang, the iconic and somewhat dated film, out of the vault, Lena Waithe heard about it just like everyone else. “They had already greenlit 10 episodes, period. I raised my hand and said I would like to come in and help do this thing to ensure somebody doesn’t do the basic thing of ‘Let’s do a young Marcus, a young Angela, a young Robin’, that’s whack!”

I spoke to Waithe a few days after the intimate dinner BET hosted with the cast at 1 Hotel in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Sitting down with the cast, over food and wine, revealed just how close the cast actually was IRL. They finished each other’s sentences… and each other’s lamb chops. I would like to think they would’ve finished my lamb chops too, had I gotten the part I auditioned for (I’m not bitter) and had I not been vegan. All that is to say that one could imagine kicking it with them and it felt like they had a great time telling this story.

Still of Lala Milan as Tia Reed, Tetona Jackson as Simone Graham, and Brittany Inge as Crystal Garrett / image via BET

Exec producers Waithe and Berry are keeping mum about whether any of the OG’s of the original Boomerang film will be making appearances in the reboot. “This is about this generation and these kids…” Waithe explains emphatically “…if you wanna see Halle Berry, Robin Givens and Eddie Murphy, you can put the movie on”. Fair enough. I for one am encouraged and eager to see a lesser known but superbly gifted batch of young actors on the scene that represent what it means to be a black millennial in 2019. It means there is hope for the rest of us, and is the ultimate validation that we are out here and relevant, even if it’s just by association. It has been a while since we’ve seen a cast who are as varied in background and as diverse in their blackness – a motif that appears to be central to the show: “There are different ways to be black.”

“I for one am encouraged and eager to see a lesser known but superbly gifted batch of young actors on the scene that represent what it means to be a black millennial in 2019”

There is such a thing as black wealth and I am reminded during this interview that I need to check myself about the expectation I have about black people being portrayed as a certain class on screen. “Simone is valid too and there is no reason not to relate to her because she’s born into a family that’s got the money,” says Waithe. “I drive a Tesla.” She adds: “That’s because I’ve earned [it]. Why is my life less relatable now cause I’m not struggling anymore?” There are different ways of being black and the characters are far from homogenous, they have different beliefs and move differently in the world, with different ambitions and personal challenges.

The reboot of Boomerang is the kind of content the world needs to see more of, kinda like how more people need to see black Twitter because it’s just so lit, entertaining and relevant. And like black Twitter, the show presents updated and real perspectives of young black people in America today. It’s blackness bottled into distinct and complex characters from the many types of blackness that are out there to be mined for great storytelling. There is a place for the ratchet, the hustler, the religious, the woke, the rich and much more.

Boomerang premiered on Thursday 14th February at 9.30pm on BET – Sky 194, Virgin 184, Freesat 140.