Lena Waithe Signs New Overall Deal With Amazon Studios

Lena Waithe signed a new overall deal with Amazon Studios, announcing the partnership during the Television Critics Association summer press tour. Under the Amazon overall deal, Waithe will create and produce original content for the streaming service.

“Lena is a powerhouse writer and producer who also has a gift for identifying exciting and authentic voices,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, according to Variety. “Our upcoming series ‘THEM’ is the result of her rare ability to cultivate brilliant voices like Little Marvin and bring his wholly original and compelling vision to Amazon. We look forward to collaborating with Lena and her team for years to come.” “THEM,” from Vertigo Entertainment and Sony Pictures TV, was picked up for a two-season straight-to-series order.

The first season will be called “Them: Covenant” and will star “Luke Cage” star Deborah Ayorinde and “Salvation” actor Ashley Thomas. Waithe will executive produce alongside writer and executive producer Little Marvin, according to Deadline. Amazon Studios did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment.

Waithe’s overall deal with Amazon Studies is believed to be a two year commitment in the eight-figure range, Deadline reported. The shows will be developed through Waithe Hillman Grad, the company Waithe founded with her creative partner Rishi Rajani.

“I couldn’t be more excited about this new partnership with Amazon Studios and am looking forward to this next chapter,” Waithe said. “Both of our goals are aligned in that we want to continue elevating storytellers who are underrepresented and have a unique vision of the world.”

Waithe gained recognition for her work on Netflix’s critically-acclaimed series “Master of None.” She became the first Black woman to win an Emmy for writing on a comedy series, having co-wrote the “Thanksgiving” episode of the show with Aziz Ansari in 2017.

The Emmy-winning showrunner has three series on air, not including the two-season commitment with Amazon for the horror anthology “THEM.” She has an upcoming BET comedy series called Twenties, a Showtime drama series called The Chi, and Boomerang on BET. Waithe Hillman Grad also has a Showtime pilot called “How to Make Love to a Black Woman” and an Untitled Kid Fury Project in the works for HBO.

According to Variety, she was previously in a first-look deal with Showtime. Waithe is represented by WME, The Mission Entertainment, and Del Shaw Moonves. She joins fellow producers “Jack Ryan” star John Krasinski and “Westworld” creators Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan at Amazon. Waithe’s writing debut Queen & Slim, featuring Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, will be released on November 27. The film, which is directed by Melina Matsoukas, follows a Black couple who are pulled over by a white police officer for a minor traffic infraction. The encounter escalates and Kaluuya’s character fatally shoots the officer, forcing the two to go on the run.

The deal between Waithe and Amazon comes just a month after Janet Mock became the first Black transgender woman to sign a landmark overall deal with a major studio. Mock, who directs, produces, and writes “Pose,” signed a three-year, multimillion-dollar deal with streaming service Netflix.

Under the deal with Netflix, the streaming service has exclusive rights to Mock’s TV series and a first-look option on any feature-film projects. Mock, who will continue working as a writer-director on Ryan Murphy’s “Pose,” will act as executive producer and director on Murphy’s upcoming Netflix series, “Hollywood.” She will also be developing a few projects, including a college series following a young transgender woman and a series on post-slavery New Orleans. In a video announcing the historic deal, Mock called the agreement “bonkers,” noting its the first of its kind for not only trans women, but a trans woman of color.

“You know, 84 percent of Americans say that they don’t know and/or work with a trans person,” Mock said. “And so, there’s potential now with Netflix’s worldwide audience to introduce millions, hundreds of millions of viewers to trans people and showing people who may not understand us that we can tell our own stories.” Mock told Variety that she did not expect Hollywood to embrace her or give her “not just a seat at the table but a table of my own making.”

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.