Lena Waithe: 'Queen & Slim' Was Inspired By the 'Trauma of Being Black in America'

Queen & Slim is perhaps the most highly-anticipated movie of the year, and for good reason.

The film boasts a stellar cast and tells an incredibly important story of what it means to be young and black in America. The film follows a young black man and woman who are forced to go on the run after killing a police officer in a bad traffic stop gone horribly wrong.

According to the multi-talented Lena Waithe, the writer behind the film, Queen & Slim was inspired by “the trauma of being black in America.” She told Entertainment Weekly,

“I was feeling a sense of trauma from watching the news, and I think when people hear about black people being killed by cops, they know that it’s sad, they know that it’s not right, but as a black person, there’s no one there to hold my hand. There’s no one there to rub my back and tell me that I’m okay, that we’re going to be okay.”

She told NPR in a separate interview that the movie was “really like a hug I wanted to give black people.”

As Lena notes, police brutality is nothing new to America. The only thing new is that we can film an incident and have it up on YouTube with 3M views in less than an hour. In reality, there’s a long, volatile history between black Americans and the police, which is something that she pulled from as she wrote the screenplay. She explained,

“I think because our history as black people with the police has been so turbulent, so violent, a lot of people point to Rodney King, which is a clear example of police brutality. But then you could also go back to the civil rights movement. Who was it that was hosing down college students; who was it that was sicking dogs on them, beating them with batons? It wasn’t just crazy racist white people, it was the police.”

She continued,

“So that is why I said if two black people ever killed a police officer, in self-defense or not, I knew that there would be pockets of the black community that would look at them and applaud, whether it’s right or wrong.”

Lena said that, understandably, the traffic stop scene, which kicks off the entirety of the film, was incredibly difficult to write — something she had to write and rewrite “a bajillion times.” It wasn’t until she watched the dashcam footage of Sandra Bland’s traffic stop that she was able to get the scene down just right.

“It is horrifying to listen to, but here’s the thing: It’s not this really loud interaction. There’s no yelling or screaming or anything.”

It’s actually this same dashcam footage that lead actors Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) and newcomer Jodie Turner-Smith used to prepare for the scene as well. Jodie explained,

“I watched the Sandra Bland documentary and her tape itself over and over and over and over again, and just the reality of that, the fear in that.”

She added,

“It was about looking at a lot of this black horror that we see.”

Queen & Slim is currently in theaters and, if the reviews are any indication, it might just be the most powerful film of 2019.


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Feature Photo: Queen & Slim / Facebook

Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.