If you did recognize Lena Waithe’s face in season 3 of Westworld, we’d wager it’s because you were a fan of Aziz Ansari’s award-winning Netflix dramedy Master of None. If not, we’ll tell you the series followed the personal and professional travails of Dev, a 30-something New Yorker trying to make his way in showbiz. Aziz Ansari, of course, portrayed Dev throughout every episode of Master of None‘s two-season run, serving as the series’ creator, producer, and director as well.
Lena Waithe appeared in ten episodes of Master of None, delivering scene-stealing work as Dev’s longtime friend and confidant Denise. She’s also the only co-star on the series whose character took center stage for an entire episode. Titled “Thanksgiving,” that episode came late in Master of None‘s bravura second season, and found Waithe’s character struggling not just with with her own sexuality, but with coming out to her friends and family over the course of several years’ worth of the titular holiday.
“Thanksgiving” was easily the most deeply confessional episode of the series, which had already built a substantial reputation for exploring intensely personal terrain. So dear was the story Waithe wanted to tell in “Thanksgiving,” she actually wrote the episode herself, and was rewarded for her efforts with her very own Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. And just FYI, it remains arguably the strongest episode of a series that really didn’t have any bad ones.