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Sundance Film Festival

Sundance report: Lena Waithe debuts BET’s ‘Boomerang’ series to a packed house

‘We just wanted to … make it relevant … focusing on how these millennials really get down.‘

When BET and Paramount said they wanted to pull 1992’s Boomerang out of the vault and create a series from a film that made cultural hay back then by challenging the successful Marcus Graham’s (Eddie Murphy) womanizing ways, Lena Waithe enthusiastically raised her hand.

She wanted to make sure it was done right.

So, as executive producer, she pulled together a team including Ben Cory Jones and director Dime Davis to join her on this adventure. What might a world might look like if characters Marcus and Angela had a daughter? And character Jacqueline Broyer had a son? Both of whom followed in their parents’ advertising executive footsteps? We’re about to find out.

“Look, we can’t recreate the movie,” Waithe said in an interview with The Undefeated. “We don’t have any plans of doing that. So we gave these characters children ’cause we’re all the children of Marcus Graham, all the children of Angela Lewis, of Jacqueline. We grew up wanting to be just like them. That’s what we’re playing with. We just wanted to bring it … make it relevant … focusing on how these millennials really get down.”

“It’s impossible to redo classics, so why try to redo a classic? Let’s do something fresh and interesting.”

At Sundance, Waithe and her team screened the first two episodes to a packed and swanky lounge space off of Main Street. Guests included Jada Pinkett Smith and Jaden Smith, and viewers were treated to hot toddies and appetizers while a DJ spun classic ’90s rhythm and blues and hip-hop. It was a mood. “It’s impossible to redo classics, so why try to redo a classic? Let’s do something fresh and interesting,” said Jones. “But also pay … homage and honor what the classic was.”

The classic is an authentically black film, a culturally defining moment that helped make stars out of Halle Berry, Chris Rock (who had a bit role as a mailroom clerk) and others. The event was so popular that there was a line down busy Main Street. Waithe said they might have another screening later in the festival because of the high demand. Just a few years ago, this was inconceivable at Sundance, which has evolved into a space that features and supports content that caters, in large part, to black audiences.

Waithe first came to the festival three years ago as a producer on Justin Simien’s 2014 Dear White People. Now, Waithe is a regular presence at Sundance — and debuting her project in Utah is a major deal. In fact, BET has a big presence at Sundance; the cast of the forthcoming American Soul was on hand for screenings of the series that takes an insider look at Soul Train.

“I cherish it too much to let it be in the wrong hands, hands that won’t handle it with care,” said Waithe.

Judging by the audience reaction after the screening, Waithe and her team accomplished just that.

Liner Notes

Boomerang premieres on BET on Feb. 12.

Kelley L. Carter is a senior entertainment reporter and the host of Another Act at Andscape. She can act out every episode of the U.S. version of The Office, she can and will sing the Michigan State University fight song on command and she is very much immune to Hollywood hotness.