Lena Waithe has had an exceptional year thus far, and things are only getting better for the triple threat talent.
We caught up with The Chi creator to discuss her new character “Aech” in Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated film Ready Player One, as well as her experience shooting what will likely be viewed as an iconic film.
During filming for the forthcoming work, things were less than quiet for the “Windy City” local. Her schedule included trying to get her now hit HBO show, The Chi, “greenlit” and writing the Emmy Award-winning “Thanksgiving” episode from Aziz Ansari’s Master of None series on Netflix. Now, with countless fans that Spielberg’s upcoming movie has already acquired from the book the project is based on, in addition to this being her film debut, there’s no doubt that the pressure is on for Lena to fill the rather large shoes that have been placed out for her –– this is evident in the role she’s been given as tech-savvy “Aech.”
“When I auditioned, everything was very top secret,” Lena tells BallerStatus. “I didn’t know what the movie was called; I didn’t know that my character was a guy –– that it was a girl –– I didn’t know anything. Once I got cast, I read the script first and I was blown away. The script is just as imaginative, fun and amazing as the movie. Then I read the book and I was like ‘Aw man –– Aech is really layered and has a lot going on.’ ”
As a gay female actress portraying a masculine male avatar, Lena related to the character wholeheartedly. “As a lesbian, I like to call myself masculine presenting or a soft stud if you will, I really related to that,” she explained. “I get that vibe of wanting to be one of the guys and wanting to be treated equally –– not being talked down to because I’m a girl. I think the social impact of that, even though Steven [Spielberg] isn’t beating you over the head with it, definitely speaks volumes.”
She also explains how fans have communicated that Aech is their favorite character and such an important element of the movie.
As the 33-year old star charters new territory that comes with the art of shooting motion capture for Ready Player One, she recalls some of the techniques she had to apply including strange wardrobe and sometimes feeling a bit silly.
“This was the first time I’d done any acting like this, because on Master of None, I think our mission is always like, ‘How can we be super grounded to the floor?’ ” Lena explained. “How can we be so conversational so that people will feel like they’re just hanging out with their friends? So we spend a lot of time not being overly energetic. This [RP1] was like –– Steven was like ‘Balls to the wall –– Go big or go home,’ because even though we’re doing motion capture, they’re recording every body and face movement, so sometimes we have to really express ourselves and really go big. When I’m driving the truck, that’s actually me driving. Then sometimes, I’ll say the line at a normal volume and Steven will say, ‘No, it’s loud and there’s things crashing –– people are yelling so you’ve got to yell’. Of course, it’s quiet as hell on set, so you do feel kinda silly, but after a while it’s fun.
Being animated was perhaps the easiest part of the job since Lena describes herself as having a bigger personality than her previous role as Denise in the Netflix series. Her intrigue and excitement, however, charged forward while explaining the process of the actor when shooting motion picture. “It’s a unique thing –– you’ve got a body-suit on –– you’ve got dots all over your face and body and we’re wearing head gear,” Lena recalls. “I’m doing a lot of my own stunts in terms of running and jumping around. It was an adventure making it, so I think that’s why when you watch it [the movie] it feels like an adventure too.”
Ready Player One hits theaters March 29. Check out the trailer below.