Lena Waithe, the prolific writer-producer-actor, named her production and development company, Hillman Grad, after the fictitious historically Black college that was the locus for A Different World, the pioneering television series that ran for six seasons on NBC from the late 1980s to the early ’90s. “That show said to the world that being Black and being intelligent was cool. It celebrated the Black nerd and the Black woman who wanted to major in art history. It was all about a community, a tribe, and that’s how I think of Hillman Grad,” says Waithe, the first African American woman to win an Emmy for writing in a comedy series, for her work on Master of None. (Her ample producer credits include The Chi and Boomerang, both currently on view, as well as Them: Covenant, a horror anthology series created by Little Marvin, and The 40-Year-Old Version, Radha Blank’s semi-autobiographical film about a New York playwright who abandons the theater world and all its micro- and macro-racial aggressions to become a rapper.)
Rishi Rajani. Shibori Banding Silk Screened Wallpaper, Metallic Gold on Azurite Blue: By Manuka Textiles.
When the time came for Hillman Grad to move into a proper office, it was clear that the conventional Tinseltown-status model—sleek white walls for predominantly white people—was just not going to cut it. “We didn’t talk about aesthetics and particular styles,” Waithe says of early discussions between the Hillman Grad team and designer Amie Mays, who had collaborated with Waithe previously on the interiors of her Los Angeles home. “It was about a mood. The feeling had to be warm and colorful, with lots of texture. I wanted to be surrounded by Black art, murals, video loops of iconic moments of Black people in film and television—anything that speaks to my Blackness,” Waithe adds.
Prismatic Wallcovering, Tritone Metallic on Matte Black. Hillman Grad Productions in Hollywood, Los Angeles.
Mays responded with a heady array of plush, polychromatic fabrics, an assortment of graphic and prismatic wall coverings—notably the conference room’s pairing of gold cork wallpaper and a pattern that nods to the striking lines of Kuba cloth—and classic midcentury furnishings that give a shoutout to the populist underpinnings of the modernist movement. There isn’t a sterile white wall in sight. “I tried to create a space that inspires people to make something beautiful, a space that feels comfortable and safe for the staff and all the visiting directors, actors, writers, and executives,” Mays says of her decorative ministrations.
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