How Director Melina Matsoukas Went From ‘Formation’ To Netflix Hit Shows

Melina Matsoukas and I were essentially in shock when we hopped on our phone call on Tuesday to talk about the two episodes she directed for Master of None.

The creative genius who’s worked with the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and created Beyoncé‘s epically powerful “Formation” music video, got her hands on an important episode where Denise (Lena Waithe) comes out of the closet. Starring Angela Bassett and Kim Whitley episode eight of the second season gives an intimate portrayal of Denise coming to terms with who she is, with the support of her family.

But back to our shock.

Just hours before we spoke, President Donald Trump decided to brashly fire the FBI Director James Comey via a letter Comey didn’t see until the media was reporting the story.

“Oh my god,” Matsoukas said. “America, that’s where we’re living.”

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Born in the Bronx and raised in Hackensack, New Jersey the 36-year-old has made a career highlighting the beauty of Black women. Contrary to the headline of the day, Matsoukas is honest and transparent with her work.

“You’ve never seen a Black lesbian come out on the small screen. And that’s what we captured. We finished shooting the first season of Insecure, and as we were finishing they reached out to me. Lena specifically reached out to me saying that she had written this episode and she really wanted me to direct it. Her and Aziz actually co-wrote it,” she said.

“But obviously it was very close to her because it was based on her true story of coming out and she drew parallels between herself and the character and wanted me to be a part of it. I couldn’t deny that opportunity and I really wanted to be a part of that telling.”

The episode is warm and funny and sentimental. But it also pulls from a real life struggle many people deal with. Matsoukas captured the experience with talking to Waithe about what her childhood home looked and felt like, and perfectly creating that setting.

“She grew up in a very similar household with her mother and her grandmother and had a close big auntie, as a lot of the Black folk do,” she said about working with Waithe.

“[They] had a cross in their house and a picture of Martin Luther King. And they inherited that house from her grandmother so it had a lot of ’70s stuff left over and we came up with a back story for her mothers character and built on that. She has a lot of influences from ’90s sitcoms, as well as all of us do. So the posters in her room kind of paralleled that, which also looked very much like my childhood bedroom.”

Matsoukas went on to talk about the process of working with artists, “I really can’t get involved with any project that I don’t feel a hundred percent I can stand behind,” she said. She talked about Insecure and if she’s team Issa or Jay (note: she’s Switzerland on picking sides). And upcoming projects that include films.

But most importantly, we talked about motivates the Los Angeles-based artist who regularly vacations with gal-pal, Solange

“We wanna see our world reflected on the screen,” she said. 

“I think, in the same way when we talk politically, the people must speak up, we have to do it in terms of entertainment as well. And the people are speaking up and I think because of that, that demand, there’s starting to be these opportunities for people like me, for people like Issa and Ava to satisfy that market.”


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