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What is the Dune of Your Dreams: Holding Time and Space for Quinta, Ego, Maya, Kristen, Michelle, and Renée

“We walk into these rooms and we can't just talk about our creativity or our ideas. We have to get through all the cultural baggage first.”

–Ava DuVvernay, Guest Lecture Series, 2017

One day, while wandering through Instagram, I came across a promotional image for The Hollywood Reporter’s Roundtable series - The Emmy Edition. I’d seen these covers before, but this one made me stop and scroll back. It featured the current leading ladies of TV comedy, and five out of six are Black. Suspecting I’d temporarily jumped timelines, I did a quick roll call. Introduced by Yvonne Orji and hosted by Lacey Rose, THR presented a set of women who make comedy look easy because they make it vital—ubiquitous as air and atoms: Quinta Brunson, Ego Nwodim, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Michelle Buteau, and Renée Elise Goldsberry.

They are undisputed; these women have earned their positions on the thrones of comedy. My surprise came from seeing them recognized as a group in one time and place. It doesn’t happen often in the mainstream. Another shock came when Quinta questioned if she’d be trusted to adapt “The Guest” by Emily Cline because she’s a Black woman, and it’s not what she’s known for. After more conversation, the other women confessed the same uncertainty. Maya added, “They want to see you the way they want to see you.”

“That’s still happening?!”

Shonda Rhimes, Shonda Rhimes Plans to Return to Her TV Roots..., 2024 

How can these six—who would be MVPs on any court, stadium, or level playing field—be denied opportunities to make Hollywood more money than they already do? I won’t falsify this document by pretending I don’t know: it’s because they are women; because most of them are Black women; because some of them are women of a certain age. Their creativity is an ‘unlock code’ to successful content that remixes experiential, genre, culture, and voice. Basically, a license to back the money truck up to the studio and unload. 

That’s when Quinta sent out a third shockwave. Whenever she watches something like “Dune” she wonders, “What is the “Dune” of Maya Rudolph’s dreams?” Quinta posits that we’re missing out on “a lot of fun sci-fi stuff” because the industry only wants to exploit her/their pain. It’s a limiting proposition to be sure. And I get it. As these leading ladies of comedy shared their dream projects, my imagination sparked alongside them. 

Based on their answers, here are my daydreams for the prompt: What are the “Dunes” of Maya, Quinta, Ego, Kristen, Michelle, and Renée’s dreams?

The “Dune” of Michelle Buteau’s Dreams

Michelle (“Survival of the Thickest”) told the Roundtable she wants to continue creating “fat, black, brown, queer content” because she’s ensuring her children have a legacy of the arts. For her, I imagine a cross-pollination of authors Douglas Adams and Kimberly Lemming. Harpooning the ridiculous sides of civilization, witty, sexy, diverse, and filled with wild characters who yank you into their wormholes. Maybe Michelle’s character is the proprietor of a hotel at the nexus between galaxies. She’d be “that girl,” juggling at least three lovers in the will-they-won’t-they category. And, as a provider of perpetual aggravation, her unwilling sidekick would be a dragon hiding out as a man who plays piano in the hotel lobby (Hugh Laurie). Can you see it? Kind of a “Doctor Who” who stays put and lets the universe come to her.

Sci-fi subgenres: interstellar hijinks, slice of life

Dream series director: Kate Herron (“LOKI” / “Doctor Who”)

The “Dune” of Renée Elise Goldsberry’s Dreams

Renée (“Girls5eva”) didn’t get superpowers in her first MCU outing, and she wants a heroic do-over. Perhaps jumping universes and joining the Green Lantern Corps at DC Studios/WBD is the way to go. I’m pitching the Far Sector comic book by N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbel. It follows a new Green Lantern on a deep space mission to mediate feuding alien races. Joined by Winston Duke for an intergalactic tango—Renée would be Sojourner “Jo” Mullein, an empowered Black woman who pulls no punches and has the quick wits to match. 

Sci-fi subgenres: superhero, space opera

Dream director: Salli Richardson-Whitfield (“Wheel of Time” / “Altered Carbon” / “Doom Patrol”)

The “Dune” of Ego Nwodim’s Dreams

Ego (“SNL”) didn’t pause before stating, “I want to be in a heist movie.” Imagine her in a caper set in a universe as wild as “The Fifth Element.”  Someplace where dynamic action sequences converge with sci-fi and epic fantasy—where a heist is facilitated and complicated by futuristic tech and magic. Ego would lead her squad as a retired assassin and universally renowned gamer, who travels with a skilled entourage played by actors like John Cho (the face), Marshawn Lynch (the hacker), Aidan Gallagher (the muscle), and Meera Syal (the chameleon). 

Sci-fi subgenres: heist, crime dramedy 

Dream writer: Steve Blackman (“Umbrella Academy”)

The “Dune” of Kristen Wiig’s Dreams

Kristin (“Palm Royale”) is writing something that isn’t a comedy. She’s concerned when she pitches the concept she’ll have to defend her choice. “Dune” is the type of story she’s envisioning, but maybe with a slightly comedic take. Can she defy expectations? Of course, a far-flung “Fury Road” or “Furiosa” comes to mind, but I’m inspired by the East of West comic book. Created by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta, the saga is set in a dystopian future where the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse roam the Earth. While the comic follows Death on a quest to find his lost love, Kristin’s version might explore a different landscape. One with a matriarchal society, The Four Horsewomen of the End Times, and old west sensibilities. 

Sci-fi subgenres: postapocalyptic, western

Dream director: Gina Prince-Blythewood (“The Woman King” / “The Old Guard”)

The “Dune” of Maya Rudolph’s Dreams

Partly inspired by Renée’s performance in Hamilton, Maya (“Loot”) dreams of starring on Broadway. Keeping that in mind, did you know she fronts a Prince cover band called Princess? Hold on to that trivia. Since Hollywood is fueled by connections—and “SNL” and Apple TV+ are big ones—Maya could team up with Cinco Paul from “Schmigadoon!”. Together they’d create a jukebox musical with a similar premise to “The Greatest Hits” (2024). As a mom facing an emptying nest, whenever Maya spins Prince on a childhood record player she gets transported back to pivotal eras in her life. But her past doesn’t look the way she remembers it. Everyone keeps singing their feelings and messing up her memories, forcing her to reconcile who she thought she was with who she is now. Which, of course, inspires new and original songs.

Sci-fi subgenres: musical, magical realism

Dream co-creator: Cinco Paul (“Schmigadoon!”)

The “Dune” of Quinta Brunson’s Dreams

Quinta craves the freedom to make something pure like a “Bluey,” but she also dreams of “Dune” and “Willy Wonka.” That crossroads leads to big, splashy action adventures for families. Let’s combine “The Goonies” with the Supernatural Investigations series by B. B. Alston (Amari and the Night Brothers), the story of a girl who joins a secret organization to investigate supernatural occurrences and search for her missing brother. Quinta could celebrate silliness and magic while exploring the life of a girl who discovers her power in a world that keeps shifting under her feet.

Sci-fi subgenres: children/family, coming-of-age 

Dream director(s): Matthew Warchus (“Matilda: The Musical”)

Each of these “Dunes” is an easy climb if you believe what Quinta does: “All of you, I think, are the most dynamic women and you can do whatever you want…we make people laugh and they forget about how dynamic [we] actually are.” 

I believe. Do you?

Sherin Nicole

Sherin Nicole is a pop-culture pundit, an author, and might be a covert agent.

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