It’s been over six years since Mo’Nique has appeared in a film, the last of which–2009’s Precious–earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
And now she’s back with the upcoming release of the film Blackbird, a drama centering on a deeply religious African American high school student (played by out actor Julian Walker) in a small Mississippi town struggling with coming to terms with his homosexuality.
It’s a familiar story for many, and yet Hollywood has largely avoided the subject.
Director Patrik-Ian Polk had to eschew the usual Hollywood casting route because many African American actors feared playing gay. Instead Polk plucked Walker from his theatre program at the University of Southern Mississippi to play the role.
“A lot of actors were scared, thinking ’People might think I’m gay [in real life],'” says Mo’Nique. “Look, nobody thought that Michael Douglas or Matt Damon were gay in Behind the Candelabra, and baby, they played that.”
“The moment we open ourselves up and be unafraid of what people think, the world becomes a better place.”
As for the impact that the film had on her:
When the director yells cut and you walk away thinking, ’Wow, people could really open up their hearts and change their minds.’ You see the pain of this one individual and you ask ’Would I really want to put that on somebody? Would I want someone to feel like their unworthy or unloved or going to hell?’ We believe it’s an important message to get out.
Mo’Nique also discussed the rampant inequality throughout Hollywood:
We’ve all been the underdog in this place called Hollywood. When when have you ever known the underdog to have a story of ’It was just smooth all the way through?’ There have to be hills to climb. You have to keep on pushing, taking a stand, asking at what point are we treated it equal. May it be LGBT, may it be black, may it be a woman: When are we going to be treated equal?
Asked as an aside if she’d be down to guest star on her former director Lee Daniels’ hit show Empire, Mo’Nique is coy stating, “I love to have a good time. I’m going to leave it at that.”