Oscar-winning actress Mo’Nique hasn’t appeared in a film since her debut in Lee Daniels’ film “Precious” (2009). That was not until this past weekend with the theatrical release of coming-of-age film “Blackbird.” The film, which centers around a young gay male growing up in Mississippi, premiered in New York at Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in association with Harlem Pride and DBQ Magazine, an LGBTQ publication for people of color. It has been released in limited theaters across the country by the Urban Movie Channel, an RLJ Entertainment brand, created by BET founder Robert L. Johnson. UMC is an online channel that some have referred to as the black Netflix. “Blackbird,” an independent film, is reportedly the first original film acquired by UMC.
“Blackbird” is an adaptation of author Larry Duplechan’s coming-of-age novel. Written and directed by Patrik-Ian Polk, the film’s main character is a talented teenage singer who’s struggling with religion, sexuality, a troubled home life and other high school woes in a small Southern Baptist town—a journey that ultimately leads to him learning to accept and love who he is. The original setting was Southern California during the ’70s but Polk changed the film’s backdrop to his hometown of present-day Hattiesburg. Isaiah Washington plays the sympathetic father of the teen and Mo’Nique plays his judgmental religious mother. Mo’Nique and her husband, Sidney Hicks, are executive producers on the film through their company Hicks Media.
Given the choice between acting and producing, she would opt for the later, Mo’Nique told BlackEnterprise.com during an exclusive interview. She also opened up about the recent controversy with Daniels after Mo’Nique told Access Hollywood that the “Empire” creator had offered her the role of Cookie before Taraji P. Henson was hired on the Fox series. That claim followed Daniels’ assertion that she was “blackballed” from Hollywood after making “unreasonable demands” during the Oscar campaign for “Precious.” Daniels and “Empire” co-creator Danny Strong denied the actress was ever offered the role of Cookie.
But Mo’Nique fired back by presenting emails that proved Daniels had a conversation with her about his new television pilot for Imagine Tv/Fox. According to the email, Daniels told Mo’Nique’s team, “We would like to screen test her for the role of ‘Cookie.’ Please contact us with her television quotes, so that we can start a test, option, deal.”
Mo’Nique told BlackEnterprise.com, “The situation at hand with Mr. Daniels is just a part of the journey. It is a part of life. What I have learned from this situation is that you must have a proof of a conversation.” She went on to say that she harbors no ill will toward Daniels. In fact, she would embrace him, but she simply wants him to clear her name. “We reached out to Mr. Daniels, we sent him an email to say, ‘Hey brother, we ain’t got nothin’ but love for you, but you know what you have to do. Say, ‘I misspoke. I want to apologize to my sister.'”
Mo’Nique talks more about her career, latest film and homophobia in the black community on the next page …