When Mo’nique accepted the Academy Award for “Best Supporting Actress,” in 2009, for her stellar portrayal of Mary Lee Johnston in Lee Daniels’ “Precious,” her Hollywood peers erupted with applause and Mo’Nique exhaled a sigh of relief. She kissed her husband then acknowledged her friend Lee Daniels, who was standing behind her. She rode the melody of the applause to the stage where she then thanked the Academy for bestowing her with the honor. She thanked Hattie McDaniels for paving the way and Tyler Perry and Oprah for breathing life into the project with their touch. Surprisingly, Mo’ didn’t mention Lee Daniels’ name.
We expected Mo’nique’s career to sky-rocket following her historic win. We expected the roles to pour in. However, Mo’ seemed to fade into obscurity. In a recent interview, with The Hollywood Reporter, the “Precious” star revealed Lee Daniels told her she was “blackballed” from the industry. According to the accomplished director, who sat down for a candid chat with Don Lemon on CNN, Mo’Nique didn’t play the game. He claimed she made “unreasonable demands” while filming Precious.” We’ve yet to hear the details behind said “demands” but Mo’nique assures us, her “demands” were nothing out of the ordinary. In a later interview, Mo revealed Daniels was “heated” she didn’t mention his name in her Oscar’s acceptance speech.
Amidst the controversy and lead-up to the limited release of her independent film, “Blackbird,” on April 24, Mo’Nique EXCLUSIVELY opened up to us about what it would take to reconcile with Daniels and how she thinks mainstream media will react to “Blackbird’s” controversial message.
HelloBeautiful: During a recent interview, you revealed you and Lee Daniels haven’t picked up the phone to call one other. What would it take for one of you to pick up the phone?
Mo’Nique: I no longer have Lee’s phone number but would love to have a conversation with my brother, but we would have to do it publicly because the ones we’ve had privately –when you then speak about them — you don’t tell what the real conversation was. When a person is saying, I want to do it publicly, does it sound like a person who has something to hide? I don’t bind to the A-list, I don’t bind to the elite. I’m just a regular folk from Baltimore Maryland, who’s living out her dreams. I’m a wife and a mommy and having the time of her life. That can be for the other elite folk, I’m not that.
HB: What was your reaction to Gabourey Sidibe’s tweet about “Precious?” Did you think she was calling you the “liar” and “selfish” one?
Mo’Nique: I’m not going to assume anything that sister was thinking. That’s why I simply responded back to her the way that I did. For Gabourey Sidibe, I have nothing but the utmost respect and love for that baby because nobody got the chance to sit next to that magical sister in those scenes but me, so there’s nothing anyone can say to me that could change my mind about that sweet woman.
HB: You mentioned in an interview, you suggested Gabourey be flown to Paris in first class, was that one of your “difficult” demands?
Mo’Nique: From the amazing journalists and reporters that have talked to [Lee Daniels] no one has yet to say ‘What were her demands?’ and what made her ‘difficult?’ No one asked him that question. Me and Lee Daniels — I know him. We’ve had conversations in the middle of the night. I know him. So when he says I’m difficult and demanding, when he makes that statement, me and that man ain’t never had a drop of an issue, not on “Shadowboxer,” not on “Precious.” And, if I were those people, why ever would you call me for “Empire?” Why ever would you offer me the grandmother in Richard Pryor? Why? Cause Lee knows he and I never had any issues. I simply repeated what he said to me.
HB: “Empire” co-creator Danny Strong said you were never offered the role of Cookie on “Empire.” What was your response to that?
Mo’Nique: I tweeted him back. I understand why you would say that, however when you find out the truth, will you speak as loudly? I’ve never had any communication with Mr. Strong. I’ve never met Mr. Strong. Lee’s never mentioned Mr. Strong so I have no idea who Mr. Strong is. So if Lee is telling Mr. Strong, ‘No, I didn’t offer Mo’Nique those things…No I didn’t talk to Mo’Nique about that,’ then that’s Lee’s friend and his business partner so all he’s doing is standing up for his friend. Me and my husband Sidney, we respect people like that. However, when you find out the truth will you speak as loudly? Then it will make you question your friendship to say, ‘Why would you let me go out into the world and say something that you knew wasn’t true?’
HB: During his CNN interview with Don Lemon, Daniels said “I guess I’m a sell out then! Call it what it is.” Do you think he is a sell out?
Mo’Nique: Remember when Maya Angelou said ‘When someone introduces themselves to you believe them?’ Those were his words. What I think is unimportant.
HB: We still can’t believe you were only paid $50,000 to star in “Precious…”
Mo’Nique: When Lee Daniels called me, I didn’t put on my business hat, that’s why I’m not mad at the $50,000. I had on my friendship hat and I had on the hat to say, “You gon’ trust me to do this brother?” Because I don’t know any other director who would have called and said, ‘We want you to play this role.’ So I had on my friendship hat. And I had on my ‘Oh, this is going to be so much fun” hat. To date, I’ve made about $65,000 from that movie in residuals and in participation. So when people said Mo’nique was being demanding or difficult, it wasn’t that at all guys, but I understand how they could feel that way because the word ‘No’ is not used to what they’re hearing. It’s not that they’re bad people over at the studios and Lionsgate. They’re not bad people, but just hearing the word “No,” is like ‘Huh?!’
‘Oh no, thank you, we respectfully decline.’ But they’re going to call back… ‘Can we just upgrade your hotel room and give you some more days in France?’ ‘No thank you, we respectfully decline.’ They call back…’What does it take for Mo’Nique to come to France?’ And Sydney says, ‘Is there a number attached to what you’re asking?’ ‘Gasp. We would never do that.’ This is my down time and I want to spend it with my family, so when you really tell the story, all the way through, folks are saying what was difficult and demanding cause any working woman, in this country, once you put in you 40, you put it in right? If they call you to come in on Saturday, do you want to be paid for that or is that just a good gesture? You just gon’ go on and give them your Saturday?
I’ve had people say to me, ‘You’re not scared?’ You gon’ say that out loud for real?’ Oh girl. I understand it because of what I look like. I’m a woman. I’m Black and I’m big…so you know there aren’t a lot of opportunities and you gon’ say something? I’m human. Coming to Hollywood becoming an actress wasn’t what I came to do. I came to Hollywood to be a talk show host. becoming an actress just fell in my lap.
HB: How do you think the mainstream will react to “Blackbird’s” controversial scenes?
Mo’Nique: It’s funny we consider love controversial. And that’s how far we’ve gotten removed from treating one other good. Because “Blackbird” is a beautiful love story. I think when we open our hearts and our minds, we walk away with this thing called ‘acceptance.’ And we stop saying we love our fellow-man and we begin to love our fellow-man.
HB: How do you think people will react to the homosexual sex scenes, especially because the character is so young?
Mo’Nique: Well he’s a senior in high school and we’ve all seen movies where you see a senior in high school – a girl and a guy — in a sex scene, because that’s the way it naturally happens. When we were 15 and 16 didn’t our bodies start feeling different? What makes it any different for two guys or two girls? The only thing that makes it different is our inability to open up our hearts and our minds to this thing called acceptance. And when you put the word graphic on it…’the graphic sex scenes,’ well is it graphic when you saw it in a movie with a man and a woman or were they simply making love?
HB: Do you think people will be uncomfortable?
Mo’Nique: Get uncomfortable because that’s what brings about change. There are so many of us who are so afraid to say I won’t apologize for me. Then there are those who say that it’s graphic…and you make that baby cower down and go into the closet because what you believe is graphic is, they’re saying I simply love this person. Is that not natural order of love? We’re not taking the time out to think about it and we’re just speaking on it. When you take the time out to think, ‘Is a gay person any less human that a straight person?’