It all started last week, with a rather revealing interview Mo’Nique gave to The Hollywood Reporter, in which she dished on the criticism she faced for her role in “Precious,” what life after Oscar has been like, in terms of opportunities and income, and discovering that she’d been blacklisted! Why? The actress herself wasn’t entirely certain, but suggested potential reasons based on what others, including her “Precious” director, Lee Daniels, told her.
To wit: “What I understood was that when I won that Oscar, things would change in all the ways you’re saying: It should come with more respect, more choices and more money. It should, and it normally does […] I got a phone call from Lee Daniels maybe six or seven months ago. And he said to me, “Mo’Nique, you’ve been blackballed.” And I said, “I’ve been blackballed? Why have I been blackballed?” And he said, “Because you didn’t play the game.” And I said, “Well, what game is that?” And he gave me no response. The next thing he said to me was, “Your husband is outbidding you.” But he never asked me what [salary] we were asking for. You know, my husband and I had to change things so we wouldn’t have to depend on [others]. So we do it independently. We’re very proud of taking the independent route, and we have a movie coming out on April 24 called Blackbird.”
This week, both Mo’Nique and Lee Daniels appeared on Don Lemon’s program on CNN – each on a different day this week. And, of course, Lemon asked both of them about, let’s call it, “the situation;” first he talked to Daniels, who, essentially, reiterated what he’s said previously: “I think that there were demands that were made on the ‘Precious’ campaign that everyone knows hurt her. I told her that […] You’ve gotta play ball. This is not just show — it is show business.”
He said more than that, but that’s really the gist of it (see the full video below).
The day after Daniels appeared on Lemon’s program, Mo’Nique did the same, and, naturally, Lemon asked her to react to what Daniels said the day prior, and she explained: “There were no demands. There was a request from the movie studio that I fly to France for the Cannes Film Festival. I simply said, ‘I respectfully decline.’ [..] I had a couple of days downtime and I wanted to spend that with my husband and my kids.”
But the film’s distributor (Lionsgate) apparently kept trying to convince her to make the trip, and eventually asked what it would take to get her to come to Cannes to promote the film. And her husband, who is also her manager, asked in reply: “Is there a number associated with it?” As in, will she be paid for the trip. Of course the studio responded in the negative, insisting that it was promotional work for a movie she co-starred in.
Mo’Nique continued, explaining to Lemon that she got paid just $50,000 for her role in “Precious,” and so she hoped that they would’ve received some financial assistance to cover her travel and promote the movie: “It really wasn’t about the money and I am not complaining because I signed up to do it [“Precious”] with my friend […] When the movie studio said we can’t pay you to do this, we [her husband and herself] didn’t have a problem with that.”
And she went on for a little bit more, eventually switching over to conversation about her next film, the indie-produced drama “Blackbird,” directed by Patrik-Ian Polk, co-starring Isaiah Washington, which will be out on April 24.
By the way, she also co-stars in the upcoming HBO Films drama “Bessie,” which is directed by Dee Rees, playing blues legend Ma Rainey, alongside Queen Latifah who stars. It premieres in May.
It might be too early to say that Mo’Nique is “back,” but she’s clearly making moves, and getting lots of attention at the same time.
Below, first watch Lee Daniels’ conversation with Don Lemon; and underneath is Mo’Nique’s response: