This marks your directorial debut. Has directing always been on your radar, or is it just this story you feel you need to tell?
I think that if I had a lot of dough, maybe I could've gotten somebody like Ken Burns, who said to me "You should be doing this. This is something you should be doing because you know this story." And I said, "Well okay, but I'm an actor, this isn't my thing." And it's not something that I live for, but there are probably one or two other things that I will end up directing because they are part of the art. And I love that.
But listen, if I were a rich girl, it would be a whole different story [laughs]. Doing it this way means I don't have to convince people that what I'm doing is a good idea. I don't have to beg or steal pens because someone doesn't get it. I get it and if I put it out and people say, "We don't care." Then it's on me.
So how's the production been going for you?
It's been going well. I got to talk to a lot of different people about Moms. It's crazy because we think of her as one thing, this character, but she was a multi-dimensional performer. I discovered a lot of really wonderful things, like the fact that Moms wrote a play with Zora Neale Hurston; that she, in fact, was the first cougar [laughs]; and that never has any women's or comedy group talked about Moms as a viable and amazing comedian in a world where there weren't any females for years.
Celebrating this woman of color and discovering that there are so many stories -- like the Flip Wilson story, that I would love to tell. Because, you know, we live in a different kind of world now where unless you're seeing re-runs, young people don't know these folks. They don't know who Willie O'Ree is. Willie O'Ree was the first black hockey player. Black entertainment. It's important!
When I was a kid, at least, people got together on Friday and Saturday and played records and laughed. People don't do that now. You don't have party records.
Last year you lent your voice to narrating the documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey." It seems like you're really taking to the documentary form.
I love documentaries. I think they're great pieces of information about Americana that we need to have in order to continue to paint the fabric of the United States. If you look at a lot of the things they're saying on television and in movies, those stories aren't being told! And we're seeing fewer and fewer black performers, unless we're looking at musicians.
When do you hope to have the film done?
I'm hoping to have it done just after Christmas.
Do you want to take it on the festival circuit?
I think so…yeah. You know I'll go back to HBO with it because I love them and I'll put it in a couple festivals and hope that people dig the story and will get more interested. Maybe someone will make a full-on movie about Moms Mabley and maybe that'll be my contribution to the world.