The saga between Mo’Nique and Lee Daniels took an unexpected twist on Thursday when the Emmy nominations were announced.
Mo’Nique was acknowledged for her performance in HBO’s “Bessie,” while producer Daniels’ Fox phenomenon “Empire” was shut out of the Best Drama Series category.
Daniels made waves in February after allegedly telling Mo’Nique she had been “blackballed” in Hollywood following her 2010 Oscar win, for not sufficiently pleasing executives and filmmakers.
“You’ve gotta play ball. This is not just show — it is show business,” Daniels said.
Lo and behold Mo’Nique rates for her turn in the biopic co-starring Queen Latifah, while the omission of “Empire” shocked the industry and social media. What does she make of that business?
“The truth never needs defending. We’re big believers in the law of nature, that what you put out is what you get back,” Mo’Nique told TheWrap about her detractors. “When people were saying those things, I understood it, but I knew it wasn’t true.”
She also had high praise for “Empire,” despite its snub and any lingering issues with Daniels.
“In reference to ‘Empire,’ I believe that it’s one of the most amazing shows in television history. It’s breaking all kinds of records. When it comes to that show, I stand up and applaud it. I applaud Lee Daniels and his vision. Everything that’s happening to that brother right now, he deserves it,” she said.
Mo’Nique spent her morning in dance class, and it wasn’t until halfway through breakfast with husband Sidney Hicks that she learned of her Emmy honor: “He said, ‘Mama, you just got nominated for an Emmy.’”
Portraying Ma Rainey in the film about jazz legend Bessie Hicks, Mo’Nique struggled to find information about her character — known colloquially as “The Mother of Blues” and one of the first artists to ever record in the genre.
“There’s so little information on Ma Rainey in any history books,” Mo’Nique said. “But what [writer/director] Dee Rees put on paper — you felt like you were there with those women. She made it so easy. Every time Dee said ‘action,’ I would ask Ma Rainey to give me the words.”
While she’s a natural as an actress, host and stand-up comedian, TheWrap asked if Mo’Nique had any trepidation about playing a singer.
“Let me tell you something baby, I’ve been singing my entire life. It’s other people that have a problem with it,” she said. “I’m surprised I don’t have a Grammy yet.”
Mo’Nique won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2010 for “Precious,” directed by Daniels, and has lessons from the experience she’ll take with her into Emmy voting season.
“The biggest appreciation comes for me when you can bring someone to life, that’s the biggest reward. When 100 years from now, my great-great-grand-children will be watching ‘Bessie,’ they’ll learn about Ma Rainey. They won’t learn about a trophy.”