Mo’Nique on Why Black Hollywood Actors Shunned Gay-Themed ‘Blackbird’: ‘Everyone Was Afraid of It’

Team behind the Oscar winner’s latest film found star Julian Walker in a small Mississippi town

RLJ Entertainment

Five years after winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in “Precious,” Mo’Nique is returning to theaters in “Blackbird.”

The independent drama centers on a deeply religious high school student in a small Mississippi town, who struggles with the fact that he may be gay.

Mo’Nique plays the teen’s mother and also executive produced the film with her husband Sidney Hicks. She told TheWrap that director Patrik-Ian Polk cast Mississippi college student Julian Walker in the lead role because no top African-American talent in Los Angeles would sign on for the project.

“He went the regular route initially,” Mo’Nique said. “He went to Hollywood and said, ‘I’m looking for a young black male actor to play a gay character.’ Everyone was afraid of it because of what the movie is and what the movie shows.”

The film’s director has previously said the actors who turned the drama down cited anti-gay religious convictions, including one who insisted “Jesus told me not to take” this part.

Their concern centered around the film showing Walker’s character Randy Rousseau losing his virginity to a girl, but later realizing his true love is a man. It includes several graphic love scenes involving two men.

RLJ Entertainment
RLJ Entertainment

Despite those concerns, Mo’Nique told TheWrap she saw nothing wrong the film’s depiction of gay love. “When you really watch it and you see these two people, who just happen to be two men who are making love, it no longer becomes graphic. It becomes what is real.”

But she admitted those realistic scenes may have been a turnoff for some Hollywood actors.

“I think because of what it may have said or what it may have looked like. ‘Oh you kissed a man. Oh you’re lusting for a man’… However, when you watch Julian’s performance, that baby may save lives with other young men and women wanting to say ‘this is who I am.’”

RLJ Entertainment
RLJ Entertainment

Walker, who is openly gay, told TheWrap he welcomed the role because it mirrored his life.

“There were a lot of things that I could relate to with Randy,” he said. “Coming out to my family and religious issues that I dealt with when I was a child… I thought I was over it. I thought I wasn’t still holding on to memories or feelings of how I felt. But doing the film, it was like therapy getting over it.”

 Mo’Nique believes ultimately things worked out because 22-year-old Walker was the right choice.

“He’s just refreshing and he takes your breath away because he’s so brave and he didn’t know to be afraid… I used the same words for Gabourey Sidibe and I have the same feeling about ‘Precious’ and Gabourey Sidibe that I have about ‘Blackbird’ and Julian Walker.”

“The 100” actor Isaiah Washington co-stars along with Terrell Tilford and Kevin Allesee. Washington, Polk, Keith Brown and Carol Ann Shine produced the film.

Mo’Nique says the team behind the movie hopes it will change attitudes and encourage anyone struggling with their sexuality to be themselves.

“We just felt like it’s time to let people know it’s okay to live in your truth with no apologies.”

“Blackbird” arrives in theaters on April 24 and will later be shown on Robert L. Johnson’s Urban Movie Channel