'Precious' star grasped mindset, left animosity behind

The character of Mary Jones, the abusive mother in “Precious,” is not someone many filmgoers would recognize from their own pasts. But Mo’Nique, who played the chilling role in director Lee Daniels’ uncompromising urban drama, knew her well.

“Mary was my oldest brother, Gerald,” she says. “What it did in playing her was help me understand my brother and not be angry with him. I chose not to see him anymore, but I’m not angry with him.”

In “Precious,” Mo’Nique plays a woman so monstrous that it isn’t until a scene late in the film that the truth comes out about her past.

Some scenes are so harrowing that it’s hard to believe she and Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe (who plays the title role) didn’t hit each other over the head with frying pans between takes.

“I was in awe of that young lady’s performance,” Mo’Nique said. “She was just breathtaking. As soon as Mr. Daniels yelled, ‘Cut!,’ we were back to normal. We left it on the floor.”

Says Daniels: “In the scene with Mariah (Carey) and Gabby, there were three different monologues being given. I found myself gravitating and focusing on Mo’Nique. I thought we needed to hear from her about why she did what she did. I didn’t want to forgive (Mary), but I wanted to understand.”

Mo’Nique says despite the bile spewed by her character, the pic’s message is uplifting.

“It’s about freedom,” she explains. “I want people to take away the message of freedom. Free yourself up. If you’re Precious, free yourself up. If you’re Mary Jones, free yourself up and go get some help.”

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