Producer Effie Brown Talks ‘Project Greenlight,’ Matt Damon and Peter Farrelly

In HBO’s “Project Greenlight” fourth season opener, which aired last month, producer Effie Brown brought up concerns about the lack of diversity in the directors they were considering for the project. Matt Damon, one of the executive producers on the show, interrupted her to say, “When you’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not the casting of the show.” This comment produced an initially shocked reaction from Brown and caused an uproar online when the show aired.

In the season’s third episode, adviser Peter Farrelly quit the show, seemingly because of a phone call Brown made to tell him that a suggestion he made on how to deal with director Jason Mann was unnecessary.

Brown spoke with Variety Saturday before she participated in the Above the Line panel at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Careers in Film Summit about the show and her much-discussed incident with Damon.

“With Matt it’s just hug and release. I still totally respect him, I’m still going to watch his movies, I’m going to watch Jason Bourne. A lot of things were said at the time, but we moved past it and got back to work.”

She also addressed the comments during the summit’s panel discussion. “It was a big substantial group of people and I’d only met them three hours before and we’re talking about diversity, or the lack thereof, quite a bit during those three hours,” she said. “But what was shown during the show, it was a moment where other things were said besides what was shown.”

“I feel like we’ve all had that moment where you’re like, ‘Okay, what do I say? What I want to do I can’t do.’ These are the biggest movie stars in the world and they’re very, very powerful and at the end of the day I work for a living. I make movies and TV for a living, you know? And I did, I had that moment where if I didn’t say something and that made the show, I could just see my mother looking at me and being, like, ‘Wow. This is what we taught you?’

“I was raised to be twice as smart, twice as strong to get half of it. I knew that my struggle was going to be real.”

Brown explained how she approached handling the response to her role on “Project Greenlight.” “I wanted people to be able to watch all four episodes, form their opinions and respond to it and then I could comment on all of it at once,” she said.

When asked about how the media reported the incident with Damon, Brown was straightforward. “I thought it was reported. I think people showed their natural reaction to what happened but like I said, with Matt it’s just hug and release. I’ve basically gotten two reactions, either people telling me what they think I want to hear or people saying awful things on Twitter.”

Brown was candid about her expectations for the response to an incident in Sunday’s upcoming episode. “You’ve got to take ownership. What happens in this next episode, that’s not who I am as a producer. What happened in episode one, I was fine with, what happened with (Farrelly) I was fine with, but this? Not so much. When I saw it I called Jason (Mann) and talked about it and we’re going to meet later to smooth everything out. That’s what I’m doing today. I’m ready for tomorrow, I’ve got my Facebook post ready.”

“Project Greenlight” airs on HBO on Sundays at 10 p.m.

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