Don’t call it a comeback. Call it a reintroduction.
After 13 years of an uphill struggle, Mo’Nique’s emphatic return to Hollywood promises to be a new chapter for the comedian as she rebuilds her career — and reassesses her relationships.
After an astonishing 2010 Oscar win for best supporting actress in “Precious,” the comedian quickly found herself embroiled in a public back-and-forth with her collaborators Lee Daniels and Oprah Winfrey after Mo’Nique claimed the producers behind the critically acclaimed film were purposefully pushing her out of Hollywood. The high-profile spat was prompted by Mo’Nique’s refusal to promote the 2009 film, or even to campaign for a supporting actress Oscar.
Her roles for the next decade would be sparse. In 2015, she co-starred as Ma Rainey in Queen Latifah’s made-for-HBO film “Bessie.” She followed up that performance with a role in the Will Packer-produced holiday flick “Almost Christmas” in 2016.
But in 2022 she found support from a surprising source on social media: 50 Cent. It was a rare sight to see Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson not only calling out some of Black Hollywood’s elites for curbing the actor’s career without apology, but to also extend efforts on his end to bring her back to TV. He then cast her in the current second season of “BMF,” and she worked closely with the series showrunner Randy Huggins to craft her gun-toting, dope-moving, but (somehow still) good-hearted character, Goldie.
Huggins was unavailable to speak with Variety, as he continues to focus on his health, but interim “BMF” showrunner Heather Zuhlke said: “As we were creating the part for Mo’Nique, the whole goal was like, ‘What can we write? I mean, we have an Oscar winner, right? How can we get her nominated for an Emmy too, and a Golden Globe?’ That was the whole thing that we were writing towards.”
“It’s a very interesting arc that we have for her,” Zuhlke added. “Always, we want to touch people’s souls as storytellers, and have that connection. So you will see that there’s a lot more than meets the eye with Goldie’s character.”
Also in 2022, Mo’Nique settled her discrimination lawsuit with Netflix over a pay dispute. She had publicly blasted the company in 2018 after claiming the streamer was looking to underpay her to the tune of $500,000 for a one-hour standup special, and then in 2019, she filed a discrimination suit against Netflix. Details regarding the settlement remain under wraps, but the two parties appear to be in a good place — in July of last year, they announced she’ll be hosting an hour-long special on the streamer.
Read Mo’Nique’s interview below, in which she talks about her latest roles in “BMF” and her BET+ horror movie “The Reading” — as well as her upcoming Netflix special.
Goldie feels like a great vehicle for you to come back to TV. What have you loved about this character?
You know what I love about Goldie? She’s the community’s hero, but the government’s villain. What I love about Goldie is she loves her community. She loves those girls. She loves the people around her, but she may not be what’s considered an upstanding person in the Christian community. She’s unapologetic about who she is.
She reminds me of my Aunt Vera. When I was a younger girl, I would go and visit with my Aunt Vera — anything you thought you wanted, my Aunt Vera could get it. If there were sisters in the neighborhood who couldn’t see their babies, my Aunt Vera made sure those babies ate. If there was some brothers in the neighborhood who need to be bailed out, my Aunt Vera would make sure they were bailed out. She had a heart full of gold, but what we deem is wrong and not full of morals or principles — that’s how the law looked at her, but the community looked at her with nothing but love and respect.
What was that experience like to be able to work with Randy Huggins to build Goldie?
Awesome brother. Awesome brother. You know, Randy and I and my husband, we all met and we felt like at the end of that dinner, we were long-lost family. That’s just how down-home that cat is, and you don’t meet too many like that. They can start out like that, but they get a little different. He was just an A1 brother.
When 50 Cent first showed his support, he seemed like an unlikely hero in this story. Did you have any apprehensions about working with him when this first came about?
I’m going to say we start giving people labels, but not really knowing the person. When I tell you that is a beautiful brother — so there was no apprehension. Me and my husband were proud of that brother, and we are proud of him for what he’s doing. For what he’s doing for the community, for what he’s doing for people in the business. I got a chance to know Curtis, and he’s about his word. So were we apprehensive? No, we were embracing of it. We were welcoming to it.
I’m sure within the last decade you’ve probably been met with people you believed were on your side, but weren’t truthful. What was it about 50 that made you trust him?
When someone begins to post things, and you have no knowledge of it — when someone begins fighting for you, and you don’t even know that they are fighting for you — he has a dog in the fight. There are people in this business, people in life, that you have to say, “OK, I understand where this person is coming from. Let me understand what they’re saying.”
There was no phone call between 50 Cent and I. There was no meeting between 50 Cent and I. I just got something sent to me and said, “Do y’all see what this brother 50 is doing?”
So, why ever would I be apprehensive of someone that is standing next to you and your husband saying, “I’mma swing with y’all?”
How does it feel to be going into your Netflix special, when you were the first one to call them out about underpaying you?
My husband and I were proud. We were proud that we stood in it, unwavering and unflinching. We were proud that we stood hand in hand, side by side. We were proud that we came from 10th grade together at 14 years old being best friends, and we had to go up against the biggest streaming service in the world and say, “We have a problem here.”
Then that streaming service and us, we were able to come together as adults, have a real conversation, and work things out. Now there’s a comedy special called “My Name Is Mo’Nique.”
How far are you into the process of planning the special, and what can your fans expect from it?
We titled it “My Name Is Mo’Nique” because when you walk away from this special, you will truly understand who I am. You’ll understand why I stand the way I stand. You will understand why I speak the way I speak.
“My Name Is Mo’Nique” is me saying to all the beautiful people out there: Let me invite you with me so you can understand who I am.
So this is going to be you in where you are currently, as opposed to you doing some of your older work? Because it has been a long time, and I do think people need to be reacquainted with Mo’Nique now.
Mo’Nique now is 55 years old. So Mo’Nique is different from when you saw Mo’Nique on Def Jam. You know, the evolvement happened as an entertainer, as a performer. So, it has been an absolute honor to stand in front of people that have been coming to see me from the first time I’ve walked on the stage. There was a woman there that was at the taping, she’s been coming to see me since I was standing on two like little benches pushed together in South Carolina, and the tickets were $3 and $5.
So for that woman to show up at that taping, that was such an honor. I’m so grateful and appreciative. This special right here is — I don’t know what to say. It’s my love letter to the people that have always been supportive, and I just want to introduce you to me so you don’t ever have to guess. You don’t have to hear it from dropping shade, dropping tea — what is it, “spilling tea”? What do the children say?
It’s spilling tea, you’re right! This month, you’re in a BET+ horror movie, “The Reading,” and working with Lee Daniels again who’s the executive producer. What is it about these new genres that really draws you in?
Let me say this, baby, because I’m really a simple person: It’s just the shit I like. When we posted it, and people were saying, “Oh, you’re going into this realm, and that realm, and this realm.” It’s like, baby, what I am is an entertainer, and I’m going into the realm of entertainment.
Considering the divided response that you received from the community when you first came forward about what was going on, is there something to be said about your choice to continue to work with with Black outlets and Black streamers like BET+?
When you know the history of us — yes, I am still going to fight for and work with my people unapologetically. Yes, because I know that history. I’m not the first Black woman, and you’re not the first Black woman that said, “This is not fair.” I’m not the first one. For all the ones that came before me and said, “Hey, we may not be able to get through the door, but we’ll keep pushing it” — we’ll keep pushing it. We’ll keep pushing.
With our community, that there was this divide, I understood it because it’s nothing new. See, when you think about Hattie McDaniel, it was our community that was saying, “Oh, how can she play that maid? She is taking us back.”
Well, tell me about the attorney role that was coming her way. Because of Hattie McDaniel playing that maid is why you can play all these other parts now.
This interview has been edited and condensed.