Did Mo’Nique Miss Out on Empire Casting Because She Is Blacklisted in Hollywood?
Fox's Empire has taken television by storm! It's starring some of Hollywood's biggest names, Taraji P. Henson and Terrance Howard, and featuring cameos by other stars. Was Mo'Nique supposed to be part of this cast?
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Mo'Nique began talking about her Oscar success and detailed how difficult it has been getting acting gigs since winning her Oscar years ago. Empire's mastermind, Lee Daniels, told her it may be because she isn't playing the game:
How has the Oscar changed your life? Has it?
I get asked that question a lot: How did the Oscar change my life? What it did was that it gave me a new reality. And it let me know that an award wasn’t going to change my life — that I had to be in control of changing my life. I’ll ask you: How do you think the Oscar was supposed to change my life?
That it made everyone respect you more — that you’re not a comic who acts but an Oscar-winning dramatic actress. A force to be contended with.
And how else do you think it should have changed?
More choices, everyone offering you parts?
What else do you think it should’ve changed? (Laughs.) You know what I’m looking for.
I’m not sure — that it made you happier?
Do you think it should have changed things financially?
See? “Yes.” What I understood was that when I won that Oscar, things would change in all the ways you’re saying: It should come with more respect, more choices and more money. It should, and it normally does. Hattie (McDaniel) said, “After I won that award, it was as if I had done something wrong.” It was the same with me. I thought, once you won the award, that’s the top prize — and so you’re supposed to be treated as if you got the top prize.
I got a phone call from Lee Daniels maybe six or seven months ago. And he said to me, “Mo’Nique, you’ve been blackballed.” And I said, “I’ve been blackballed? Why have I been blackballed?” And he said, “Because you didn’t play the game.” And I said, “Well, what game is that?” And he gave me no response. The next thing he said to me was, “Your husband is outbidding you.” But he never asked me what [salary] we were asking for. You know, my husband and I had to change things so we wouldn’t have to depend on [others]. So we do it independently. We’re very proud of taking the independent route, and we have a movie coming out on April 24 called Blackbird.
What do you think Lee meant when he said that?
That I was blackballed?
And that your husband was “outbidding you.” What was he referring to?
You know what I learned? Never to think what somebody else was thinking. That’s a question you would have to ask Lee Daniels.* There have been people that have said, “Mo’Nique, she can be difficult. Mo’Nique and her husband can be difficult.” They could probably be right. One of the networks said to [Lee] that I was “really difficult to work with.” And I said, “Well, that’s funny, because I’ve never even worked with them, but OK.”
Whoever those people are who say, “Mo’Nique is difficult,” those people are either heartless, ruthless or treat people like they’re worthless. And that’s unacceptable. They’re set to say, “Mo’Nique is tactless, she’s tacky.” That’s why I have my beautiful husband, because he’s so full of tact, ’cause I’m a girl from Baltimore. I come from a blue-collar town — and being from that place, you learn not to let anybody take advantage of you. You don’t let people mistreat you. You stand up for what’s right.
So I can’t answer why he said I was blackballed. There may be people that feel that way about me. But I respect everyone, from the homeless brother and sister on the street to the executive that sits in the highest office named President Barack Obama. I respect everyone — but we over-respect no one.
Did he [Lee Daniels] approach you about maybe being on his hit Fox show Empire?
Well, actually, I was offered the role in The Butler that Oprah Winfrey played. I was also approached by Empire to be on Empire. And I was also offered the role as Richard Pryor’s grandmother in [Daniels’ upcoming Pryor biopic]. Each of those things that he offered me was taken off the table. (Laughs.) They all just went away. But that’s just part of the business, you know? I can’t be upset at anybody, ’cause life is too good. It’s just what it is.
But you were interested, and the offers suddenly evaporated?
For each of the roles, [Lee] called me. He’s always approached me first, and I’m appreciative of it, because I think he is one of the most brilliant visionaries in writing and directing. I’ll say this: Whenever you do see me on TV again, or in the movies, you’ll know somebody played me fairly. People say to me sometimes, “Mo’Nique, you’re trying to be a mogul.” It’s like, honey, by no means am I trying to be a mogul — because mogul stands for “money obsessed guys (or girls), usually lonely.” (Laughs.) I don’t want to be a lonely mogul. No.
Lee Daniels responded:
“Mo’nique is a creative force to be reckoned with. Her demands through Precious were not always in line with the campaign. This soured her relationship with the Hollywoodcommunity. I consider her a friend. I have and will always think of her for parts that we can collaborate on. However, the consensus among the creative teams and powers thus far were to go another way with these roles.”