DARRYL STEPHENS: Straight Talker
Perhaps Black women embraced "Noah's Arc," the defunct cable series that followed the lives and relationships of four Black gay men, because it was like the Black male version of "Waiting to Exhale," or as one sister said, it helped educate her about her "competition." Whatever the reason, Darryl Stephens, who brings Noah to life on the big screen in "Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom," is more than appreciative of all the love. ESSENCE.com caught up with Stephens to talk about the social significance of his film, homophobia in the Black community, and Black women and the DL phenomenon.
ESSENCE.COM: Congrats on the film. What is the significance of this film?
DARYL STEPHENS: It's interesting that the film's title, "Jumping the Broom," which refers to the time period when Black Americans couldn't get married while the gay community is also fighting for their rights for same-sex marriages. However, I don't believe this film is just about the rights of gay Black men to marry, it's about humanity, love, friendship, family and trust. Those are all universal themes that anyone can relate to across the board.
ESSENCE.COM: This film picks up where the TV show "Noah's Arc" left off. How will we see Noah and his lifelong partner, Wade (Jensen Atwood), grow?
STEPHENS: They are more in tune with one another, and the interesting thing about Wade is that he is no longer worried about being seen as the role of the "homo thug." You'll see slight differences in his appearance, and he has grown up and become comfortable with who he is as a man and in his relationship and marriage to Noah.
ESSENCE.COM: For the longest time, the Black church has adopted an army-like mantra of "don't ask, don't tell." Do you believe this lack of dialogue in the Black community has not only developed a deadly silence but sparked the DL phenomenon?
STEPHENS: It's definitely a deadly silence. All I know is that if we don't start loving and accepting one another, how can anyone feel comfortable or safe in their own skin? And as human beings, we have to feel comfortable with ourselves first before we can expect anyone else to accept us as we are. If we have issues with our beings, then so will others. Everyone is affected by silence and intolerance. I can only hope that the Black community, and particularly the Black Church, which is so divisive when it comes to the issue of homosexuality- we've got a long road to complete tolerance and acceptance.
ESSENCE.COM: Often when a man chooses to portray a gay man in film, he becomes typecast and assumptions are made about his own sexuality. What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?
STEPHENS: People think that I'm exactly like my character Noah, but I'm not. I mean, I've been known to wear some [questionable] clothing a time or two (laughs), but he's a lot more [carefree] than I am. On the other hand, he loves his friends dearly and they are his family and I'm pretty [loyal] to mine as well.
ESSENCE.COM: There's nothing wrong with loyalty. Before you go, any advice to Black women who have been driven to fear DL brothers
STEPHENS: And they have every right to be. I would say that Black women should continue to support and talk to their gay male friends, because we love you for that. We can only hope that this will make those men who are in hiding begin to feel okay about [revealing] their true selves. And remember to always educate yourselves and remain aware that there are deceitful people out there whether they are gay or straight.