EXCLUSIVE: Gabourey Sidibe on Being a Bully in ‘Yelling to the Sky’ and the Perfect Date

Academy Award-nominated actress Gaboury Sidibe is on top of her game and clearly living her life like it’s golden. Whether she’s telling behind-the-scenes stories from her latest film, Yelling to the Sky, or talking about her favorite date night spots, she is candid and never misses an opportunity to share a laugh. 

ESSENCE.com caught up with Sidibe to talk about her latest role, her experiences with bullying and stepping out of Precious’s shadow.  

ESSENCE.com: Yelling to the Sky, in theaters today, deals with a lot of really dark issues like domestic violence, depression, drugs and bullying. What did you do to prepare for your role?

GABOUREY SIDIBE: Not a lot. I’m from Bed-Stuy, and I grew up in Harlem so all of the things that happened in the film I’ve seen in real life. So I guess I’ve always been preparing to take on a role like that. That’s why it was so honest, and it was so familiar for me so I didn’t have to do a lot of research at all. 

ESSENCE.com: What attracted you to the script?

SIDIBE: When I first read the script it was a year and a half after I did Precious, but it was before it came out. No one had even seen Precious yet, so I say that to let you know I got it based on my acting. I just thought it was a really cool story. It was only the second script I had ever read, and I thought there was something gritty and honest about the relationship between all of the teenagers in the film. 

ESSENCE.com: Have you experienced any bullying in your life, for example, as a child or maybe today in the media?

SIDIBE: Absolutely! It’s sort of unfortunate but it’s a part of being a public figure. People will make fun of you, and I get made fun of a lot. Sometimes I sort of cringe while watching TV and hope I’m not made fun of. I am a sensitive girl, and that is one form of bullying. I grew up in tougher neighborhoods, and I was bullied, but there have been times when I was a bully in order to defend myself. I might have been a little overzealous sometimes, and I’ve been a bully. I think those two people  the bullied and the bully — live in all of us.

ESSENCE.com: You spoke briefly about your character in Precious. Whether it’s by fans or casting directors, have you found it hard to not box yourself in the role? 

SIDIBE: Nope, not at all. It helps because I am an actress. You know, I’m not that character. I’m not her, I am very different. I am Gabourey Sidibe, and I don’t approach casting directors as though I am that girl or anyone. It is really easy for someone to see my ability to be that and to be someone else like Andrea on The Big C. Andrea is closer to me and I can do that, too. I don’t at all get boxed into the sad, little abused girl. Thank God, I don’t! 

ESSENCE.com: You shared a fighting scene in the movie with Zoe Kravtiz, who plays the lead character Sweetness. What makes you angry in real life? 

SIDIBE: I really hate not to be listened to. And I also don’t like pushy people. I am only 5’4, and I get really nervous when a lot of people come over to me, whether [they’re] coming over because [they] want to fight you or [they’re] coming over to you because [they] really like your movie. I definitely wouldn’t fight them though but people who are taller than me sort of make me nervous. 

ESSENCE.com: Everybody wants to know who you are dating! Who was that you were sitting all cozy with at the basketball game?

SIDIBE: Wait, what? (laughs) That was like a year and some change, it almost two years ago! That boy has been gone. Game over. That was my ex-boyfriend, and he is very, very “ex” now. I am currently not dating anyone, or maybe I am dating everyone. I love being a grown woman in my own apartment in New York City. You know hanging out with who I want to. I don’t have to call home to make sure some man knows where I am all the time. I am really enjoying that life right now. 

ESSENCE.com: What kind of date girl are you? Are you dinner and a movie or do you like to see a play?

SIDIBE: I like plays but I’m also a dinner and a movie girl. You know just curl up on the couch and just chill. I like a dinner date but I also like a really inventive date, too. I once went on a date in a butterfly garden. It was the best date. That was the one great thing he ever did (laughs).