Mo’Nique is back, taking on Hollywood in full force with starring roles in popular streaming shows, trending TV movies, an upcoming Netflix comedy special and a horror thriller just over the horizon.
The comedienne recently opened up to The Hollywood Reporter about her recent resurgence on the big and small screens and the journey of forgiveness that has led to this fruitful new season of her life.
“It made dollars and cents. And for all those years, it just wasn’t making sense,” Mo’Nique said of her return to the business. “Back then, I didn’t feel a glow. I felt disappointment. I felt the same injustices and inequalities that all the Black women who came to Hollywood before me felt.”
“Oftentimes people call that anger. They call it bitterness. They call it unstable. They give it all these titles except what it really is.”
Mo’Nique has long been open about the fact that her retreat from Hollywood was initially prompted by a falling out she had with director Lee Daniels and the film studio Lionsgate when it came time to promote her Oscar-winning performance in 2009’s Precious at the Cannes Film Festival. The actress refused to do so without additional pay. When informed that that was not quite how the promo machine worked, she respectfully declined, opting instead to spend some much-needed downtime (she was also in the midst of filming her BET talk show The Mo’Nique Show at the time) with her husband and then 4-year-old twin sons.
“And that was a problem,” she recalls to The Hollywood Reporter. “The problem of ‘How could this fat Black woman say no to the powers that be in Hollywood?’”
Co-producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry each made attempts to sway Mo’Nique into joining in the promotional run after the studio expressed displeasure with her decision, but to no avail. When asked why she didn’t want to spend a glamourous weekend in France promoting the work she had poured her soul into for greater consideration by critics and awards committees, Mo’Nique laughed.
“As I explained to Oprah Winfrey, I said, ‘Oprah, I’m doing a talk show. I’m doing a comedy tour. I have a husband and I have babies. I have a little bit of downtime and I’m going to take advantage of it,'” she explained. “‘So I’m not going anywhere because I’m not obligated to go anywhere. I’ve done my part.’ So we mutually agreed to disagree. That was it. Next thing I know, I am considered ‘difficult’ and ‘hard to work with.’”
Despite once describing each other as the best of friends, Mo’Nique and Daniels did not speak for another 13 years after this incident. But, a chance behind-the-scenes encounter between Daniels and Mo’Nique’s work on a low-budget cable thriller led the two to what the comedienne calls “a chapter of forgiveness.”
When indie filmmaker Courtney Glaude reached out to Mo’Nique about her supernatural horror-thriller The Reading, the actress fell in love with the script and quickly signed on. However, after filming and seeing an initial cut of the film, Mo’Nique was not completely satisfied and urged the burgeoning creator to go back to the edit room and restructure the final product. Without her knowledge, Glaude reached out to Daniels for advice and guidance on the edit, to which the director happily agreed. Daniels worked on the edit for five months, taken with Mo’Nique’s performance.
“He did not have to edit this film,” Mo’Nique told the magazine. “So we asked Lee if he would take a producer credit and give him a percentage of the film. Because what he did was beautiful. I think that speaks volumes. It really does.”
This gesture led to re-opened lines of communication between Daniels and Mo’Nique, and the heartfelt apology she had waited over a decade for.
“I don’t know if it’s ever been done in history — that a big Hollywood director came out and apologized to an actress for a wrongdoing,” she said, recalling the public on-stage mea culpa the director provided at her 2022 comedy show at Staten Island’s St. George Theatre.
“I’m just happy to have my friend back,” Daniels said.