Check out Tyrese’s interview on the Breakfast Club – http://thebreakfastclub.iheart.com/onair/the-breakfast-club-40716/tyrese-talks-his-controversial-scene-on-15556701/
The up and coming Star episode on this Wednesday, February 15th is one for the records. If you haven’t been watching the show, you are truly missing a great TV series. This series is another smash hit by the great Lee Daniels. Although there is a music presence in Star like Empire, it is not the same as Empire – music is the just one of the few similarities. The demographic, family relations and even the insight into the music industry are completely/totally different. However, like Jamal in Empire, there is a character that represents the LBGT community and her name is Cotton.
Let me set the stage for this week’s episode for those who have not seen the show.
There is a transgender woman Amiyah who plays the role of Cotton. She is the child of Queen Latifah’s character Carlotta. Tyrese plays the role of a divorced pastor with three children, Pastor Harris. Pastor Harris becomes romantically involved with Carlotta; however, she always tried to keep him away from her child Cotton (along with other secrets). Finally Carlotta invites Pastor Harris to her home and he is sitting across from her child (son who is transitioning to become a woman). So now imagine what happens next when the pastor finds out this nugget of information. This episode is very uncomfortable to watch and controversial.
Let’s get into the discussion with Lee Daniels, Tyrese Gibson, and Amiyah Scott concerning the TV series Star and the upcoming controversial episode, Wednesday night.
How did you approach the subject matter of this episode so you could do it justice as a man of faith?
- Tyrese – The struggle was real for me. I am a Christian man by faith and there is a particular belief system that we have all been raised to believe. To be honest, I had to talk to Lee Daniels and consult with him. The episode was uncomfortable to shoot and it is going to be very uncomfortable for viewers to watch.
Since being a part of the LGBT community is taboo in the Black community on the personal side, how has it affected you on the career side?
- Lee – We have all seen how it’s affected me on the career side. I think that me living in my truth has caused quite a controversy, but it has also upset a lot of African Americans. It has also liberated a lot of Americans. I think that my work speaks for itself and the body of my work speaks for itself. Empire has done what it’s done because of the effect of me living in my truth. Everything that I’ve done (Star, The Butler, Precious, Monster Ball, etc.) were what they were because I am living in my truth.
How did filming this particular episode change or educate you personally?
- Amiyah – I wouldn’t say that filming the scene changed me because it happened in real life for me. The unfortunate/unpleasant thing was that I had real life issues to reflect on. I have been ambushed. I have been brought to therapist. Not necessarily someone praying the gay away, but I have been prayed over. I think with filming this situation to see the raw emotions that were displayed from Tyrese, Queen, and not only myself. It didn’t just feel personal to me; it felt personal to everyone because this is a situation that frequently happens. I think what it may have changed was the views like whoever was in that room that day felt that situation (whether it was the filming crew, the lighting guy, etc.). I hope it changed everyone for the better.
- Lee Daniels – For me, rarely do I feel these things. I felt like this with the scene with Monique, Mariah, and Gabby in Precious. I felt like it struck home. Like I felt naked and maybe it was too much for America to see. I felt this way when Jamal was being put in the trashcan during Empire. I felt like it was too much, like were we as a people ready to see this. I felt the same way with this scene – with what these three actors did during the table scene.
- Tyrese – I don’t want you to think that I am on this call championing for the transgender community or forcing anything down people’s throat. My feeling is that whatever you are doing with your life (environment, friends, gay, straight, on drugs, etc.) if you are doing what makes you happy, I don’t necessarily have to be around what everybody is doing. I am an advocate for people doing what makes them happy. What ended up happening for me is I have a heart for a man or woman living their life as a transgender. It’s like when people do fundraisers for cancer research and you say that’s really sad what they are dealing with until it hits home. HIV/AIDS – it’s crazy what they are dealing with, until it hits home. I have never hung out with, communicated with, or exchanged any energy with a specific transgender man or woman before Amiyah. I’m like damn she cool as hell. There are so many taboos and other things that people are not clear about. One of my goals – walked away feeling like damn. If I have found myself with not having a heart for what the gay/transgender person or some of the things they have to deal with specifically, I have a heart for it now. I feel like as a straight/heterosexual male that other men who can’t relate to gay or transgender are going to tune in and begin to have a heart for the struggles they have to deal with from living their life freely.
Upcoming episode, how will this impact the LGBT community, families, and pastors?
- Amiyah – I think the show is going to shed light on the issues that need to be addressed. I think it is going to make people sit back and reflect on how they may treat others, their children, or on things that are completely unacceptable. My playing in this scene was very uncomfortable. Some people think they can pray over you or that something is wrong with you. Why is there something wrong with me for wanting to be who I am? I think that the people who judge individuals will look at how they may come off to others – it’s almost monstrous.
- Lee Daniels – For me, I was explaining this to Tyrese earlier today during a conversation. There are White people who hate Black people and call us niggers just because we are Black. Just because we get up in the morning and that is how much hatred there is for our people. Just because we are who we are. We don’t have a choice to be anything but who we are as Black people. There are Black people who don’t fuck with gay or transgender people because we are who we are. Everybody can judge and say the bible says this, and we can make our own interpretation of what the bible says. It’s a topic of discussion that needs to be opened up because it is not a choice. Me living as a gay man is not a choice. It is my choice to believe that it is not a choice. Just like it is your choice to believe or Tyrese’s choice to believe that it was not our choice that we are Black people. We were born into our blackness. So I think it brings open a conversation, one that has never been had before. I think Jamal being placed in the trash has laid the foundation to step it up a notch and talk about other issues. The Pastor Harris role is having sex outside of marriage on the show. How do you think this will impact the pastors or what would they have to say?
Why was it important for you to create the differences between Empire and Star?
- Lee Daniels – If Empire is Dynasty, than Star is Good Times. With Empire I wanted to show how we make money and rise to the top. In Star, I wanted to show a different side of Black and American culture. We are showing a different type of matriarch in Star – Carlotta. We are showing different type of men. In Star, we are showing a more grounded world with less opulence and more realness. However, it still is hitting the issues that are important in America.
What is it about exploring narratives through the voice of women that appeal to you?
- Lee Daniels – my dad died when I was 13. I was raised by my aunts. I celebrate black women every day. My mother. My aunts. My sisters. They embraced me when many of the men in my family back in the early 70’s rejected me because homophobia was even deeper then. I feel like white women get a chance to play all different types of characters and they are allotted for it. As Black people, our standard is higher so we don’t want to see us flawed. To me, that doesn’t leave much growth for the thespian, for the artist. At the end of the day, I am an artist and the people I work with (who come into my circle) are here to explore the human condition and to touch people’s lives in a way that we haven’t seen touched before.
Where can viewer expect to see those relationships go on future episodes on Star?
- Lee Daniels – We will continue to point out issues that are important in the African American community, in the African American struggle. Storytelling is not my gift, it belongs to God. I am just here to pass it on. It’s not just me, it’s a team. It’s Amiyah. It’s Tyrese. It’s Queen Latifah. It’s Judd. It’s all of us. It’s the writer’s room. It’s a whole team of people. It’s not just Lee Daniels. I don’t know where we are going, but we are going to continue to show the issues that are important to the world. If you watched the show and saw the episode about Black Lives Matter. I watched Derek, who is played by Quincy, do this duet and his uncle says “You be careful with that Black Lives Matters stuff because there is a new sheriff in town.” He was concerned for his nephew’s life. Trump had not been in office yet. I wrote those words before the election even happened because I foresaw what was coming.
With your work you deal with a lot of political issues, emotional/personal/real issues. Where do you take yourself to get to the level of what you portray on TV?
- Lee Daniels – I try to tell stories that I know that we all as African American’s encounter but we never see. I go has the story been told before and am scared to tell it? If I am scared to tell it because we haven’t seen, I know that I am tapping into some other kind of shit that’s going to make everybody uncomfortable. Nothing I have ever done in my career has made me comfortable. I just listen to people’s stories. My cousin’s stories. We all got those cousins y’all. You just gotta listen. I thank God that I have been given a voice so that I can tell my cousin’s stories. My neighbor’s stories. Some people are offended by how I articulate the stories. I am not a politician, I am an artist. At the end of the day, my heart is in the right place. I do it for my culture, my sexuality, it’s for America. Those are the agendas I am trying to hit home. I am trying to make America look at itself. Trump is a reflection of who we are and why we are where we are… He is our karma
Anything you want to say in closing?
- Lee Daniels – For me, people are going respond or not respond. People are going feel some type of way (for sure) or their going to embrace. I am not here to make everyone happy. I am not here to wrap things up in a neat bow for y’all. I never have in any of my movies and ain’t nothing wrapped up in a neat bow, its life as we know it. Take it bye!
- Tyrese – That’s called being unapologetic. I think Amiyah is courageous and brave. She is a huge advocate and voice for men and women that live as a transgender and they are doing what makes them happy. Shedding a different light and giving the transgender community (IMO) a new heartbeat that is going to allow people to care. To look at them and view them through a different lens. This scene tomorrow is uncomfortable.
The topic of homosexuality or transgender or the LGBT community as a whole is extremely uncomfortable for tons of people. I myself have biases on this topic; however, I don’t judge those who choose to live their life. I’m a straight/heterosexual woman who has been around a few people from the LBGT community. I have family and had some co-workers at one point or another that are gay. I am not the type of person to judge others because I see people; I don’t see your lifestyle. If you are nice and respectful to me, I will be nice and respectful to you. It is just as plain and simple as that. Some people in our community think that if you associate with someone from the LGBT community, then you are gay or bi-sexual. It is ridiculous – seriously. People are people, period. Now I will say that if I don’t like your energy, I am not going to associate with you. I don’t care if you are straight, gay, blue or purple. I went off on a little rant there. I had to say it! #unapologetic
As you’ve heard from the creator and stars of the show, I know you are just as intrigued as I am to see the upcoming episode of Star. If you haven’t been watching this show, you need to get with the program. All episodes are on demand, Hulu, Apple TV, etc. I’m telling you, you will not be disappointed. Tune in this Wednesday February 15th at 9pm for this ground shattering episode!
Stay connected with Tyrese and Lee Daniels
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Stop Judging and Best Wishes