For Brandon Black, the significance of portraying the first gay lead character in Tyler Perry’s long-running Madea movie franchise goes beyond what that representation might mean to Perry’s massive audience.
“This is the first openly gay character…that I’ve played,” says the actor, best known for his role as Kordell on four seasons of Netflix’s Dear White People. “So it was exciting to get to work on something that was similar to my own life. I think that helps ground the work when you’re preparing to have your own experiences to draw from.”
Co-starring in A Madea Homecoming as the wisecracking granny’s great-grandson Tim, a recent college grad who’s yet to come out to his family, Black understood the assignment. But stepping into the role still was a decision he didn’t take lightly.
“I was and still am protective over which gay roles I do,” he says. “That’s because I want to see more gay roles that reflect people like me. You know, being gay is not a blanket thing.
“There’s a lot of different kinds of gay people. And I think that I don’t want to do anything that feels exploitative or disrespectful. Sometimes I feel like there are roles that other gay actors will do better than me.”
Acknowledging that other LGBTQ actors might not get the same amount of opportunities he does as a cisgender man, “because maybe they’re more specific, maybe they’re more femme or whatever,” Black adds, “I feel like it’s a little bit disrespectful to try and take from them, and try and make a caricature out of it.
“It feels a little bit like blackface to me to be putting it on super thick. Because I’ve had someone before be like, ‘Yeah, you’ve just gotta gay it up a bit.’ And I was like, ‘This is full gay right here, man. Trust me.'”
Black’s character in Homecoming is no caricature, just a regular guy who, like many LGBTQ kids before him, brings his handsome roommate (Isha Blaaker) home to meet his family. Drama ensues. The production itself, notes Black, was no drama, but a master class in movie making “in a fashion unique to Tyler Perry.”
“Seeing Tyler Perry at the end of the day, having someone take his acrylic nails off, while he’s still directing and still being the boss that he is, telling people, ‘Go here, do that, move this that way,’ was so interesting,” recalls Black, who also aspires to write and direct. “Someday soon, I definitely want to get into that.”
A Madea Homecoming is available Friday, Feb. 25 for streaming on Netflix. Visit www.netflix.com.
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