Gentlemen’s Corner: Gary Gray Talks Playing a Gay Man and Working Alongside Mo’Nique in ‘Blackbird’
What type of feedback have you gotten from the LGBT community?
I get tons of positive feedback. I don’t think I’ve gotten one negative thing said about Efrem or Brandon. I was scared to death the first time I played a gay character. It’s different because these roles have a community behind it and it’s so much more responsibility behind it. Patrik was definitely an integral part in making sure I did the role very true to form and I thank him for that.
The film definitely deals with serious topics, but of course if you’re working on a set with Mo’Nique there had to be some funny moments.
I remember one of the last moments in the movie, there’s a scene where most of the main characters are all eating at the table. We were on set sitting there and the food is getting cold and stale and Ms. Mo’Nique kept saying “Can you give these babies some warm food please? Can you please refill this orange juice? Go ‘head, put these pancakes in the microwave sugar” [Laughs] She was still taking care of everyone like a mom. It was great to have someone there who is not quote unquote Hollywood on set. She was very much still a mom to all of us.
You’ve also played another gay character in the film version of the LOGO show Noah’s Arc. Do you ever fear being type cast in films?
I pick roles that are interesting characters. I pick roles that I want to be able to tell that characters’ story. If it happens to be seven gay characters in a row, then so be it. I’m not worried about that at all.
How do you think you’ve managed to stay out of trouble and not go down the wrong path, as many child stars do?
All credit goes to my mom. I grew up in the south side of Chicago. I never really touched the Hollywood scene until very late in my life. With her, it never was about money. That trickled down to me. Where you have most child stars who are so in tune with how much money they are making and where that money is going, that’s how you get a sixteen year old driving a Bentley and wrecking them and living on their own with their managers. Not to say my mom hid my money, but I didn’t need that money at the time. Thus my upbringing was very normal.
What would you say is the most rewarding experience about being an actor?
My goal is to just give that feeling to as many people as I can. Those goosebumps. That moment in the movie where you just tense up, and that release you get when your favorite actor has a crazy, long drawn out monologue and it just hits home. Or a crying scene between two lovers on scene. Those moments, I know how they make me feel and I know that if I can feel those feelings, then so can other people.
I’m sure people still recognize you from Beyoncé’s 2003 Pepsi commercial.
That is still to date my most memorable commercial. It is also my longest shoot on set. [Laughs] That was a twenty one hour shoot, but I loved every minute of it. She’s fantastic. She’s amazing. She was just a joy to work with. We had a lot of downtime on set since the set was really elaborate. She waited very patiently and was ready to go, ready to work. And I was obsessed with Destiny’s Child at the time and I was of course really anxious to meet her. She fulfilled every aspect of just being a joy to work with on set.