Brandon Black stars in Netflix and Tyler Perry’s highly-anticipated film “A Madea Homecoming,” which marks the ninth film of the widely successful “Madea” franchise. He finds himself at the center of the plot for this one and happens to play the first openly gay character in a “Madea” film. this experience was surreal for him as he wasn’t only playing a character, he was inspiring the audience in ways that go beyond entertainment. The amount of coming out stories he was getting was surreal…marking progress. Brandon Black loves storytelling and loves the details; something we can’ wait to see him continue to grow into!
You star in Netflix and Tyler Perry’s highly-anticipated film “A Madea Homecoming.” Tell us more about that experience.
Have you ever been plucked out of obscurity to go play in a billionaire’s 330-acre backyard? Did you somehow manage to get paid to do it? Yeah, me neither – until very recently, and my head is still spinning as to how that happened. To manifest your dreams is all cute and wistful and then when it starts to happen, you’re like – wait, I was just burning sage, balancing with palo santo and hoping for the best! That worked?!
It was an incredible experience and I’m so happy that this huge franchise is my first film. I’m someone that downplays my own accomplishments a lot because I have learned to manage my expectations in this business…but it’s hard to downplay a leading role in a feature film being release to the entire world. This past weekend it was #1 in multiple countries!
What were some “fears” that you had going into this project? What were you most excited for?
I’ve heard so much about how fast Tyler Perry works, and I was very fearful of forgetting my lines or being anxious. I’m someone who suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, and it can be debilitating at times. There might not be anything more panic inducing for an actor than having a huge speech that wraps up the whole movie – in your first leading role – that you need to be prepared to deliver in one take. Here I am standing in front of what felt like a thousand people, and the sun is going down, so I’ve got to nail this on the first try. All my fears went to the background because I was prepared. They didn’t go away but what was louder than those fears was the confidence in knowing that I worked on that monologue every day.
Conversely, what I was excited most for was the amount of material I had to work with. Two big speeches, one on one scenes with Isha Blaaker, and one on one scenes with Tyler Perry. That was all very exciting. I find that smaller roles are harder to play. It’s easier to rehearse a monologue or chunky dialogue than it is to rehearse one line in a few scenes. So yes, while I was terrified of forgetting my lines, I was excited to have so many lines.
You are playing the first openly gay character in a “Madea” film, how does it feel?
I’ve got to tell you: the movie came out this past weekend and the amount of coming out stories in my dm’s is crazy. Even crazier is the amount of people who haven’t come out and who are asking me for advice and saying my character inspired them and gave them hope that maybe their family will react the same way Tim’s did.
Admittedly, I wasn’t thinking about that when I booked the role. There is SO much that must happen between auditioning, booking, shooting the movie and then it finally coming out…I tend to just keep my head down and stay present. So, while I knew it was important for me personally, I didn’t anticipate people sharing these stories with me. I really hope that if you are struggling to come out, you consider the possibility that it might be like Tim’s family. There’s also the chance it won’t but I promise you that being yourself and surrounding yourself with people who love you, not just tolerate you, feels ten million times better than hiding it while everyone else is living their lives.
In what ways does this have a strong impact on the franchise and industry overall?
I think anytime there are more examples out there that aren’t the tired stereotypes, the better. For this to be the first gay character fans of this franchise are meeting…I’m proud that it’s the lead character and not a side character. Tim is who you are rooting for in the movie, not who you are laughing at for their silly gay antics.
As for the industry…I hope this only adds to what I’m already seeing happen: a number of black gay leading actors are coming up right now and I’m glad to toss my hat in the ring. The industry is slowly starting to see these stories told more authentically and that is really exciting. The way Issa’s show just hit different. Or how Atlanta hit different. Or I May Destroy You. That’s the way I want to see more LGBTQ+ stories come through. More grounded, nuanced, and relatable. Captured in such beautiful cinematic ways.
And shout out to Tyler Perry because other people have made me feel like I’m not black enough or gay enough and he had no notes on either of those things. He let me play the character as I saw him.
What do you believe the industry could use more of in terms of progress?
I really loved that Sam Levinson had Hunter Schafer write with him on her Euphoria covid episode. I think it made all the difference. I learned something from that episode, and I know it’s because her hand was on it. I want to see more of that overall but especially from black trans women. My aunt surprised me when she told me she’d seen all of FX’s Pose. She loved it and I know she also learned something from watching that.
Share with us a story about a time you were faced with a difficult choice and how you made it.
There was a time I booked a small part in a movie. It was my first movie, and I was really excited to start getting into films. I only had a few scenes, but they were cool, and it was going to basically bring the movie to a close with a cliffhanger.
I was running late to the table read so I called production and told them, and they said “no problem! Get here when you can, your scenes are near the end. We’ve highlighted all of your lines.” So I’m like, cool, I hustle across town in traffic, get there only a few minutes late. Sit down and start reading along. Now, at a table read you generally “ooh and ahh” at all the right parts and laugh out loud at the jokes to help sell it. They are trying to see if these moments connect or if these jokes land and it can be hard to see that if we are just sitting at a table reading it off the page. So I’m ooh’ing, I’m ahh’ing for 99 pages – doing my part as a new member of this team. I’m trying to stay present but I’m like…where are my scenes? I turn to page 100 and find my highlighted lines.
Thats it. That’s my whole part in the movie. The movie literally ends after that line. They’d written out everything else I was supposed to do in the movie. I had one word. Hello. And no one told me anything! I flashed back to “we’ve highlighted ALL of your LINES.” Plural!
I was devasted, embarrassed and tired. There comes a time when you must decide if this is the moment to stand up for yourself. Actors can often be so docile and meek at the beginning of our careers because the gatekeepers have you by the balls.
So, I had to decide – am I going to do this? This is not what I agreed to. It would break my heart to show up on this movie set, get into hair and makeup and wardrobe and all, just to have it be over within a few minutes. I’m going to say “hello” a few times and then go home and start the search for my next gig. It just felt more damaging than anything.
At that time, 2018, I was beyond broke, sad, and anxious and I just couldn’t take another blow.
Well, as I said earlier, “A Madea Homecoming” was my first movie. I backed out of that other film. I had to decide my worth for myself. I was worth a phone call or an email to advise me that my two scenes were whittled down to one word. To find out in the moment just made me feel like no one cares how I feel, which then means that I need to care about how I feel. There’s a lot of moving parts in the business and I didn’t take it personally with any one person involved in that project, but I just knew for my own relationship to myself, I couldn’t do it.
I framed that script on my wall to remember to decide my worth for myself.
Why did you want to be an actor?
Well, first if you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a long-winded storyteller. I love details!
I’ve always been obsessed with how people’s minds work. I’d probably be a therapist if I wasn’t an actor. I’m just so interested in all people and why they do what they do. To me, acting is the study of people, so it lines up perfectly.
The other reason is: I’m stubborn. Very stubborn. My mom will tell you, the thing you tell me not to do is what I’m going to do. Nothing has been harder for me to get than this. Nothing has broken me into tiny little pieces like this has. But the lower I fall, the better is feels when I rise up. And I think that dynamic is addicting. In the process of being destroyed and rebuilt, I learn so much about myself and stretch my mindset to new distances.
Growing up, what was one dream that you never let go of? Did you make it come true?
I’ve always wanted my mom and grandma to come to my red carpet for a big movie that I’m in. We’ve talked about it forever. I told my grandma even if she was extremely old, I’d hire a staff to tend to her every need while she was at the premiere. That dream came true with this movie. Half true. My mom was there, and she was in full glam. She even got an interview on Entertainment Tonight which is one of her favorites. It was everything I had dreamed of.
Sadly, my grandma passed away in 2020. When she passed, I was struggling, and it bothered me that her last moments with me were moments where she was worried about me. But I promised her I would be ok, and I promised her I’d keep going and that I’d take care of my mom. It’ll bother me forever that she didn’t get to see this, but I am comforted by the fact that I made good on the other part. Mom is literally going to need her own agent soon, haha.
Where do you hope to end up in the next few years?
I really hope that I am out of this small apartment and into a house. I want a yard for my dog, Malik, to run around in. I hope that I’ve gotten better at guitar by then. I hope that I’m in a fulfilling relationship. I hope that I’ve written, directed, and starred in my first indie film. I really hope that A24 has decided that they just have to have me in one or all of their movies, haha
As an actor, what would be a dream role for you?
I really want to play a villain. I think type-wise, I don’t get a lot of villain auditions. But I’m a Scorpio. A Scorpio born on Halloween. And he needs to come out and play!! Because I love studying people and psychology so much, getting to be a villain sounds like fun and interesting homework to do. I really loved Joaquin Phoenix in JOKER because that movie sought to explain everything. Even the laugh. Some people tried to say that movie was glorifying incels but, to me, that movie was showing you what bullying can do to people.
Is there anything you would like to share with our readers?
Y’all giving these Fiddle Leaf Figs too much water.
Photos By JSquared Photography
Feature Image By Anna Jung-Hwa
Interview By Alexandra Bonnet