Kim Wayans delivers a powerhouse of a performance in Pariah, the lesbian coming-of-age film that is being released next week. In it, Wayans plays Audrey, the at-her-wits-end matriarch who can’t handle her daughter Alike being a lesbian. The role is a far cry from her previous clowning on In Living Color. We caught up with Wayans on her new dramatic path and also her most endearing comedy character.
How were you approached to do Pariah?
I wasn’t approached I did all the approaching! It is so powerful. I was sucked into the whole world and the role of Audrey. I had such compassion and empathy for this sad lonely woman. She’s a pariah! She is cut off from everyone. She has no friends at work she is not connected to her husband the marriage is dissolving the kids are distant. She is a sad lonely person.
There are a few funny Audrey parts in the movie, though.
The only part I think is her all gussied up on the couch when her husband comes home and pretending she’s a asleep and trying to be sexy!
One of Pariah’s most tender moments is when Audrey is doing her daughter Alike’s hair.
I love that scene, it’s a mother and daughter connecting. We get to see a glimpse of their relationship was like before this turmoil. That used to be my little girl we used to shop together. It’s a sweet moment.
How was it working with Dee Rees as a director?
It doesn’t matter how old the person is, if it is their first time or their 50th time. If the director has a clear vision of what it is she wants, that makes your job easier. Dee, down to every little detail, knew exactly what she wanted. I love her style. She’s very quiet, not intrusive. She let’s you do your thing and if she’s not happy with what you did she comes over and whispers and gives you a gentle adjustment. She also did secret stuff I knew nothing about until after the film was over. Last night over dinner she revealed that she told Charles, my husband, to never look at me. I was thinking what is this guy’s deal? He doesn’t like me. Not that he doesn’t like my character, he doesn’t like me! But now I find out there’s nothing to do with any of that. That is a direction she gave him! He carried it too far! She meant in character but he got all method on my ass and I thought, Well I guess I’m just not his cup of tea.
You know you have a huge gay following.
I know I do! Ever since Benita Buttrell!
I am a total Benita fan. Tell me about her.
Benita is inspired by a couple of people in my neighborhood I grew up in, a combination of two women. All they did was sit around and talk about other people’s kids. All day long they sat on the bench and they would smile and as soon as you walked away they’d go hmmm did you see those raggedy clothes that girl got on? So I said OK, I’m going to create this character. And she is so popular because everybody knows someone like that. Someone who is phoney as all get out. We all have a little Benita in us.. And she’s harmless. She has a degree of something pathetic as well. Here she is sitting in the projects with a curler in her hair dreaming of becoming a radio technologist or all of those silly things she was doing. Selling pumpkin seeds on a rooftop! How can you hate someone like that?