MN Exclusive: Director Dee Rees & Kim Wayans Talk “Pariah”

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Kim Wayans, known for her comedic talents, plays a heavy dramatic role in the lead character’s mother, Audrey. Wayans tells Madame Noire what drew her to the film, how she relates to her character and the take away message.

What made you decide to take on this project?

I loved the script. I read the script and I thought it was a beautifully told story and I thought it was an important story that needed to be expressed and I thought the role of Audrey was so complicated and deep and I was looking for a challenge with some dramatic acting. I had been trying to get in for a while and I kept being met with ‘Oh, Kim’s a comedian, we love her but she’s a comedian. We need somebody with some more acting chops.’ So when Dee and …., the producer and director of this film were willing to see me, to have me come and audition, I jumped at the chance and they loved what I did and I got the part.

How do you think your fans will receive you in such a serious role?

I think they’ll be happy. My fans just want to see me work. I think it’ll be inspiring to them to see that I don’t just do comedy. That I can do more than that. I think people will be happy for me and some people will be surprised. My fans of comedy need to know that I’m not leaving comedy, it’s not like, ‘Ok, from now on don’t call me unless it’s a drama.’ I’m not going there but I want to be able to express all that I am. I think it’ll be great, I think my fans will be really happy.

Dee said that ever character in the film is a Pariah in a way, how do you feel Audrey is a Pariah?

Audrey is somebody who’s disconnected. She’s all alone in the world. She’s disconnected from her daughter, she’s disconnected from her husband, she’s disconnected at work. She’s a Pariah because she’s isolated. She’s created this energy around her that’s just impenetrable and it’s affecting all of her relationships.

Do you relate to Audrey in any way?

The aspect of Audrey that I find most relatable is the idea of having expectations and then having those expectations dashed and how painful that can be. That was something that was easy for me to hook into. That aspect of her where she had such high hopes, such aspirations for her child and then her child went in a different direction that is so painful to her that it’s destroying her. Having been a person who, in my past, has had expectations of people, of my work just of different things, I know how that feels to be let down by the reality of what life is as opposed to what your expectations of what it would be.

What have your friends and family said about your performance and the movie?

My friends and family haven’t seen the film yet but other people who have seen the film, people I don’t know, have been very complementary about the performance. At the end of the screenings, they come over and talk about the character and how impressed they were with her. And as much as they wanted to hate Audrey, they couldn’t. They found that there was something about her that was heart breaking. It was difficult to hate her or make her a villain. That’s a huge complement because that was a concern of mine. I didn’t want her to be a villain because that’s not the way I see her.

In terms of the film in general, people just love it. They love Adepero. They’re just moved by the story and they recognize that’s it’s a story that needs to be told and hopefully it’s going to create a lot of dialogue.

You said that you thought this was an important story, what do you want people to take away from this film?

I hope audiences take from it the message of compassion, open mindedness, embracing people where they’re at, for who they are. Understanding that everybody is perfect, everybody is perfect and it’s not for you to judge people based on who they choose to sleep with. It’s meaningless. That should not be a criteria for whether or not a person deserves love.

“Pariah” debuts today in selects theaters and will hit theaters nationwide on Friday, January 6.

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