Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Black Sheep interview Kim Wayans

An interview with PARIAH actress, Kim Wayans

This article was originally published in Ottawa Xpress.

Mothers are supposed to be the great protectors of their children. To this day though, homosexuality still seems to be a decisive issue that can tear a mother and child clear apart from each other, making the mother what the child needs protection from. In PARIAH, an excellent coming of age story from director, Dee Rees, this exact breakdown takes place and breaks the viewers’ hearts.

How can a mother turn her child away like this? This is the question Kim Wayans, a veteran actress who is not in fact a mother herself, must ask herself. “She is making a mistake. This is against God, according to Audrey,” Wayans begins to explain to me of how she felt her character might be feeling after discovering her 17-year-old daughter, Aike (Independent Spirit nominee, Adepero Aduye), is a lesbian. “So she is in danger now of being banished to hell. There’s that. Then there’s a mother’s disappointment of all the hopes and dreams she had for her daughter disappearing.”

Wayans attributes this disappointment to the emptiness in Audrey’s world. “It’s coming from a person who is not happy in her own life. She is ostracized from everyone. She is a pariah herself,” says Wayans, who was not involved in the original short film PARIAH was adapted from. “This shell of a woman has projected so much onto this little girl. As a mother, I failed because she is not what I wanted her to be.”

Having gotten her start on the Cosby Show spinoff, "A Different World", Wayans is perhaps best known for her work on her brother, Keenan Ivory Wayans’ sketch comedy, "In Living Color". Her experience in comedy has posed some challenges for Wayans attempts at dramatic acting. “The funny thing is the challenge doesn’t lie with the performance. The challenge lies with the labeling and putting people in boxes.” It was easy to tell she was relieved to have gotten the chance to play this part. “I’m either telling a comedic story or I’m telling a dramatic story but I’m still telling a story.”

As painful as PARIAH can be at times, it is a genuinely uplifting and honest film. It is Wayans’ hope that when people see the film that it opens a dialogue so situations like this can be avoided in the future. “People are in denial. So many children in the gay community are being hurt every day just by the sheer denial of who they are. We all crave being loved and accepted for who we authentically are, so when you come into opposition and rejection when you’re just trying to express that authenticity, I can’t think of anything more damaging.”

Spoken like a real mother.

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