Lee Daniels sat down with everyone’s favorite CNN anchor, Don Lemon, on Thursday and discussed recent claims by actress Mo’Nique that she’s been blackballed in Hollywood. In an essay for the Hollywood Reporter, Mo’Nique had said that Daniels was the one to deliver the news to her, telling her that she didn’t “play the game.”
“I thought, once you won the award, that’s the top prize—and so you’re supposed to be treated as if you got the top prize,” Mo’Nique wrote.
Mo’Nique also went on to say that Daniels even removed her from his projects. “I was offered the role in The Butler that Oprah Winfrey played,” she said. “I was also approached by Empire to be on Empire. And I was offered the role as Richard Pryor’s grandmother in [Daniels’ upcoming Pryor biopic]. Each of those things that he offered me was taken off the table.”
In his interview with Lemon, Daniels claimed that Mo’Nique was blackballed because of reverse racism. “She was making unreasonable demands, and she wasn’t thinking—this was when reverse racism was happening, I think,” Daniels stated. “I told her, ‘You have to thank the producers of the film, you have to thank the studios.’ And I think she didn’t understand that, and I said, ‘People aren’t going to respond well if you don’t.’
“This is not just ‘show.’ It’s ‘show business,’” he told Lemon. “And you’ve gotta play ball, and you can’t scream—I don’t like calling the race card. I don’t believe in it. If I buy into it, it becomes real. If I knew what I knew when I was 21, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now.”
“Some people call that ‘selling out,’” Lemon noted.
“Well, I guess I’m a sellout,” Daniels responded. “But I’m not going to not work, and I’m not going to not tell my truth. And I’m not going to call people out on their bull. So whatever that means, sell out. I’ll see you in the theaters.”
Reverse racism, though? Yes, you “play the game” in Hollywood, but what does reverse racism have to do with this?