*Tonight’s explosive episode of “Star” will feature a controversial scene with actor/singer Tyrese Gibson and transgender actress Amiyah Scott, that Gibson describes as “something pretty one of a kind.”
During a recent media teleconference with Tyrese and series creator Lee Daniels, Gibson spoke about playing Pastor Bobby Harris, who does not accept his girlfriend Carlott’a (Queen Latifah) transgender daughter Cotton (Scott) as a woman. Cotton has a troubled relationship with Carlotta, as the latter is not fully supportive of the difficulties she faces as a transwoman, and on tonight’s episode, Pastor Harris attempts to exorcise the femininity away.
“This has never ever been shot, done, written, or put on television,” Gibson said. “There’s a lot of unique characters and experiences in this show. We have this transgender woman named Cotton, being played by Amiyah, and come to find out, she basically went through this in real life,” he revealed.
“So here I am as a pastor… man of God — I’m a single pastor with three kids, went through a nasty divorce with my ex-wife. I end up mentoring and taking care of a woman by the name of Carlotta, who is played by Queen Latifah, and in the midst of me mentoring her, praying for her and supporting her throughout all her trials and tribulations through life, we naturally develop feelings for each other and things just start happening.”
He continued, “She ends up keeping a lot of secrets away from me, which I didn’t know. I shared my life, my heart, my soul with this woman. She met my kids, she’s been to my house and she kept purposely avoiding me going to her house, and I didn’t know why. She just told me about her world, but never allowed me to go and see her world. She kept talking about her daughter, and then I get to the house, as some of you may have seen, and I’m sitting across from her daughter — so I thought. It’s actually her son who became a woman.”
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Gibson and Daniels have been determined to work together since meeting during the filming of “Precious,” but Tyrese noted that he “had no idea I would be doing something so uncomfortable.”
“This episode is going to be very-very controversial, and we want as many eyeballs as possible to tune in to experience something uncomfortable,” Gibson said. He admits that the first time he’s ever “interacted or communicated or befriended a transgender” was with Scott.
“It’s not the kind of circles that I travel in,” he said, “The first time I shot a scene or did anything that has to do with that world was with Amiyah. So naturally the first person I talk to about this was Lee Daniels. Everyone knows he’s openly gay, so I had to ask him what do I say, what do I do, how do I go about doing this because I just wanted to make sure that as an actor, I wasn’t conducting myself in a disrespectful way,” he explained.
“So after we talked, me, Queen Latifah and Amiyah, there was this bridge of understanding and we understood specifically that we were about to do something that was going to give a new heartbeat and become a voice for folks like me who didn’t understand it. Didn’t understand the world, and reasoning and the culture.”
Gibson added, “I was exposed to the other side of this world from shooting, and reading and being involved with these scenes, because I never had a heart for it. You’re not affected by cancer or cancer research until it hits home. You’re not affected by HIV/AID until a friend has it, and you’re like, “Oh, sh*t, it’s real.” It’s not just something that they are dealing with because it’s not in your house.”
“As uncomfortable as it was to shoot, we all ended up holding each other up. I mean, I’m looking at my life like… man, I’m over here hugging a transgender right now…(laughs). I’m the ghettoist hood n*gga from South Central of all time, and I don’t know how I got here. Lee Daniels, you’re crazy.”
“He knew what he was getting into, but he really didn’t know what he was getting into,” Lee added, noting that every actor he has worked with is always surprised by what he has in store for them once production begins.
Tonight’s episode was not only uncomfortable to shoot, but it’s also “going to be very uncomfortable for people to watch it,” Tyrese said, but he also believes the episode is “going to give people empathy and a heart for a world that they probably never cared about at all, cause that’s what it did for me.”
Lee Daniels also shared what he hopes viewers take away from tonight’s “polarizing” episode.
“I think that no matter what I do, it’s going to be looked at as polarizing. That’s the world that I tell story in. The truth is polarizing. It’s unsettling. It’s unsettling to the actors. It’s unsettling to me,” he said. “When I did ‘Monster’s Ball’ I remember feeling some kind of way, and I felt the same way, except in an increasing way, with ‘Precious.’ And I remember feeling the same way when I did ‘Empire’ — the trash can scene. And I felt like whether I don’t know if I’m ready for people to see this. And I think this is that moment. This is that defining moment that African-Americans don’t address. We don’t want to talk about it.”
He continued, “There are white people that genuinely don’t like black people just because we are black, and we can’t change that. That is not a choice that we have. And there are a lot of African-Americans that don’t f*ck with gay and or transgenders because we are just that. I would equate it to that. We can’t help who we are, at least I couldn’t. it certainly is easier to live in the lie. I could pass, easy. I could get up every morning, get out that door, and I could pass to make you happy. I’m not here to make you happy, I’m here to be happy myself. We all have to understand each other, otherwise we’re going to end up in a worse situation than are right now with Trump — and yes, it can get worse.”
Daniels wants viewers to “understand that we all have a voice, and what is so incredible about this moment right now is that we have a terminally heterosexual male — testosterone Capricorn, Tyrese, coming into my world, who I’m so grateful for, to be able to be a part of the telling of this story that is so controversial and so important, not only in our culture and in America, but in the world today.”
Fans have come to love these memorable and resonating female characters that Lee Daniels creates, so we asked the writer/director/producer what is it about exploring narratives through the voice of women that appeals to him as a creator.
“My dad died when I was thirteen. I was raised by my aunts. I celebrate black women every day. My mother, all of my aunts, all of my sisters. They embraced me when many of the men in my family back in the early 70’s rejected me because homophobia was even deeper then. So for me, I celebrate black women, I try to. Sometimes I say things and they look for a hook to say I don’t,” he told us.
“I feel like white women get a chance to play all different types of characters and they are lauded for it, but as black people, our standard is higher so they don’t want to see us flawed. WE don’t want to see us flawed, and to me that gives no room for growth for the Thespian, for the artist, because at the end of the day, I am an artist and the people that I work with or come into my circle are artists and they’re here to explore the human condition and touch peoples lives in a way that we haven’t seen touched before,” he explained.
“I’m often criticized for making a person look bad, but I’m not making a person look bad. If you really study that person’s trajectory, there’s a major line of humanity, cause everybody’s not perfect. There’s not a white or black area, we’re all grey. We all f*ck up. No one is perfect. That’s what I try to address and often I’m in trouble for it but I’m willing to take them hits because somebody’s gotta do it.”
Tune in tonight to #STAR and tweet along with the cast 9pm EST on Fox TV. Watch the teaser below: