Tyrese Gibson Talks ‘Star’ and Families Who Disown LGBTQ Children
The next episode of the Fox series Star, entitled “Mama’s Boy,” is the most controversial of the season, thus far, and will surely spark conversation, as it explores what can happen if your own family doesn’t want to accept the fact that you’re transgender. While Carlotta (Queen Latifah) seems to be more and more confused about how to find common ground with her own child, Cotton (Amiyah Scott) agrees to meet with Pastor Harris (Tyrese Gibson), hoping to mend her relationship with her mother. But when that meeting becomes something that Cotton wasn’t expecting, the result could be truly tragic.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actor Tyrese Gibson talked about why this was such an uncomfortable episode to shoot, the reality of families who disown their children for who they are, wondering how he would deal with one of his own children being gay, why he wanted to follow show creator Lee Daniels on this journey, how he hopes they don’t upset the LGBT community with this portrayal, and why he would like this series to create a new perception of him, as an actor. He also talked about being a part of the Fast & Furious franchise, how much bigger the films keep getting, and how because it’s a franchise that the fans want to see, they’ll keep giving them exactly what they want.
Collider: Congrats on such great work as Pastor Harris on Star! This is such an interesting character, and he just keeps getting more interesting, as we get to see more of him.
TYRESE GIBSON: Thank you very much! Thank you for tuning in. It’s good to know that somebody is watching. I really hope that people give this show a shot. There’s a lot of TV happening right now, and the competition is real thick. The market is saturated. We’ve gotta pull in the fans and the eyeballs, and this next episode would be the episode to get to know Star.
What can you say to tease what we’ll see of him on this next episode, and the role that he’ll be playing in this very intense looking storyline?
GIBSON: This next episode, they’re dubbing it as the most controversial that’s ever been said on TV. It was uncomfortable to shoot and it’s, for sure, going to be uncomfortable to watch. When you think about life, there’s a lot of very uncomfortable things that take place in people’s homes, offices and churches, and the cameras are not always there. You might hear about it, but the cameras are not always there. So, Lee Daniels, who is openly gay, has decided to look at this moment as art. We all ended up hugging because it was so emotional to shoot. This character, named Cotton, who is the transgender on the show is really a transgender. She lives that, every day. She didn’t just audition for this role. It’s real for her.
This was a situation that really hit home, where for anyone who decides to not only become homosexual, lesbian, gay, or whatever that choice is, there’s a lot of people that may try to talk you out of it. There’s a lot of peer pressure and judgement, and there are a lot of families that have disowned people for what they’ve decided to do that makes them happy. If she was an actor, she would have come to the set acting. But the fact that this was a man who, at some point, decided to become a woman and now she’s on this show, we’re grabbing the bull by the horns and really dealing with the topic of something that she probably experienced at home. I often think about Bruce Jenner. Everybody thinks about the outcome, but how many people in the family tried to talk him out of it? How many people in the family said, “You need to go to therapy and counseling,” and tried to get the prayers and pastors to come over to the house to talk to Bruce Jenner to try to talk him out of something that his heart desired and that ultimately would make him happy. It’s like putting cameras there for the moment before the moment. So, this week is going to be uncomfortable.
Do you hope that this episode will spark conversation?
GIBSON: What’s interesting, as a heterosexual male, proudly, I have a little girl who’s nine years old. Now, I don’t think there’s anything going on in my house that could lead my daughter to growing up, one day, to make a choice and say, “I’m a woman that fell in love with a woman.” However, it’s unrealistic to think or believe that, because I’m a Christian male and I’m an alpha male, I’m not raising a little girl who could potentially grow up, one day, to be a lesbian. Or I could have a son, one day, who could grow up and decide to be a homosexual. I think this show is going to force people to have a dialogue, and that dialogue is going to be, “If and when this ends up happening to me in my house, how would I deal with it? How would I deal with the reality of my son’s choice?” There are lesbians, gay men and transgenders who have been cut off from their families and disowned. To do what they decide makes them happy can come with some serious repercussions. And then, there’s the more millennial approach of, “Do whatever makes you happy, I love you anyway!”
There’s different strokes for different folks. When they invented the telephone pole, there were people boycotting putting telephone cables on poles. There are always people that are going to resist change. It’s unrealistic to think or believe, at this point, that this type of topic wouldn’t enter into your house. As you can imagine, for me, everything about this is all uncomfortable. I don’t want the LGBT community to come after me, but I’m an actor on a TV show and I knew exactly what I was signing up for. I just didn’t know it was going to get this uncomfortable. I have to respect Lee Daniels for doing this and asking us to take this journey with him. While I was looking at this episode, he was like, “I cannot believe that you crazy motherfuckers trusted me to do what I asked you all to do in this scene!” He’s a little scared about the repercussions, but he shouldn’t be because, at the end of the day, if you do a movie called Precious, highlighting all of the different things he highlighted in that movie, he’s going to be okay. He’s forcing people to have a conversation.
What was it that originally made you want to be a part of Star?
GIBSON: It’s the first TV show I’ve ever done, and I don’t need the money. I’m doing it out of love and passion. When you do back-to-back movies like Transformers and Fast & Furious, even though my family is not missing a meal because that type of money is beyond anything I could ever imagine, what happens in Hollywood is that people will typecast you and put you in a box. They’ll say, “You’re making all this money and you’re doing over a billion dollars at the box office,” but what ends up happening is that people in Hollywood may decide to not take you seriously, as an actor. The box office type of movies is what they see you doing all the time, so Quentin Tarantino won’t be calling me, Steve McQueen won’t be calling me, and Clint Eastwood won’t be calling me. He’s going to be calling Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordan and Anthony Mackie. He’s going to call one of those other guys that have solidified themselves in the dramatic space. Now, I don’t want roles that don’t belong to me. But I wish a motherfucker would tell me that I can’t act, as a dramatic actor. So, I decided not only do I want to do TV and do something uncomfortable, but I wanted to do something with Lee Daniels, who is well-respected and well-regarded as a filmmaker, and you have no choice but to take him and his choices seriously. I just want you to know that this isn’t something that I’m doing, just to do it. I’m very calculated and very methodical. If I told you how much money I’m making per episode compared to a movie, you’d be like, “Why the fuck are you doing it?!” This is a matter of wanting to create new perceptions.
Each Fast & Furious movie raises the bar on the action and stunt sequences. How would you say this next film does that, and was there a particular scene or sequence that you were working on where you were like, “Holy shit, I can’t believe what I’m doing!”?
GIBSON: Here’s the thing, when you’ve got close to $300 million to shoot a movie, they’re just basically doing whatever they can think of. It’s unbelievable, how substantial and significant this franchise has become. Some people would argue, after we lost our brother Paul Walker, why would we keep going? But at the end of the day, if you did a movie and it did $1.7 billion worth of business at the box office, I think the real message is that this is a franchise that people want to see. They give the fans what they want, and it’s clearly something that they want.
Star airs on Wednesday nights on Fox.