In August of 2016, Nate Parker was sitting on top of the world. The film project he co-produced, co-wrote, directed, and starred in, “Birth of a Nation,” had been a huge hit at the Sundance Film Festival, being purchased for a record amount. It was also a front-runner for the Oscar Awards, particularly in lieu of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign since the 2016 Oscar Awards which were almost a total whiteout in all the major categories.
Mo’Nique… won an Oscar for her performance in “Precious” in 2010, expecting it would propel her into perpetual starring roles and the kind of career that comes with the lead-in, “Oscar Winning Actress, Mo’Nique!”
For Nate Parker, news of a rape allegation from his college days at Penn State for which he stood trial and was found not-guilty, derailed all his hopes. Birth of a Nation ended up getting zero Oscar nominations and did poorly at the box office despite all the hype that preceded the revival of rape allegations. Nat himself almost disappeared from sight, publicly denounced by one of his co-stars, Gabrielle Union, who had been a victim of rape years earlier.
Mo’Nique, found herself not getting any of the types of roles she expected, not understanding why, until she got a call from director Lee Daniels informing her, “Mo’Nique, you’ve been blackballed.”
To be certain, despite the fact that Nate Parker was found, “Not Guilty.” He was not innocent. At best, the following was true of Parker:
1. Parker had sex with the woman the day before
2. Parker invited “Birth of a Nation” writing partner Jean Celestin and another man (who declined) to participate in a sex act with the woman whose level of impairment is in dispute.
3. After being charged, Parker and Celestin publicly named the alleged victim.
4. For years afterward, Parker and Celestin harassed the alleged victim.
5. The woman committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 30.
For all practical purposes Parker disappeared for almost two years but has now found what he hopes to be the road back.
Monique won her Oscar in 2010. Since then she’s appeared in films you’ve likely never heard of; Steppin: The Movie, Interwoven, and Almost Christmas. Among reasons Monique was given for being blackballed was that she didn’t promote “Precious” during Awards Season. She refused to fly to Cannes, France to do Sundance, she didn’t do interviews, she was difficult, making unreasonable demands. In response to being blackballed, she blasted Lee Daniels, Oprah, Tyler Perry, and she was just getting started. One might reasonably consider whether sexism and/or racism was involved in her being blacklisted. One might also wonder if she was stepping into the role of the angry black woman?
Nate Parker is coming back with a new project, “Baselines,” about a Los Angeles black family trying to protect a superstar high school basketball player with NBA potential from all the pitfalls surrounding him. Parker will be writing and directing the short-form digital series in hopes it will get picked up by a major network. He is currently casting the project and looks to begin filming this week.
Mo’Nique is still mad. She recently, unsuccessfully, called for a boycott of Netflix, claiming they lowballed her in an offer on a project, especially when compared to offers made to Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, and Dave Chappelle. When Schumer learned of Rock’s and Chappelle’s pay, she was able to negotiate an increase for herself. When Mo’nique attempted the same, Netflix said, “No.”
The approaches in their attempted comebacks is dramatically different. Parker still may find resistance from the #MeToo movement which may reject any attempt to return. Mo’Nique doesn’t appear to have much of a strategy other than getting even. Some suggest she’s being mismanaged by husband, Sidney Hicks. She might find her way forward would be easier emulating Parker. Find a project, promote it, let your talent shine through.