Actor Brandon Black (“Dear White People,” “Insecure”) is aware that his performance in Tyler Perry’s new film “A Madea Homecoming” as the first openly gay character in the history of the 23-year-old franchise is bigger than entertainment.
The San Diego native makes his feature film debut in Perry’s 12th film anchored by his on-screen comedic drag persona Mable “Madea” Simmons, and in Perry’s continued partnership with streaming giant Netflix. “A Madea Homecoming” centers around Madea's great-grandson Tim’s (Black) college graduation. The celebratory moment hits a halt as hidden secrets and family drama threaten to destroy the happy homecoming. The film features veterans of the Madea franchise, including Tamela Mann (Cora), David Mann (Mr. Brown), Cassi Davis Patton (Aunt Bam) as well as a guest appearance from iconic Irish actor Brendan O'Carroll, who matches Madea's comedic prowess as Agnes Brown.
Black, who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and identifies as gay, is clear about the message he wants audiences, particularly Black LGBTQ+ people to receive while watching the film.
“I want people to see stories where Black gay men aren't always doused in shame and pain,” Black says.
In similar parallels to Tim, the character he plays in “Homecoming,” Black says his journey towards embracing his sexuality has made him empathetic to the many reasons why closeted LGBTQ+ people fear coming out.
“Tim was scared to tell his family. I was scared to tell my family. I told my family last. I was a whole gay man in L.A. before I told my family anything,” he said. “The family that I'm close with has embraced me. And whoever doesn’t like it can go somewhere.”
One of the hurdles Black says he had to overcome before he stepped into his full authentic self was the invisibility of Black gay men as possibility models for his future in film and television. That was before he saw a representation of himself on the small screen in 2004.
“The first person I saw that made me say, oh, maybe that's me, was Karamo [Brown] on The Real World [Philadelphia],” he said, further highlighting the importance of diverse representation that includes LGBTQ+ characters in mainstream media.
With the majority of Perry’s African-American female fan base identifying as Christian, Black is hopeful that the humanity of his character will resonate with Perry’s core audience and move those who routinely condemn LGBTQ+ people towards acceptance.
“This film is all about acceptance. For the church-going community, we're going to see these people accept and embrace Tim. It’s not enough to [simply] tolerate somebody for being themselves. It's not enough for your family. Your family has to do more than tolerate you being gay,” Black says. “When you tolerate people, you don’t ask them about who they’re dating, but you ask their [straight] cousin who they're dating. It's all these micro things I hope that people see aren't enough.”
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