Kenya Moore On New Films, Tyler Perry & Why ‘Cleopatra’ Should Be Black
Kenya Moore isn’t just another pretty face. The pageant queen turned model turned actress got tired of playing second fiddle to Hollywood’s politics and discrimination so she created her own lane by developing Moore Vision Media, a production company that develops, produces and distributes film. She enlisted the help of Boris Kodjoe, David Banner and more for her latest movie, The Confidant⎯a drama about a pro-bound college football player who gets caught up with ruthless gangsters⎯and plans to channel her inner Foxy Brown (no Inga) with Chocolate, a new action film starring…herself (that’s how it goes down when you’re a boss). Here, the cocoa colored bombshell talks her new role as a boss, why Angelina Jolie shouldn’t play Cleopatra and her plans for diversifying Tinsel Town. ⎯Starrene Rhett
VIBE: Talk about The Confidant.
Kenya Moore: It’s the first film under the banner of my production company and I’m really excited about it. It stars David Banner, Boris Kodjoe, Richard Roundtree, Bai Ling, myself and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone but there’s some really great underexposed talent. It will be available August 24th globally, including dvd and we’ll be doing special red carpet screenings throughout United States.
In the description of your production company you stress that you pursue the development of ethnically diverse movies. Elaborate on that.
I don’t look to cast a movie and say, “I wanna do a Black film.” I want to include all ethnicities in my film. For instance, with The Confidante we had a role for a Black gangster and we were considering everybody from Ludacris to Rick Ross but we ended up casting Bai Ling, who is an Asian female, so we have anywhere from Asians to Latinos as our leads. Our second lead actress is a Brazilian model so we just look to open up the casting because we don’t live in a world that’s 100% Black. We’re always looking to open up the casting to other ethnicities even if it’s an urban film.
Do creators of films with all Black casts like Brown Sugar and The Best Man, despite the topics being universally relatable, shoot themselves in the foot by casting all Black people?
The way that Hollywood looks at it is if it’s a predominately Black cast it’s a Black film. I have to agree with that because that’s the way Hollywood looks at it, but hopefully when we make films we have the artistic license to cast who we want and who’s best for the part. So when we come in, we look at men, women⎯even though the character might be male or any ethnicity, we sort of open it up to whoever’s best for the character or has the best audition when they come into the room. And you can’t go wrong with The Best Man or Brown Sugar. Those are two iconic films of our time so I have to say that I don’t believe that they really shot themselves in the foot because they turned out successful, but I think that when you do cast a film you just have to keep in mind that there are a lot of options out there other than specifically for Black actors.
“Whether or not you love the projects that [Tyler Perry] does, you can’t discount the man’s talent and sheer drive.”
Word on the street is that there’s a shortage of Black actors, but what about directors and people behind the scenes?
Two things, there’s no shortage of Black actors. I don’t know who would say that because I was literally going over a list of people to cast for another film I’m working on and there’s no shortage, we have so much talent in Hollywood. I just think that unfortunately the talent is underrated and also, we’re just being underserved so I think if anything, there is a shortage in Black projects and roles for Black actors. And in terms of behind the scenes, it’s just as much of a struggle to get directors and producers on projects than there is for actors. There are a lot of up-and-coming directors and trust me there’s such few and far in between projects, especially studio produced projects and television produced projects that, it is just a handful of directors that really get a shot and actually work. But it shouldn’t discourage anybody from trying to break into the business or sustain themselves in the business, you just have to do your own project and get the means the same way that I’ve done with my production company.
What’s your stance on Tyler Perry?
Tyler Perry is a visionary. He is so talented. Whether or not you love the projects that he does, you can’t discount the man’s talent and sheer drive and I think he set a bar so high for other filmmakers⎯Black filmmakers⎯in this business that wants to reach a portion of the success that he’s reached. I don’t think it’s fair for people to down Tyler Perry because he tells stories in his way and I think he has grown as a filmmaker. He’s limited to his own experiences or the way he wants to tell his stories but I enjoy his films. I think with any filmmaker you have to focus on what you like about the films and not what you dislike. It’s important to support Black films and if you want to see something different then write your own thing or write it and send it to Tyler Perry or send it to Moore Vision media and say, “I would love to see this actor on screen” or tell us what you want to see. You have to be proactive instead of sitting in the peanut gallery and always trying to find something negative. Look for the positive and say, “Look, if you take away Tyler Perry’s films then how many black actors are working? And how many films are being made?”
If there’s six studio films made a year and three of them are Tyler Perry’s, what is left for us? I think all of his films have a positive message. At the end of the day he has this trifecta of a message that says he promotes love, he promotes peace and he promotes family, faith and togetherness and that’s really what his movies are all about. So at the end of the day it’s always positive so you have to give him credit for that. He’s a brother who gives back to his community. He supports other filmmakers. He supports other filmmakers now. And in my world he can do no wrong and he’s only trying to grow and I would hope that people judge me the same way in the projects that I put out.
Since we were talking about diversity, what are your thoughts on the possibility of Angelina Jolie playing Cleopatra?
First of all, I think Angelina Jolie is a goddess but unfortunately I will not support that decision. It think it should be an actress with Black heritage. In terms of specifics as far as who that would be other than myself, no names come to mind [but] it could be a new comer⎯it has to be someone of exquisite beauty. It should be someone who’s breathtaking to look at, a good actress and she has to be powerful on screen but you gotta have someone with Black blood. If you’re telling a story about an actual person then you should come as close to replicating that person as you absolutely can, whether it’s the way they look or their heritage or casting handicapped people that are really handicapped. You need to be true to the art.
What other roles do you plan on creating for yourself?
I’m working on a film called Chocolate. It’s really close to my heart. It’s a modern day Foxy Brown; it’s an action flick.
With the exception of Salt, there haven’t been too many films out like that lately.
It’s time, girl, and this is what I’m saying! When you create your own projects you can do whatever you want and this is what I want to do. It’s been a passion project of mine for so long and I hope that people embrace it the same way that they embrace [the original] Foxy Brown.
So you’re probably the lead right?
[Laughs] Who else can be the second incarnation of Pam Grier but me? All I need is her afro but I’m gonna change it up and do a lot of different looks.
You should cast Michael Jai white, too.
I am! It’s funny that you say that. We’re in talks right now so it’s possible that he’ll play my love interest so we’ll see. He’s great. It’s really about his schedule right now but I’m doing everything I can to make it happen.