EW: Your character in Precious is an unfathomably abusive mother. Were you reluctant to take the part of Mary when director Lee Daniels first told you about the film?
Mo’Nique: I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. He called me up and said, ”Hey, I got something, but it might f — – up your career.” I was like, ”You know what, Lee? Let me talk to my [then-17-year-old] son about it, make sure he’s cool.” After I did that, it was like, ”Baby, sign me up.” Because it’s called acting.
EW: You like to dress up and look glamorous, but in Precious you have armpit hair and no makeup. Was it scary to become this character?
Mo’Nique: It was exciting, because it was challenging. I never looked in the mirror and said, ”Oh my God!” Because I wasn’t looking at Mo’Nique. I would watch Mo’Nique transform into Mary. It never freaked me. It was just, this is what it is. Mary can’t have on makeup; she can’t afford it.
EW: Did filming such a dark story take a toll on you emotionally?
Mo’Nique: I tell you, baby, the moment Mr. Daniels said ”Cut,” we played like we were children at a park. The whole set went up as if we had just said, ”Hooray, the last day of school.” We had crab legs brought in. Because nobody wanted to walk around that set in that [dark emotional] place. We knew we had to come out of that.
EW: After all the great buzz you’re receiving for Precious, what do you hope to do next?
Mo’Nique For me to start speaking about what I see and what I want, I think the universe would say, ”Bitch, you’re still not satisfied?” So whatever’s next for Mo’Nique to have, I’ll get it. Any buzz is appreciated. The NAACP Image Awards, the Oscars, the SAG Awards, the award they might want to give me down at Maxine Waters’ preparatory school [in L.A.], it’s always appreciated. But the moment Mr. Daniels said to me when we wrapped that movie, ”You gave me what I needed,” that was my Oscar.