Brandon Black on joining ‘A Madea Homecoming’

Photo credit: JSquared Photography

Brandon Black stars in Netflix and Tyler Perry’s highly-anticipated film A Madea Homecoming. The latest film in the widely successful “Madea” franchise, Brandon plays Madea’s great-grandson, Tim, who is the first openly gay character in a “Madea” film.

The ninth film in the widely successful “Madea” franchise, follows the iconic and beloved matriarch, Madea (Perry), bringing together the family to celebrate her great-grandson, Tim’s (Black), college graduation. Tim is the Valedictorian of his graduating class and is planning on coming out to his great-grandmother and family at the celebration; he is the first openly gay character in a “Madea” film.

Check out my interview with Brandon!

This your feature film debut, how does it feel?

Brandon: It feels really good because this is the first time that I can say, ‘hey, check out this new thing I’m in and then not secretly, like kind of wince that I’m not really in there that much.’ This is the first time I can be like, ‘I’m in there. Go ahead and watch that. I’m in that thing.’ It feels good. And then not only that, but people know exactly what this is and everyone perks up and smiles because, sometimes they’ve just never heard of it because some projects I’ve done are a bit more to a specific audience, but this hits such a wide audience. And now it’s even wider being on Netflix and with Brendan O’Carroll bringing in Europe. It’s exciting for sure.

Were you a Madea fan before coming on to the movie?

Brandon: Honestly, I hadn’t seen all of them. There’s so many. But no, of course, I knew some of the “isms” that have worked its way into, like, regular speech for a lot of black people. So it was exciting to join such a crazy lineage. My mom and especially my grandpa have always wanted me to be in a Tyler Perry project, and this was like his flagship to me, so I finally have satisfied something for my family in the best way possible.

What was it like kind of being one of the new kids in this franchise? 

Brandon: Yeah, you know, I thought it was gonna be intimidating, but I’m used to that. In “Dear White People,” a lot of the people from the movie came back for the show. So, it was kind of a similar vibe of like, ‘okay, these are the OG’s, and then these are the new kids.’ But I will say these people are all older. They’ve been in the movies since the very beginning or since the plays. And so I think they’re just so settled. There was zero ego on anybody there, because it was all people who’ve been there since the beginning or fresh, brand new people who’ve never been in any of this stuff. It was kind of a perfect mix. They were hospitable and warm, and were down to play, down to run lines. It was a very collaborative, easy environment in that way. It was not easy in how fast everything moved, but it was easy in the sense that no one felt unapproachable.

Tim, is the first openly gay character in a “Madea” film. What was it like to play him and to play this representation? 

Brandon: The best word for me to use is catharsis. It was very cathartic to play a character that felt so close to my life, but also wasn’t. It wasn’t autobiographical, but it was something that my heart was already ready to lean into. And some people have asked like, ‘did you feel like this was such a big responsibility and I didn’t because I felt right for the job. I felt qualified for the job. And so, all the things that Tim was talking about, all the things that Tim wasn’t talking about, but I still knew to be there like certain dynamics between him and Davi, for him and his mom, like, I know that from my own life. You always want to play a character where there’s other things going on, aside from just parroting the words that have been given to you. And it felt really good to know that was doing its own thing without me trying to puzzle it through because of some of the parallels between me and Tim.

There’s a lot of drama between you and Davi that I was not expecting.

Brandon: There really is. My audition scenes were the scenes with Davi. It was us driving his car, going to Madea’s house and then it was the scene on the basketball court. And I remember being like, ‘Man, this is a hard turn into some deep drama,’ because like, I didn’t have the full script when I auditioned. So, I just saw, ‘this my best friend Davi and I’m trying to come out to my family and we’re driving to her house. And also, I didn’t know it was a Madea movie at that time. It was just an untitled Tyler Perry Project. And then I get to the second scene, and it’s like, ‘you’re having sex with my mom and hide it from me and all this stuff…’ Having sex with my mom, like doing all this crazy stuff. And it was definitely a classic Tyler Perry drama so I knew it would shock some people… Yeah, as an actor to then have to come back around to a place of forgiveness by the end of that movie was a lot to wrap my brain around but what got me it was that this movie is about acceptance of love. So I can’t be selfish, as Tim, Davi has been my rock in terms of me dealing with my sexuality this whole time. 

What was it like working with Isha Blaaker?

Brandon: It was awesome. Isha was the first person that I met. We both thought it was very important to meet each other as soon as possible. So when I booked the job, I was asking who booked Davi and can I have their Instagram? And so I just DM’d him, and introduced myself, and that started the conversation. So by the time we both got to Atlanta, we were hanging out as soon as possible because we just needed to kind of get to know each other and establish that, like, ‘how do you work? Can we run lines together? Can we talk about this?’ And Isha is very diligent, so he was down to run lines 3 trillion times, as many times as I wanted or as he wanted. We would just be up there in this common area of the apartment complex, just working our scenes out because it was our first feature film. It was nice to have him there because every time either of us would get nervous, the other one would look over and say, ‘you’re in a feature film and you’re a lead in it.’ And then we’d both just secretly nerd out on that because you try to act like you’ve been here before, but with each other, we would be like, ‘dude, we’re in a movie, we’re in a feature film. Can you believe this? There’s a crane coming down to capture us. We’re driving in a car, and there’s like a rig attached to this other car that’s in front of us catching us driving, like what? So, it was really nice to be with someone who wasn’t like “too cool for school,” you know?

Photo credit: JSquared Photography
What was it like working with Tyler Perry, not just as your director but also as a co-star?

Brandon: Yeah, I learned a lot as creator, from working with him as an actor. He knows his characters so well that he can snap into them instantly. That is something fun to watch as an actor because he would come out of it and then be Tyler Perry, the director, and then go right back in and he knew what he was doing. That’s a level of preparation that’s hard to come by with someone who’s just acting and he’s acting in two different parts and directing, writing, producing. So as an actor, one on one, against him, I felt so lucky to be working with someone who has worked with so many great people as an actor but then also as a director.

And then working with him as director. It was a whole different thing because he was so in charge of his ship. We move very fast and It was very helpful to have someone who was absolutely the one commanding the ship and even though he had so many other hats and wigs to wear, he still was a very assertive director. He also protected actors’ performances. Sometimes the lighting guys or the sound guys would be trying to tell us something, and as an actor, you’re kind of having to satisfy a lot of departments, and the sound guys would be like, ‘when you do that, can you just do it like this instead of that so that way it doesn’t bang the mic, you know, that kind of thing. So then you, as the actor, need to find a way to do all these things that all these people need you to do, but still weave it into the story so that way you’re not just like making, you know, puppet moves. Tyler was very specific about, ‘don’t tell them that, tell me that and let me decide how I want to direct them with that. Don’t have them too far in their heads, trying to direct themselves.’ I love that because I couldn’t even imagine that he was listening to what they were telling us because this was when we were in the car rig and we just had a walkie talkie in the car. I didn’t even know he was listening and he would chime in with, ‘don’t talk to them about that. We really want them to stay focused on this. They’re best friends. We want them to focus on being best friends.’ And I was like,’ I love that. I love that you also still have time to protect our performances,’ you know?

Oh, that’s incredible. I’m just picturing him dressed up as Madea speaking as Tyler Perry and it’s just really funny. 

Brandon: Yep. And that is exactly how me and Isha both met him. We were being brought to set and we got out of the van and we’re walking into the Madea house which is a full practical house. It’s a real building, a real house on his lot and with working plumbing and everything, so it’s crazy. Normally these things are for pretend. We walked through the living room and we would go on to the backyard and there he is, this person you’ve seen a billion times, Madea is right there. But then you’re hearing Tyler’s voice, and it’s just the stuff you hear directors talking about, but coming from the Madea body. It was a unique experience for sure… And his voice is deep and booming. So just imagine, ‘can we move that light over here,’ with his wig flowing in the Atlanta breeze. It’s crazy

What are you most excited for people to see when they watch this movie?

Brandon: I’m excited for them to see my dad’s reaction to me coming out and my great grandmother Madea’s reaction to me coming out and my best friend’s support, my best friend who’s straight and male and black who’s supportive of me coming out. To me, those are the scary figures- my dad, my best friend, who’s male and straight, and my great grandmother, who keeps the shotgun under her seat. Those are the people that I’m worried about. It’s something I really want other gay people, especially gay black people to see. And on the flip side, what I want other straight black people to see. Even if you don’t understand everything about someone’s sexuality or their identity or whatever, love should be the first thing and then you can ask questions. But you have to understand that this is the person that you’ve always known them to be, it’s just that you’re uncovering another layer. And I think that in the valedictorian speech, you get to see Tim fully appreciate that in a different way that kind of wraps up everything. So, I really want to leave them with that last message that’s in the valedictorian speech. 

Is there anything else that you want to add about A Madea Homecoming?

Brandon: There is a surprise at the end of the movie that I am so excited for everyone to see. I’m a huge fan of who he’s spoofing, so I just had such a good time watching it in the stands.

A Madea Homecoming is now streaming on Netflix.