Mary J. Blige reflects on how her Oscar-nominated role gave her confidence
Mary J. Blige’s inclusion in award season conversations is surely a surprise -- not because the Queen of Hip Hop Soul’s performance in “Mudbound” is anything less than stellar, but who would’ve ever expected that the “Rock of Ages” and “I Can Do Bad All by Myself” actress would turn out a deeply emotional and dramatic rendering? But Tuesday morning, Blige became a double Oscar nominee, for her supporting role in Dee Rees’ Jim Crow-era epic and for the original song “Mighty River” with Raphael Saadiq and Taura Stinson.
“It feels really good to be recognized, with all these nominations, because it shows that someone recognizes my hard work and the dedication and the time and how serious I’m taking this craft,” Blige said in an interview with The Times. “That means a lot because I never wanted to take this lightly [and] I didn’t want people to look at me like I didn’t take it seriously because you have the Queen Latifahs and the Tarajis [P. Henson] and the Angela Bassetts and the Viola Davises who worked really hard to pave the way for us. I really want them to be proud of me as well.”
Click through for portraits of the 2018 Oscar acting nominees.(Los Angeles Times)
Timothee Chalamet, “Call Me By Your Name”
Full coverage of the 2018 Oscar nominations
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Meryl Streep, “The Post”(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
“Mudbound” follows two soldiers, one black, one white, who’ve returned to small town Mississippi following World War II to discover that their ideas about race have been dramatically altered, although those of the people around them have not. Their families are connected by land with the Jacksons, black sharecroppers, claiming an ancestral connection to the soil they till while the McAllans have just recently purchased the farm. Blige plays Florence, the matriarch of the Jacksons, opposite an ensemble cast that includes Jason Mitchell, Rob Morgan, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke and Jonathan Banks.
Of her character, Blige has said, she “is like every woman.”
“She’s the center and holds things together without getting too emotional about it,” she said. “She loves her family. So, I hope people know that … you can figure a way out of things. Florence was a quiet, silent power.”
The role required her to strip away the hair, makeup and nails of her stage persona, an emotionally difficult task especially as she had just come off a reunion show with Bad Boy Records.
“You don’t realize how vain you are and the issues you have until you have to play Florence and have to get rid of lashes and wigs,” she said. “I was like, ‘Why can’t she wear a wig? I don’t want my own textured hair out there without some sort of relaxer.’ But when you get rid of these things and you’re walking around and people are seeing your natural beauty and they’re actually complimenting you... I realized I didn’t need all of these things.
In the end, Blige said Florence “actually liberated me in a lot of ways [and] gave me a lot of newfound confidence.”
“I hold my head up regardless of if I have a perm or nails or lashes,” she said. “Florence helped me in a time when I was needing that confidence.”
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