Janelle Monae Q&A: ‘Hidden Figures’ and ‘Moonlight’
“I’m just thankful to be a part of two meaningful and important projects,” divulges Janelle Monae as we chat via webcam (watch above) about her roles in Theodore Melfi‘s “Hidden Figures” and Barry Jenkins‘ “Moonlight,” two films that have elicited strong responses from critics and audiences alike. “I don’t take it lightly,” she says of the high praise given to both. “I just feel so honored to celebrate those who are oftentimes uncelebrated, oftentimes marginalized, and oftentimes have had their stories erased.”
In “Hidden Figures,” Monae stars as Mary Jackson, an aspiring engineer who along with mathematicians Katharine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) and Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), helped NASA launch their first successful space missions. In “Moonlight,” she plays Teresa, the girlfriend of a Miami drug dealer (Mahershala Ali) who becomes a father figure to a young boy (Alex Hibbert) whose mother (Naomie Harris) is an addict. Although the two roles couldn’t sound more different, Monae believes “they’re both two queens. One at NASA, one in the ghetto.” She adds, “no matter where you come from, you deserve the right to the American dream, and a right to have your story told.”
Monae, a six-time Grammy nominated singer-songwriter, made her film acting debut in “Moonlight,” which led to her being cast in “Hidden Figures.” She reaped a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Critics’ Choice Awards for the latter, and competes at the SAG Awards for Best Ensemble for both. Given their massive critical and box office success — not to mention strong showings at the precursors — is the actress poised to receive her first Oscar nomination?