The new drama Pariah isn’t exactly a laugh-a-minute. A gritty look at a dysfunctional family and a daughter’s desire to be accepted, it’s a heavy, timely story. But one of its stars wants you to know it’s not without its lighter moments.
And Kim Wayans knows funny. She starred alongside her brothers Keenen, Ivory and Damon on the legendary In Living Color television show and once played a character named Ms. Dontwannabebothered in Dance Flick.
“To me, this movie is really truthful,” she says, “and in life in your darkest hour sometimes something funny happens. Have you ever been to a funeral and something funny happens and you find yourself laughing and grandma’s in the coffin? It’s just life, but to me, that was part of the brilliance of bringing real truth to this story. Yes, there is humour, there’s all kinds of stuff.”
In person, Wayans smiles and punctuates her sentences with a laugh, a far cry from the person she plays in the film. Her character, Audrey, has rejected her daughter because of her sexuality, is alienated from her husband and has no friends.
“She has everything every parent could dream of right in front of her, and yet…” her voice trails off.
The tough, uncompromising character is a far cry from the woman sitting in front of me today, and I tell her so. “You have to put Kim on ice someplace,” she says. “The work is to go over the script with a fine-toothed comb and find Audrey. Find how she sees the world. Find out what her value system is. Find out what her family dynamics were in her background, not what Kim’s are. That is the work. Basically you put ‘you’ somewhere else and step into these shoes.”
But can she kick those shoes off at the end of the day and go back to her normal life?
“I personally can clock out at the end of the day and go back to being Kim,” she says. “When I’m there I’m in it. I’m in the story. I’m in Audrey. But when the day is done I can go home and take off that jacket, put it aside and put it back on the next day. I know a lot of actors can’t do that and they have to say in character but I am thankful that isn’t my story.”