Entertainment

Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor Black History Month Interview

How has being queer informed the roles you play?

A lot of the characters that I play are outsiders, in a way. They may not appear to be, but I think they are. I think Isabel Wilkerson, in Origin, is an intellectual outsider. I would say Oracene Price in King Richard was an outsider in her own marriage. I’ve always been an outsider because I was a nerd all my life, but also feeling like I didn’t belong in most places. Whether I was aware of it or not, my attraction to women disqualified me for most areas I was in. It’s possible that when I’m approaching characters, or when I’m approaching work in general, I’m approaching it thinking, “I’m an outsider here. How do I occupy the space?”

Has anyone ever challenged or questioned your sexuality?

I shared [my sexuality] with one of my friends, who is a straight woman, and it still irritates her. She’s fine with anybody else [who is queer]. But with me, I think she thinks it means there’s a way that she and I don’t connect, which scares her. It has also happened with a woman who I’ve been in a relationship with. She said, “No, you really like men. You’re just being curious with me.” And I’m like, “No, no, no.” I have found that when those things happen, it really is a reflection of that person. It’s the reflection of what they want to see in you, and what they don’t want to see in you.

Some actors have alluded that being openly queer has impacted their careers. Did you ever have any fear about being openly bisexual in Hollywood?

Not one bit. Not too much scares me. I know what my intentions are. I know that what I try to do is honor Black folks, and Black women particularly. Knowing my heart makes me unafraid. If my heart was not clear, then I would have something to be afraid of. I know I have good people who love me, who care about me, and I love them. I care about their opinions, I care about what they think of me, and I care if they feel like they are loved by me. I can’t waste too much sleep on anything else.

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