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'Homophobic remarks? We all make mistakes'

MAN OF MANY TALENTS: Rikki Beadle-Blair

RIKKI BEADLE-BLAIR is known as many things - a black filmmaker, a gay playwright, a British actor, director, screenwriter, singer, designer, and choreographer.

You get the idea; he is a man of many talents.

He is also an open-minded person and nothing shows that more than the casting in his new film Blackbird, which features US actors Mo'Nique and Isaiah Washington.

Washington, best known for his role as Dr Preston Burke on the hit television show Grey’s Anatomy caused controversy after it emerged in 2007 that he insulted a fellow cast member with a homophobic slur.

However, in Beadle-Blair’s movie, Washington takes on the role of a liberal-minded father in America’s Deep South, who finds out his son is gay.

Beadle-Blair explained why Washington was the right man for the part and why he is always willing to work with people who have made mistakes.

Blackbird, which has been shot already, stars Mo'Nique and Isaiah Washington, who is also one of the producers,” Beadle-Blair explains.

“It’s set in Mississippi and is about a young boy who is from a very religious family. His sister was kidnapped several years ago but was never found and he feels that God is punishing his family for him being secretly gay – and so he’s always trying to pray the gay away.

“Isaiah Washington is the father who is very liberal and Mo'Nique plays the mother who is not. When we were casting, we did think about the scandal surrounding Isaiah and we thought it was very exciting to see this part of his evolution.

"We thought it was a very powerful statement, which he clearly wants to make. He is saying ‘I may have said this once, but I am not homophobic intrinsically and I am willing to invest my time and say I stand by these people.’”

There will be those who’ll say that Washington is using this movie as a gimmick to help re-launch his career. After all, he was fired from Grey’s Anatomy when it emerged he called his co-star T.R. Knight a “f****t” – and he has not really been in action since.

However, Beadle-Blair says he couldn’t care less if Washington used Blackbird to mend his damaged reputation.

REBRANDING HIMSELF? Isaiah Washington stars in Beadle-Blair’s new film Blackbird

“It’s clear that he wants to use the movie in a way to rebrand himself but I’m happy for anybody who has made mistakes to rebrand themselves as being more open minded. I don’t want to just reach liberal people. I want to reach people that might be nervous about the subject matter of homosexuality.”

Away from Hollywood, Beadle-Blair is a proud south Londoner and also takes great pride in his celebrated stage play-turned-movie Bashment, which is due to be released on DVD in the UK this week.

Originally released in 2010, the film follows the life of JJ (Joel Dommett), an aspiring MC who wants to make an impact on London’s underground urban music scene. The only thing stopping him is the fact that he is white and gay.

Often pigeonholed for being a black writer who explores the issues of the LGBT community, Beadle-Blair has also been criticised for having happy endings in his films, where violent or homophobic characters go on a cathartic journey and more often than not learn the errors of their ways.

Rubbishing the critics and their opinions, the Metrosexuality writer said that a positive end to a story is just as valid as a negative one. He also believes that a lot of people just do not like black movies to have a happy ending.

“Unhappy endings aren’t any more realistic than happy endings. The thing with Bashment is I really wanted to get beyond people’s expectations of delinquent, particularly black delinquents," Beadle-Blair says.

"I didn’t want it to end with ‘well that’s what they are like, isn’t life hard?’ I wanted people to see that they can grow and go beyond that – not because that’s my wish, which it is, but because that is my experience.

“The people who are in Bashment never thought they would end up there to tell the story. They weren’t always open-minded enough to be in this type of project. I’ve seen people make that journey and I wanted to reflect it. I think of it as an idealistic evolution.

“I understand that some people’s experiences are different to mine, and some people don’t really like black people to have happy endings. But for my characters, my black people, the endings have been good.”

Bashment will be released on DVD on September 23 through Peccadillo Pictures. For more information visit

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