Mo'Nique on Playing Evil

Mo'Nique poses backstage with her Golden Globe award for Best Supporting Actress in a motion picture for "Precious," on Sunday Jan. 17, 2010.

Fans of the movie "Precious" are hoping that when the call goes out for THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE tonight, the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress will go to Mo'Nique. How she got to her spot on the red carpet is the story our Mark Strassmann has to tell:

Mo'nique is unique. Wherever she goes, she takes the party with her. Whether on her talk show, on a comedy stage, or in her movies.

Well, all of her movies until now.

Because in "Precious," Mo'Nique portrays a character who on the surface seems just plain evil.

She plays Mary Jones, who viciously abuses her daughter Precious, an illiterate teenager who is raped by her father, with Mary's knowledge.

"You know, first, I want to say, because I keep hearing the word 'dark,' that Mary Jones was very dark. Mary Jones was very honest," Mo'Nique said. "And we confuse darkness with honesty. That film was very honest."

Lee Daniels, who directed "Precious," told Katie Couric that for him, Mo'Nique's ability to find some humanity inside the madness of her character was the core of the film.

"You just hated her so much when you watch the movie," Couric said.

"Yes, you do hate her," Daniels said. "At the end you understand her."

"But you still don't like her," Couric said.

"Yeah. Yeah. And that's the brilliance of Mo'Nique's performance. She makes you, like, 'Why am I even feeling for you right now? I shouldn't feel anything for you. You are Satan!'"

So what put the devil in Mo'nique?

She claims growing up, her demon hid in plain sight right in her own family . . . a relative whom she considers a monster.

"I was molested as a child," Mo'Nique said. "So when Lee Daniels said, 'I need you to be a monster,' well, I knew just who that monster was.

"It's a sickness. It's truly a sickness. So Mary Jones wasn't dark, Mary Jones was honest. She was mentally ill."

But Mary Jones has been good to Mo'nique, who so far has made a clean sweep this Hollywood awards season.

Then again, Mo'Nique has actually been winning over audiences since she first took the stage in her 20s, at a Baltimore comedy club.

"My first joke was, 'Y'all give it up for my fat black ass. And I'm not apologizing for it'."

And yes, Mo'Nique is a little bigger than the average Hollywood starlet. But it's something she's NEVER apologized for.

"I take pride in saying I'm a fat girl, fabulous and thick, fluffy and tender, full and tasty. Don't it just make you happy to say that?" she laughed.

That's been her constant message: Be proud of yourself, even if, or maybe ESPECIALLY if, you're a little hefty.

Who else has put on a beauty pageant for plus-size women?

"I came up with the idea of a full-figured beauty pageant because for years all we had were those other pageants, y'all know, the skinny ones," Mo'Nique told her audience.

She got BIG ratings when her nightly BET series, "The Mo'Nique Show," went on the air last fall. It's equal parts talk show, party, and revival meeting - a show that strikes a chord with her audience.

"When you actually look on TV and you see someone who's just like yourself, it's a confirmation that, 'Okay, it's okay for me to feel this way. It's okay for me to be big and be confident,'" said one audience member.

"I have a special place in my heart for the underdog," Mo'Nique said. "The person that was told, 'You'll never make it. You'll never get it.' I cheer for the underdog. Because guess what? We're all the underdog."

But now the underdog is coming out on top. And Mo'Nique gives all thanks to director Lee Daniels.

"Lee Daniels man trusted me with this role that Hollywood would have never given me," she said, given Hollywood's acceptance of her as "the funny girl."

"You're just a comedian, you're just this, you're just that. Lee Daniels was like, 'No, baby, we everything.'"

So for anyone who's still wondering, maybe it wasn't such a stretch for Mo'Nique after all.

"I think every single person that walks the face of this Earth, at one time or another, has been precious," Mo'Nique said, "where you feel like the underdog, where you feel like you're the only one experiencing what you're experiencing. So yes, I could watch that character and say, 'Wow. I understand that. I understand that.'"

So we all have been precious at one time or another.

  • Mark Strassmann
    Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.