LOS ANGELES — “Don’t call it a comeback.”
Mo’Nique laughs as she quotes LL Cool J. Though it seems she’s back in the spotlight for the first time since her performance in “Precious” swept the 2010 awards season, the Oscar winner says she never stopped working. She just does it at a pace that allows for balance.
“You know what I’m working on? The biggest project of my life,” the 47-year-entertainer said during a telephone interview. “Being the best mommy and the best wife I can possibly be. Because if I get concerned with what’s next in reference to this business, I’ll miss out on the joy that’s in front of me right now.”
That hasn’t stopped her from performing stand-up across the country, hosting her talk show on BET, independently producing films with her business-partner husband, and co-starring in HBO’s Bessie Smith biopic, “Bessie,” premiering at 8 p.m. today.
It was “Bessie” star and executive producer Queen Latifah who thought of Mo’Nique for the role as Smith’s mentor, Ma Rainey.
“Everybody was like, ‘Yes!’ Because she has strength and vulnerability,” said fellow executive producer Shelby Stone.
Though Mo’Nique hadn’t heard of Rainey before reading the “Bessie” script, the role reflects the kinds of characters and stories she’s drawn to these days: real, multidimensional people.
Mo’Nique recently starred in and executive produced two films that fit that bill, “Blackbird” and “About.”
No release date has been set for “About,” which tells the stories of seven strangers whose lives intertwine as they’re faced with such life challenges as homelessness, heartbreak and addiction.
“Blackbird,” which opened last month, follows a church-choir singer who struggles with his sexuality and sense of self while growing up in a small Southern Baptist town. Mo’Nique plays the young man’s mother. Isaiah Washington plays his father.
She was drawn to the story by its young writer-director Patrik-Ian Polk.
“I never thought I would have another opportunity to work with a director who was so fearless and so unwilling to waver with what he wanted to see on that screen,” she said. “I never thought I would have that opportunity again after working with Lee Daniels on ‘Precious.”’
Married for the third time and with three young sons, Mo’Nique treasures what she calls “a second chance at motherhood.” Her twins David and Jonathan are 9 and Michael is 11. Mo’Nique’s eldest son, Shalon, from a previous marriage, is 25.
“I love the entertainment business, but I absolutely adore my family,” she said.