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Sterling K Brown calls American Fiction's LGBTQ+ storyline 'important'

Watch: Sterling K Brown discusses American Fiction's LGBTQ+ storyline:

American Fiction's LGBTQ+ storyline is "extremely important" to queer youth, particularly those from the Black community, Sterling K Brown tells Yahoo UK.

The film, which is out in cinemas now, sees Brown play Cliff, brother to Jeffrey Wright's Thelonious "Monk" Ellison, who comes out as gay and be his authentic, unapologetic self after divorcing his wife. His journey is not without its challenges, he distances himself from his family out of fear of not being accepted after their mother, who has Alzheimer's, comments that she always knew "he wasn't a queer".

It's not all negative, though, as he finds acceptance in other places, from Monk for example and their family friend Lorraine (Myra Lucretia Taylor). Cliff at one point also tells his brother how he wished their late father could have known his sexuality, regardless of what his reaction would have been because at least then he would have known all of him.

Speaking to Yahoo, Brown reflected on how Cliff's character arc can help those watching the film who might be in the same, or similar, position, saying it's "extremely important" to have stories like his depicted on the silver screen.

American Fiction (Orion)
American Fiction star Sterling K Brown thinks it's 'extremely important' to tell stories like his character Cliff, a Black gay man finally being his authentic self, on the silver screen. (Orion)

"I have a number of LGBTQ+ people in my family and dear friends, and I think what I've witnessed, especially in the Black community, especially within the Black church, [is] there is this continuous dialogue about homosexuality being a sin and an abomination to God, etc." Brown says.

"And so people who want to do 'the right thing' wind up trying to erase themselves for the benefit of everyone else around them. And I think whether you are gay or anything else if you are living your life for the benefit of other people, and you know you're not being true to who you are, you're not going to find real happiness.

"So to be able to have that conversation, to say 'I wish I had done that', I hope it's permission to others in the present to be like, 'you know what, if you're going to love me, I'm going to give all of me to you to love, and if you don't, then I'll just keep it moving.'"

American Fiction (Orion)
In American Fiction Cliff at one point also tells his brother Monk (Jeffrey Wright) how he wished their late father could have known he was gay, regardless of his reaction. (Orion)

The film's director Cord Jefferson was keen to explore the complexities of families and their relationships throughout his directorial debut, even if its central focus is on a character, Monk, and his decision to write a stereotypically "Black" book after becoming disheartened by the way in which the book and entertainment industry wants to tell stories from BIPOC creatives.

For Jefferson it was more than that, he explains: "I wanted the movie to feel like life, and I think that the same way that life is neither comedy nor a tragedy I wanted that to invoke that in the story. That life is messy and families are messy, and the same people that can irritate you to no end are also the same people that you love the most in the world.

"I wanted to get at that dynamic and get the ways in which family can be incredibly important to your life and also kind of the bane of your existence sometimes. I think that that is something that Monk feels. I think that for me especially, too, you don't really get to see these kinds of intimate portrayals of Black families, particularly Black American families.

American Fiction (Orion)
Sterling K Brown said he hopes having that scene in the film gives 'permission to others [to say] "you know what, if you're going to love me, I'm going to give all of me to you to love"'. (Orion)

"I think that one of the themes of the film is that frequently Black Americans, and Black American cinema and television and novels are more of a surface understanding of these people, and you're not really given a holistic portrayal of these kinds of people."

"One of the things that Sterling told me that he really was excited about with playing his character was that he was messy," the director goes on. "Sterling is known for his dramatic, straight-laced roles and he said that one of the things that drew him to Cliff was that this is a guy who feels real and feels complicated and messy, and layered in the way that we all are.

"And so I think that that is something that I wanted to portray in the film was an understanding that these people are just like all of us, we all have our own messes to take care of and I think that frequently when you see stories of Black life, you don't really get that full complex portrait of them. You get one facet maybe, but as far as the holistic representation of a human being that sometimes things fall short of that."


American Fiction is out in cinemas nationwide now.

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