'The Blackening' star Dewayne Perkins on his gay horror spoof character and coming-out story for a comedy

‘The Blackening’ star Dewayne Perkins on his gay horror spoof character and coming-out story for a comedy

Unlike the character he wrote and played in the horror parody The blackening, comedian Dewayne Perkins won’t be staying in a cabin in the woods anytime soon. “I went camping once and it was one of those moments where I was like, ‘This is what this is? Do we really sleep on the floor… outside?’ ”he says with a questioning brow during a video interview a few weeks earlier The blackening opens in theaters June 16. “I never came back.”

However, as Dewayne on screen (yes, he and his character share the same first name, and both are openly gay), he joins nine college friends at a cabin deep in the woods over the weekend of June 19th. What was supposed to be a much-needed get-together between friends drinking highly sugary drinks and indulging in trash talk turns into them playing a bloody quiz game called The Blackening, which determines who is black enough and who isn’t. In The Fresh Prince of Bel AirHow many seasons does dark-skinned Aunt Viv last before being replaced by light-skinned Aunt Viv? Everyone knows the first verse of the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” but do you know the lyrics to the second verse? Sing it, or.

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Perkins’ origin story began in Chicago, where he played high school football — as a way, he said, to hang out with the cool kids — before joining the school’s improv team. But it was in his freshman year at DePaul University that he joined Second City and has never looked back. He later became a member of another Chicago-based improv group, 3Peat, and wrote The blackening like a sketch. The skit’s satirical brilliance at equating one’s level of Blackness with one’s live-or-die dignity caught the attention of Comedy Central Originals, which spun the sketch in just five years ago. The blackening went viral, launching Perkins as a bold new voice in comedy.

From left: Antoinette Robertson, Sinqua Walls, Jermaine Fowler and Dewayne Perkins in The Blackening.

From left: Antoinette Robertson, Sinqua Walls, Jermaine Fowler and Dewayne Perkins in The blackening.

Glen Wilson/Lionsgate

Between his improv group and stand-up, Perkins began writing for television series including Breakup with Michelle Wolf, The Nutcracker Hip Hop AND Brooklyn Nine Nine. In 2021, she earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series for his work The Amber Ruffin Show and secured a recurring role on the Netflix series The Upshaws. Last year, The New York Times called it one of the “young queer comics redefining American humor”.

For his stand-up routines, Perkins’ coming-out story was gold. “I came out to my family who, based on my upbringing and where I grew up, thought, ‘They’re going to abandon me,'” he says, recalling the courage he mustered to tell his mother and four o’clock sisters. “I walked out and everyone was like, ‘Yeah, girl, clearly, you’re gay.'” With her dad, the news was a little different, but still, she says, “random.” “Later, I took my boyfriend to my nephew’s birthday party. And my dad asked, ‘Who is that guy?’ And I was like, ‘That’s my boyfriend.’ He said, ‘Are you gay?’ And I said, ‘Oh my God, I forgot to tell you.’”

Even if his character Dewayne’s sexuality isn’t a central theme The blackening and only comes across as a half-hearted excuse not to get killed in the game, Perkins really wants the audience not to be indifferent to his queer identity, but to accept it. “The cure I would like is recognition of this part of me: recognizing how that part affects the way I live, the way people perceive me, the way I am received in the world. … This is the cure I want,” he says.

Perkins shares writing credit with Girls trip write Tracy Oliver on The blackening, thanks to the support of other 3Peat members, who pushed him forward when Oliver came calling. “When Tracy asked who wrote it and that we should write a script, everyone was like ‘Dewayne, he should do it.’ They said, ‘That’s her idea of ​​her and we stand by her,’” she recalls.

Dewayne Perkins at the premiere of 'The Blackening' at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival

Dewayne Perkins at the premiere of ‘The Blackening’ at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival

Jamie McCarthy/Getty

“At that point, I had never written a film and was quite nervous. But Tracy was a great mentor and she really guided me through the process. I have always felt supported. Tracy, Tim Story (the director of the film), the producers were always like, ‘Don’t forget this is yours, this couldn’t have happened without you,'” says Perkins, who is collaborating with Story on the development of the board game Clue in an animated series for Fox.”‘Never feel like you can’t speak, always feel empowered.'”

Perkins spoke further with DAY about the film and the reason for its LGBTQ representation and answered a couple of quick questions that refer to the theme of The blackening:

Has your Black card ever been revoked?

YES. All time. (He laughs.) A friend of mine just told me two days ago, “I never know what’s going to come out of your mouth. You exist in this duality of: You could be playing Tupac or you could be playing the Cheetah Girls. I felt quite free to define what my Blackness was at an early age, especially being queer. I feel entitled to present different versions of Blackness. Every time someone says, “That’s not the thing for black people to do.” I say, “And yet here I am doing it. Sounds like you need to expand your thinking.

You would have gotten The blackening‘S Friends question – about how many black characters were there on the show – just in real life?

I’ve seen many Friends. My sister Brittany is obsessed with entertainment. I didn’t know about the perception of until I grew up Friends and what some people thought of the show. I’ve always thought that yes, everyone is white and that’s the point of the show. … Are we looking at white people in New York? I was like, “Let these white people be white.” So yes, I would know all the answers. (He laughs.)

What does your character mean to you? The blackening is he a proud gay man?

To be perfectly honest, I only started writing because as a black queer actor I was deeply dissatisfied with the few opportunities there were to actually play queer characters, and the parts that were coming my way were severely underwritten, formulaic, and always a tool to help further someone else’s story. We have never been in the lead. So having the opportunity to write and play a character who was not defined by their weirdness but simply allowed to fully exist in all facets of themselves was both cathartic and felt like a personal act of rebellion against limited ways. in which the media often portray us. I hope Dewayne’s freedom and unapologetic way of life inspire other queer people to adopt a similar form of self-respect. But I also hope it inspires Hollywood to continue to bust out the boxes they’ve put queer people in and understand that a gay best friend isn’t just a gay best friend, he can also be the hero. You just have to let him!

A version of this story first appeared in the June 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to register now.