In Variety‘s new cover story, Mary J. Blige discusses her role in the drama Mudbound and addresses her much-talked about Hillary Clinton interview from last year. In the clip, she serenaded the then-Democratic presidential nominee with Bruce Springsteen‘s “American Skin (41 Shots).”
“Hillary was my first gig,” she tells the magazine. “I was like, ‘If I’m going to do this, the launch has to be important.’”
She adds that she was “petrified to do the interview because I’m not a journalist. But I became one. I’m an actress so I turned that thing on and made it happen. That was a nice conversation.”
“That was going to be my first female president, so I’m going hard for people to hear her voice and see her other than a politician. They took one piece of the song and played it everywhere. And then they felt stupid afterwards [because] the interview was great. That’s the problem — people take a piece of something that they don’t understand and pick at it and tease it,” Blige says of people who criticized her for singing about police brutality to Clinton.
She continues: “It was a moment for me where I was like, ‘I’m actually interviewing Hillary Clinton.’ That was close to graduating from high school. My people didn’t accept it. So I was like, ‘Here’s another hit.’”
Blige admits she was not expecting Donald Trump to win the election, but thinks Clinton is a “strong” candidate who should run again in 2020. “I was surprised how the women weren’t in her favor,” she says. “It doesn’t add up.”
Speaking about Mudbound, her film about race and poverty in the Mississippi Delta in the 1940s, the singer alludes to Trump: “When I read the script, I was moved because it showed at the end of the day, when it all gets down to it, love has no color … It definitely speaks to today’s times. It seems like everyone is a minority to him. Everybody is fighting for their rights now.”
For the part of Florence, Blige had to forgo her usual look to keep her appearance authentic to the story.
“I had to surrender and commit completely to Florence,” Blige says, “like the little ugly boots she was wearing every day and those dresses … We couldn’t wear makeup. We couldn’t have nails. We couldn’t do eyelashes. I was stripped down to the bare necessities of Mary. And that really helped me because people were saying things like, ‘Gosh — you’re so beautiful.’ It helped my self-esteem.”