Effie Brown Spills About Matt Damon and ‘Project Greenlight’s’ Diversity Problem

By Kenrya Rankin Oct 14, 2015

On the first episode of this season’s “Project Greenlight,” Matt Damon famously explained to producer Effie Smith, who is black, that while diversity matters on the screen, it doesn’t matter who is part of the production process. He promptly alienated the successful producer and viewers everywhere. 

Damon followed up with an apology that included the following: “My comments were part of a much broader conversation about diversity in Hollywood and the fundamental nature of ‘Project Greenlight’ which did not make the show. I am sorry that they offended some people, but, at the very least, I am happy that they started a conversation about diversity in Hollywood.”

Now, Brown is opening up. In an interview with Indiewire, the “Dear White People” producer talks frankly about that incident, a run-in she had with Peter Farrelly during filming and the experience of being the only producer of color on the HBO show.

On her payment for the show, which consisted of little more than her producer’s fee for creating the movie-within-the-show:

It was a shitty deal. I only got paid to do the film. …It became apparent that the entire series was about me and Jason. If I would have known that I would never have done this for free!

On the exchange with Matt Damon:

That was not the full conversation, to be real. That was a more polite version of that exchange. … I’ve been black and a woman all my life. I have worked in this business for 20 years. I’m 43. It was one of those things. Literally in that moment, was I going to risk public humiliation, bringing up this opinion, or deal with shame and excuses: “You let that go by?” That’s a big responsibility. I was more afraid of my mother: “That’s how we raised you and sacrificed, that’s it? When the time was for you to stand and be counted?” That’s all that went thorough my head: damned if I was going to do that. At the same time, Matt was the biggest movie star in the world, he could win the Oscar with “The Martian,” he’s incredibly thoughtful, so smart, so sensitive. Before that all happened, I am with Jason Bourne and Batman, I loved it. It was disheartening, to be “Oh, like, ok.”

On her current relationship with Damon:

Word on the street is I’m not his favorite person.

On Ben Affleck:

Ben Affleck was the cat who had my back. Ben is down. All right, good! That was surprising to me, I thought it would be Matt, who has this liberal reputation.

On getting HBO to recut an episode that incorrectly portrayed her as causing the Farrelly brothers (of “Dumb and Dumber” fame) to quit the show:

I said, “I’m not going to do any more on-camera interviews until I know what was being talked about.” I found out when watching. At that time it was a different cut and I fervently had to get into it, because it was a lie. Someone was saying an untruth. I went to the powers that be about that last cut of Episode 3. I told them, “I will have to defend myself. I will talk about what really happened with Peter Farrelly. This could be damaging to my career.” I could handle it if I’m mean and aggressive and weather that storm, if at the end of day, I was good at my job.”

Read the rest of the candid interview here