Effie Brown on Matt Damon Diversity Flap: ‘Word on the Street Is I’m Not His Favorite Person’

Brown and Damon. Photo: Getty Images

In the wake of the uproar over his comments about diversity on Project Greenlight, Matt Damon apologized for his remarks, and then hinted that “there was some context taken out” of the clip that circulated online. Now, in an interview with Indiewire, Damon’s sparring partner Effie Brown says that the real-life interaction was even more tense than the version that went viral. “That was not the full conversation, to be real,” Brown recalls. “That was a more polite version of that exchange.” The veteran producer says that she originally thought about keeping her mouth shut about the lack of diversity in the room, but then felt like she “had no choice” but to speak up:

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 through my head: Damned if I was going to do that … To my chagrin, when you’re in that room, you have to validate yourself if no one takes you seriously: “Listen to me, I know what I’m doing.”

Thanks to that incident and more, Brown says that her relationship with Damon got even rockier as the season wore on: “Word on the street is I’m not his favorite person.” The same thing happened with Peter Farrelly, who quit the show after disagreeing with Brown about taking director Jason Mann to a film lab. “I was upset with how that Farrelly conversation was cut,” she says, which led her to demand greater control over how the edits were portraying her:

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 three. 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.”

Luckily, Brown says HBO was in her corner for the most part, as was someone more surprising: “Ben Affleck was the cat who had my back. Ben is down.”

Now, Brown says she’s stopped watching Project Greenlight and regrets signing up to do it virtually for free. (She got paid for producing the film The Leisure Class, but only got a day rate on the first day of shooting the TV show.) She thinks she could have possibly been less combative during production (“Yo, no one is trying to fight you right now!”), and admits that she wasn’t “always in the right,” but is overall proud of putting up the good fight. “I’m not a man,” she says. “That’s the thing. I’ve never been anything other than a black woman. I learned what I learned: to reach your goal, you can take several paths. I’m used to taking the direct straight path.”

Effie Brown Talks Project Greenlight, Matt Damon