Two years ago, Common, a rapper and actor who has a Grammy, a Golden Globe and an Oscar all sitting in his trophy case, was working through lines with actress Laura Dern. The script was emotionally explosive, freighted with themes of secret pain and personal revelation.
The 2018 movie "The Tale" was about a documentary filmmaker whose work on sexual abuse victims drives her to confront her own past. But as Common - born Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr. - relates in his recently released book, "Let Love Have the Last Word," the conversation that day with Dern jarred something loose inside his head.
"One day, while talking through the script with Laura, old memories surprisingly flashed in my mind," he writes, according to an excerpt obtained this week by Entertainment Weekly. "I caught my breath and just kept looping the memories over and over, like rewinding an old VHS tape."
The actor turned to his co-star.
"Laura, I think I was abused," he said, according to his book.
Common's story of abuse during his childhood is one of the central themes of the 47-year-old's new book, which was released on Tuesday. The revelation has also dominated the conversation swirling around the book's rollout - and this seems to be Common's point. By throwing open the details of his abuse, Common says he hopes to detonate the rigid preconceptions about talking about sexual abuse, particularly among black men.
Common's mission echoes the reasoning actor Terry Crews described in 2017 when opening up about his own claims of a sexual assault by a Hollywood agent.
"I felt I wanted to create a space for people who have experienced that to be able to share that," Common told ABC's Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America" on Tuesday. "That's part of the healing, to be honest. No sooner than I told the story, one of my good friends came out and told me it had happened to him."
His new book dives into the details of the abuse Common suffered during his formative years growing up in Chicago. According to an Entertainment Weekly excerpt, the incident occurred when he was 9 or 10 years old, after Common's family hit the road for a visit to his aunt's house in Cleveland.
"I was excited for a road trip I was about to take with my family," he writes. "My mother; my godmother, Barbara; her son and my godbrother Skeet; and his relative, who I'll call Brandon."
At the destination, Common and Brandon shared a bed at night.
"At some point I felt Brandon's hand on me," Common writes. "I pushed him away. I don't remember saying a whole lot besides 'No, no, no.'"
The book continues: "He kept saying 'It's OK, It's OK,' as he pulled down my shorts and molested me. After he stopped he kept asking me to perform it on him. I kept repeating 'No' and pushing him away ... I felt a deep and sudden shame for what happened."
Common pushed the experience below his mental surface, completely forgetting about the abuse until the day he and Dern were working on "The Tale."
Since then, he has worked with a therapist to understand the incident. Common said in the book that he has not seen his abuser in 25 years but has forgiven him for the assault.
"I talked about being molested because, as a Black man, many men have hidden that. Many people have hidden that. And you carry that weight with you. But at some point, you've got to let it go," Common tweeted Wednesday.
He added: "I hope being open about my childhood trauma can give others the strength to do the same and help them on their healing journeys."
The revelation has already sparked the conversation Common was aiming to launch.
"We needed this," one fan posted in response. "thank you so much for your vulnerability. you weren't required to share with us, but you did anyway and that means a ton."
"Thanks for this brother," another fan replied. "I too spent many years hiding these sorts of demons. Feeling it was my fault. That I was a freak. That I was the one who was wrong. That if I told anyone I would be shamed. It is an issue that has been hidden from many due the the stigmas we have."Washington Post