*Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine are two of the most recognizable faces in American cinema over the past 15 years. A listing of their combined film roles would be a story within itself.
Upon hearing the duo were starring in the upcoming film “Jumping the Broom” our interest was peaked to say the very least.
This was in part due to the fact that Loretta Devine has two films being released this summer, but also because Angela Bassett has proven to be very selective in the roles she accepts.
“It’s easier to work with someone that you’ve worked with before and that you care about,” Bassett told EURweb.com.
“It has it’s own tone, personality and look about it so we could cast it well.” said Bassett of the film. “(Loretta) and I have a history together. It really helps because you lean on your co-star. You trust them that you can let your emotions out there. You’re there to catch each other and feed each other what you need.”
“I liked the script. I thought that it could be something delightful,” she continued. “I thought that it reminded me of ‘Exhale’ or ‘Stella’ how well it was received, how beautiful it felt. I felt it was just beautiful and prideful and I thought that it was full of promise. Upon speaking with (director) Salim Aklil and listening to the way he spoke, I thought that he had a great deal of class and I came away trusting that it could be like that.”
We’re all used to seeing Loretta Devine cast in maternal roles in a lot of her films, and that doesn’t change in “Jumping the Broom” either. However she’s a different type of mother. One that some might call the film’s antagonist.
“I don’t think so. Everybody says I’m just like their Mom in this,” said Loretta, “I tell the truth and the truth shall set you free. I loved doing this role and in a lot of movies I am always cast as the real sweet, bring everything together character. This was something totally different for me and that was part of the reason I was so excited to do it.”
The film is being celebrated for it’s intelligence and wit, but we couldn’t help but wonder how difficult it was to wrangle comedian Mike Epps, a notorious ad-libber, to stay on track. Here Loretta explains.
“It was all scripted but it’s all up to you. It’s different every time. Except for Mike Epps, his was improv,” said Devine with a chuckle. But there are also scenes in the film in which Epps is surprisingly serious. “We just kept it going. Mike Epps broke his leg just before he did that scene that’s why he was so serious about it. He’s going to kill me. Wasn’t it beautiful to see Mike Epp serious? I have done a number of comedies with him and it was wonderful to see that he could go there.”
“Salim didn’t let you do whatever you wanted,” said Bassett of Epps. “But he knew that was in him.”
Intelligent, well-written and true to our culture, “Jumping the Broom” features several scenes in which those attributes shine through in abundance.
“Her husband talks about the history of jumping the broom and Mike Epps goes Harriet Tubman with it,” said Devine of her character in one scene in particular. “You had everybody at the table. It’s the writing. The actors twist in one direction, the writing twisting where you don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s just incredible the way the spin is because it was a simple story. It was just about this wedding that everybody in the audience was waiting to attend. It was drawn out into this story where everybody says ‘Ohmigoodness, I want to see more’ because it was just that interesting.”
Angela Bassett told reporters that she saw the film in its entirety for the first time at a screening and experienced much joy in her performance, and some pain.
“I could see it in the screening room,” she explained. “But I can’t wait for the movie going experience and I was delighted beyond what I could imagine. But I’m also like ‘Oh, look at that. Oh, look at my butt’. I had trouble with that dress but it didn’t come up too bad.”
Angela Bassett has an almost regal air about herself. A dignity that permeates throughout every role that she has ever played. She told EURweb.com’s Lee Bailey that she is often perceived as overly serious because of her no nonsense approach to roles. That was the case in “Jumping the Broom” as well.
“I understand me, I don’t really worry about the audience,” said Bassett. “I don’t look at it from that point of view. The character, people have their own ideas about who you are. I was just working and the director said ‘I don’t know how to take you.’ I’m laughing and joking but there’s something about me that he perceived as being really serious. Around about the third week it was more relaxed, but I’m nothing but nice. I come in, I know my lines, I do my job, I try to do it five, six or seven different ways to give you a choice so that you can have any number of ways to attack a scene and he says ‘I don’t know how to take you.’ So, you never know how people are going to take you but in my view I’m doing all the things I know how to do to the best of my ability but it’s not perceived that way. So, I don’t pander for the audience to like me. I think if you don’t like me that’s even more interesting.”
Just as Bassett’s character is seen by some as being protective, Devine’s character is the same, but as mentioned above, with a villainous edge.
“I think my character was totally honest. I think she loved her son (Laz Alonso),” she explained. “She was alone and she just felt like she was loosing everything, being left out and ‘these rich people have come to destroy me’. I think that’s the way she felt. I don’t think she was ever dishonest with people in the film. That’s the way she felt and I think she really drove to save her son because she really did think that he was in danger. That’s what I tried to bring to it, a mother’s love for her son. I was so proud of him when I saw the movie. How strong he was and intelligent and brave. Even when he was surrounded by all the guys he really stood out as the most confident guy. I really did like that about Laz’s character.”
It appears as though Devine can’t quite get out of that Momma mindset. But we can see why her heart was filled with pride. Laz Alonso did do his thing. Bassett told EURweb.com that she sympathizes with Loretta’s character for several reasons.
“In the black community when you talk about statistics of single parents raising children, that was representative of that, you know?” she explained. “I was raised by a single parent. My mother was very over protective of us. But, of course, that’s a woman-woman dynamic as opposed to a woman-man dynamic. When you’re raising your only son and you’ve invested in him, his emotions, education and you sacrifice yourself and your adult relationships for him you put a lot in there. So, when he leaves with a woman what does that feel like to be left behind? It’s a new dynamic that has to take shape. Some women take a step back and say ‘Go on son’ and some men get caught in the middle like ‘Well, my momma wants…’ and it becomes a friction and it’s real. I went through that with my mother-in-law ‘May I speak with me son?’ I understood all that as an actress. The subtext and all of that. Well, I don’t have a nickel in that quarter. He is your son and he would be like *whispering* and it was a little painful. Now, she’s got it and we’re cool.”
Ain’t nobody gonna ever love a man like momma, that’s just reality. However, peace comes with compromise.
“Now, whenever she comes to visit I just let her have him,” continued Bassett. “She loves her son. They love that time and that bond. When he’s gone then she and I hang. We go hiking, movie theater, shopping or whatever. I understand that dynamic.”
Though the shackles of villainy are cast upon the leading ladies of “Jumping the Broom” the true bad guy is….
“The twist being that Laz is the one that excluded her and not the (bride’s) family,” explained Devine. “Some people think that she’s the villain in the story, but I don’t really think she’s the villain in the story. A lot of women that are mothers will identify with her story.
“You feel like the odd woman out,” added Bassett. “How do you react when you’ve been left out?”
“Jumping the Broom” starring Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Laz Alonso, Paula Patton and Mike Epps opens this Friday, May 6 in theaters throughout North America.