THE POPCORN REEL PRESENTS IN THEATERS: "WELCOME
HOME ROSCOE JENKINS"
In "Roscoe Jenkins", A Most Entertaining Cedric-Martin Rivalry
Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel
February 2, 2008
Cedric The Entertainer as Clyde in Malcolm D.
Lee's new film "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins", which opens on Friday, February 8
in North America and is released by Universal Pictures. (Photo: David
PARK CITY, Utah
A familiar, friendly professorial voice answers the phone.
"What's going on?"
It's Cedric The Entertainer. He has just asked his interviewer about
whether it is still cold in Park City, which is where one part of the telephone
conversation is taking place. (For the record, Cedric is in the warmer
confines of Los Angeles.)
Late last month the actor-comedian spoke about his role in Malcolm D. Lee's new
comedy "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins", which opens in the U.S. and Canada on
February 8, and is released by Universal Pictures. The film stars a
potpourri of actors who would make an ideal family reunion list -- Martin Lawrence, Joy
Bryant, Michael Clarke Duncan, Mo'Nique, Mike Epps, Margaret Avery and James
Earl Jones. The film's premiere was held in Los Angeles on Monday (January 28), three
days after Cedric gave a few minutes of his time to talk about the film, about
Roscoe Jenkins, a self-help guru (Mr. Lawrence) who returns to the South to
visit the family he'd rather forget.
"I play Clyde, who is RJ's first cousin, but raised like a brother," Cedric
said. "I'm successful, I have a couple of Cadillac dealerships in Atlanta,
doing well for myself, and you know, he kind of comes home with a trophy
girlfriend (played by Joy Bryant), and I basically show up with the girl that he's always loved since
he was a kid. And so I'm still sticking it in his face that I'm better
than him, that I do things better than he does."
Ah, nothing like a sibling rivalry.
Cedric has played a series of characters that are memorable for all the right or
wrong reasons, and with each performance leaves an indelible mark. Whether
playing a most socially inappropriate figure in "Barbershop" or just being
his onstage self in "The Original Kings of Comedy", the man also known
as Cedric Antonio Kyles keeps
it going. Whether with his giving back to the Missouri community into
which he was
born in 1964 and communities beyond with his CTE Foundation, run by his sister
Sharita Kyles Wilson, with whom he founded the charity organization in 1996, or
his own unique brand of stand-up comedy, which he has performed for about two
decades, Cedric continues to be a staple in both comedy and on the big screen.
But how does the man whose website is called Ceddy Bear parry and joust on the
big screen with fellow comedic actor Martin Lawrence, who plays the film's title
"It's one of those things where we both respect each other, and work both
comedically and as actors, so you take that and you try to put it into play what
it is you want to accomplish," Cedric said. "And because comedians kind of
naturally compete against each other anyway, if somebody says something funny on
the set, and another comedian's trying to figure out how to say something to get
a big laugh as well -- and so you kind of start with that competition and just
build up on it. That's really what Martin and I did. We just tried
to one-up each other on camera in a fun and entertaining way, with competition
being a big part of this movie."
Indeed, both actors' characters jockey for position in a big way as Roscoe
returns to the South and discovers that there's nothing like family.
Certainly nothing like the family Jenkins. Cedric agreed that the
assessment that the dynamic between he and Mr. Lawrence in Mr. Lee's film is
like playing the dozens without playing the dozens, except "it's not like I'm
doing 'you're mama' jokes," Cedric observed.
Speaking of mamas, for audiences it is more than likely that they will recognize
a family member of their own in the Jenkins family. After all, as they say
in the trade, there's always one.
Many social commentators and critics will point
to some characters in recent comedic films featuring black actors as cartoons or
lampooning stereotypes, the kind that the 2000 film "Bamboozled" rails against.
For example, director Tim Story received criticism from the NAACP for example
for "Barbershop" about the character Cedric played and what he says about Rosa
Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King in the film. (Incidentally, on at least
one occasion Cedric has hosted the NAACP Image Awards, typically held in March.)
While it is safe to say that Cedric himself doesn't agree with what his
character said in "Barbershop", he noted that like all actors he tries to find
the humanity and reality in the roles he plays, whether likable or not. "I
think that's very important. I like to try and find that in my characters,
something that you know, that's very real about them that people can say, 'yes,
I believe that can happen, I can see that happening,'" said the comedian.
Martin Lawrence as Roscoe Jenkins and Cedric
The Entertainer as Clyde, RJ's cousin, sibling rivals in "Welcome Home Roscoe
Jenkins", directed by Malcolm D. Lee. (Photo: David Lee/Universal
The actor has become so adept at cultivating lively and authentic characters
over the years, that a filmgoer could be guilty of taking Cedric for granted in
every film. He had an action role of sorts last year in the comedy film
"The Cleaner", where he played a school janitor moonlighting as a James
Bond-spy-type alongside Lucy Liu and Nicollette Sheridan. He also featured
as the deep Barry White baritone-voiced radio disk jockey The Nighthawk in Kasi
Lemmons' "Talk To Me", with Don Cheadle, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Taraji P. Henson.
Despite the entertainment factor of The Entertainer, acting and being ready to
rock and roll at a moment's notice is something that the comedian and
humanitarian doesn't take for granted, and the acting process is not an
auto-pilot exercise. Cedric's approach to building a character is not a
profile in rote by any means. His strategy is clear and defined.
"When you first get the script you try to analyze the character that they want
you to play. You look at the character to see who he is, what's his
significance in the film, and you know, a lot of times does he live or die or
make it to the end, and then from there you know, it's like trying to take that
and make it human, so basically it has something that's written on a piece of
paper and then you have to at least allocate, who is this human being, who is
this person, and do I have something in me that can pull it out and turn him
into something where people can identify with him? . . , the humanity in him, so
that's one of the key things that I try to look at in the roles that I choose,"
Having played a diverse string of characters has any of them taught the man who
plays them anything? Have any of them taught Cedric The Entertainer to be
a better person when he isn't busy entertaining audiences the world over?
Referring to the senior member of the "Barbershop" crowd, Cedric said: "I think
that . . . playing the old man . . . who basically took the attitude of because
he was older he was free enough to say what he meant and meant what he said, and
I think while playing a character like that you get to be so free with what it
is that you're thinking that . . . you're so unapologetic and you believe in
something and you believe it's real and you're true to it, that he's
unapologetic about saying it. He's unapologetic about, you know, having a
stance, taking a stance. And I think that . . . I've become stronger in
this direction in my whole life since playing that character, but of course
you've got to be really aware of not being disrespectful to anybody in
particular, but if you're very strongly convicted about something and you
believe it, then stand on it. Say it. And don't back down. And
I think that that's important, so that would be one of the characters that I got
a chance to play that would be able to represent that."
Cedric also pointed to the music producer character he played in the film "Be
Cool". "It was something about that character that says like 'we have all
of these many kind of personalities inside of us, and it's about being a little
bit of everything that we are that makes us really whole, not suppressing so
many aspects of our personality just so we can be socially acceptable. So
I thought that that was kind of interesting," Cedric revealed.
Next up on the big screen for Cedric is "Cadillac Records", about Chess Records.
He added that the film is about a legendary record label that had signed rock
and roll legends and pioneers such as Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina Turner and blues
singers like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.
"I play a real-life character a person who existed named Willie Dixon, who was
one of the great songwriters of many of those songs for Chuck Berry and Bo
Diddley and Howlin' Wolf, and who was one of the first guys who was able to keep
and hold his own publishing so that he ended up being a very smart guy at the
end of his life, being able to have a lot of control over some of the music that
he had done, so that made him a bright guy. I look forward to playing that
(role)," Cedric mentioned.
Also coming up is a film Cedric has already completed called "The Nightwatchman"*,
which stars Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker. That film will be opening
later in the spring, said The Entertainer, who keeps on moving, and like
McFadden and Whitehead once sang, there ain't no stopping him now.
"Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" opens on February 8 in the U.S. and Canada.
The film is released in North America by Universal Pictures. The film
stars Martin Lawrence, Cedric The Entertainer, Joy Bryant, Mo'Nique, Michael
Clarke Duncan, Mike Epps, Margaret Avery and James Earl Jones.
*Note: The Nightwatchman has now been given a new title: "Street Kings".
Related: Welcome Home, Margaret Avery
Related: The Joy and Sunshine of Bianca
Copyright The Popcorn Reel. PopcornReel.com. 2008. All rights