MY BABY'S DADDY An Interview with Anthony Anderson
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By Wilson Morales
MY BABY'S DADDY
If there’s anyone in this business who has elevated his game and is worth watching on the big screen, it’s Anthony Anderson. It’s been a long time since I last saw him on Saturday mornings with the teen hit show Hang Time, and he’s one of the few guys from those morning programs who has been able to bring his audience everywhere he’s gone. The only other guy I can think of is Mark Paul Gosselaar, who played Zack on Saved By The Bell, and is currently on NYPD Blue. Anderson quickly made an impression as the sidekick in Life, Exit Wounds, & Two Can Play That Game. Last year was his biggest year to date as he starred in the successful Kangaroo Jack, appeared with DMX in Cradle 2 the Grave, appeared with Blair Underwood in Malibu’s Most Wanted and had a television show, All About the Anderson, which is loosely based on his life. As 2004 begins, Anderson is ready once again to make a dent in the box office with a new comedy. Paired along with Eddie Griffin and Michael Imperioli (of The Sopranos), Anderson stars as G, a boxer who has to adjust to fatherhood in Cheryl Dunye’s film, My Baby’s Daddy. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Anderson talks about how black fathers are looked upon on the big screen and what he wanted to add to his character.
With the lack of positive black fathers on the big screen, were you looking to do show something different?
AA: No, next question. (Laughs) No, we just set out, with Eddie and his partner Damon “Coke” Williams, to make a fun, lighthearted comedy. That’s what it was about in response to your first statement about the press making comments that black men are not strong role models. Obviously they’re not watching All About the Anderson’s on the WB. Just because a father is missing in the household doesn’t mean he’s not a strong black father or doesn’t have a presence in that child’s life. It just means that he’s not with the mother of his child. I think that’s not only a black issue, but an issue across the board. Offhand I can’t think of any film where there was a white father who wasn’t deemed strong in his household. Those films have been made too.
I’m assuming the white father was thrown in the film for some crossover appeal?
AA: Yes, but he has two black friends so that doesn’t really count. He’s also Italian and that’s half-black. Just because Robin Williams dressed up as a woman and came in the house in Mrs. Doubtfire, did that made him a great father? That made him a cross dressing transsexual to me, but the media doesn’t talk about that.
WM: Is there any particular scene that you thought was the best scene you shot?
GK: That’s a very funny question. I think the best thing I shot is the next think I will shoot. Not to think that I’ve already shot it. The scene that I liked a lot is when the kids are in the streets and the water is surfing on the water from the rain. Those are kids, and the music is everywhere, and the kids coming running from the streets and just belly whop and they don’t have boards, or skates, or anything, but themselves. They all go zooming down this water. That’s life. I didn’t set that up. I didn’t tell them to do it. I turned around the corner and there they are. When they saw me shooting it, they loved that. That is the youth.
Who’s more intimidating, Method Man or Michael Imperioli?
AA: (Laughs) Wow, neither one, they’re both puppies. We had a lot of fun. No on is really intimidating. Eddie’s crazy anyway, we can talk about that.
Being a strong father is supposed to be the main message, but there were some scenes that may not have been believable like Paula Jai Parker’s character hooking up with a nerd. What can you say about that?
AA: She might have good stuff. You might have good stuff. I’m sure there’s a nerd somewhere in your neighborhood sniffing behind you. If you got good cookie, then you got good cookie. I think they’re just all stereotypes of life. There are mothers out there like that in the inner city. We may have pressed the envelope with certain characters, but I believe it was a very true depiction of what can go on with relationships in the inner city, with some people. The story is really the transformation of us from boys to man, the dichotomy of our relationships between our women, ourselves, and then our children. It’s really life lessons about how we grow now that we are responsible for people. I think that’s what the message is. I think each character had a nice arc and had a nice journey.
Everything’s coming together for you on the big screen. At this time last year, Kangaroo Jack came out and did very well at the box office. Did you think the film was going to do well knowing its release date was at a time when “bad films” come out in January?
AA: You know what, Jerry O’ Connell and I both did. It’s wild because we talked to Bruckheimer and his staff once the movie was done what they thought our opening weekend would be. They came in with some really low numbers and I looked at them like they were crazy. We just spent 5 and 1⁄2 months in the Australian outback and that’s all that you expect. Everyone knew the work that was involved with it. I’ve been doing this too long and worked too hard on this project for that to be acceptable for me, even though the numbers they were coming in with were respectable in general. How can you expect 18 million dollars from something like this? We opened with close to 30 or something like that. That’s the number I saw and that’s the number I told them. Going through the process, Jerry O’ Connell was like, Anthony, this is going to be big. There was an instance when we were working at the end of the film and we come up to the kangaroo. We’re not working with live animals; it’s tennis balls for CGI stuff. He knew at that moment. He compared it to an ET moment when the finger lit up with the little girl and I got it. That’s when we both knew we were working on something big. And it was well received.
Where do you want to take your career because with Kangaroo Jack, this film, the TV show, and Cody Bank 2, a lot of it seems to be family oriented?
AA: I wouldn’t mind taking my career there. But I want to do things across the board. Make R rated films and go back to do PG stuff. I’m an R kind of cat, but that limits your market and the marketability of a film. That cuts off almost half of the viewing public. It’s great to sit back with my wife and children and watch my films from beginning to end, without having to fast forward. It’s good doing films that are appropriate for a 7 or a 3-year-old. It’s also good making films that my family and I can sit back and enjoy it, but it’s good on the flipside making a Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, and Cradle 2 the Grave. I don’t want to limit myself. I believe by making films like that you’re cultivating the next generation of your audience. That younger generation is growing with me and my career, it’s built in. There is a method to the madness in my game.
Do you think at this point of the game it’s wise to reinforce stereotypes?
AA: I don’t think it’s important to reinforce stereotypes, but these are just facts of life. It’s not like people go out to make movies that some people might deem inappropriate. Why should we be ashamed of who we are as a whole, white, black, Asian, brown green. We all know or have a crackhead in our family. We all know of a mother that has four children and no father in the house. We all know somebody who steals. Those are the realities of life. These are just the characters that are depicted in the film. The film doesn’t hinge on these stereotypes. They’re just added flavor to the film, often times we overlook all the positives to zero in on a negativity stereotype. When in actuality it was based on something, someone was the prototype. Its not like we just picked it out of the air and just focused on that. That’s the reality that they live in and that’s what this story is about.
For some reason, there’s always a debate about rappers and actors and how rappers take most of the parts from thespians out there trying to find parts. In most of your films, you have worked with numerous rappers, so what’s your take on the matter?
AA: As long as they respect the art, as long as they respect what we do, then I’m all for it. I do understand the logic behind it from the studio and producers of certain genres of films that they put rappers in. I may not agree with. Just because someone sells 5 or 6 million albums doesn’t mean the same people or going to see that film or that person act because that’s not what they’re buying. I don’t have a problem with it as long as they respect what I do. I live, eat, and breathe this. This is what my energy was created to do, entertain, to have an effect on people’s lives with my work. If I’m working with someone they need to understand that and respect this art form, because I’m not going to sit back and let you bastardize it. I’ve called out some of these rappers, some of the cats that I’ve worked with, even other actors. I take this seriously.
Do you think you could do a rap album?
AA: (Laughs) How do you think I would be perceived if all of a sudden I did make a rap album or became a singer? I would be criticized; they’d be like what they hell are you doing. I’d say you’re dancing in my world let me dance in yours. Let me see what I can do. But to each his own, we should be able to do what we feel and what we want and be successful. Unfortunately that’s not going to be the case for everyone.
What was it like making out with Bai Ling and how much do you improv in your scenes?
AA: (Laughs) Bai Ling is a freak I’m saying that right now. I improv as much as I can. When you’re getting me in a project, that’s one of the things you have to be aware of. That’s what I bring with my characters. As long as it’s within reason and the scope of the characters, my directors always let me do what I do.
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