BALLS OF FURY: An Interview with Aisha Tyler
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BALLS OF FURY
August 27, 2007
As an actor, it’s great to get film work and have one film come out in theaters, followed by another film a few months later. It’s another thing when two or more projects that you have done will come out during the same time period. Such is the case with Aisha Tyler, who has two films coming out during the same weekend, and each focusing on different genre with the comedic ‘Balls of Fury’ and the thriller ‘Death Sentence’. Tyler, who came into acting while doing ‘Talk Soup’, has done plenty of TV work, ranging from her stint on Friends, to a recurring role on TV’s 24, to regular role on ‘Ghost Whisper’. Now, she’s ready to hit the film world and non-stop with another role down the road and a directing gig lined up. In speaking exclusively with blackfilm.com, Tyler talks about her role in ‘Balls of Fury’, ‘Death Sentence’, and her role in ‘Black Water Transit’ with Lawrence Fishbure.
Talk to me about the character you play in ‘Balls of Fury’ and why you chose to take the role?
Aisha Tyler: The part I play in “Balls of Fury” is this character called Mahogany and this movie plays homage to a number of fan favorites like Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon, kung fu and blaxploitation films of the ‘70s. She’s this Grace Jones-esque assassin and the bodyguard of Feng, who’s this crime overlord and gun dealer played by Christopher Walken; and the movie is set in the underground world of competitive ping pong and all of them battle to the death. So if someone loses a match, my job is to assassinate them.
I took the job because Tom (Lennon) and Ben (Garant) asked me to do the movie and I knew them from Reno 911 and they’re incredibly funny guys and I talked to them and just thought that it would be a really funny movie. It’s a fun movie to make and everyone in the film were good at what they do and they understand comedy really well and it was a fun film to shoot.
How was it working with Christopher Walken?
AT: It was amazing. It was everything you could imagine and more. He’s a legend and just to be that close to someone who is so legendary as an actor was just fascinating and not only that, but he’s extraordinary funny and an incredible improviser and he’s also very generous. We built these scenes together, which was so exciting. I would come home every night and tell my husband stuff like, ‘Chris did this’ or ‘Chris did that’ and my husband would be like, ‘Are you kidding? You called him Chris?’ and I was like, ‘Yep, me and Chris are like that!’ Chris will tell stories about doing theater in New York when he was young and he would do a Marlon Brando impression. He just has this sense of humor and also very kind and a real gentleman and it was just so much fun.
Can you talk about the different sets of wardrobe throughout the film?
AT: Yes. It was a custom-made wardrobe that they built for me. We had a bunch of sittings to do it and extraordinary funny wearing lots of leather, plastic and baby powder, but it was cool. She’s supposed to be this iconic character and the way she’s described is that she’s this seven foot tall assassin and I’m barely six feet tall so we had to add the extra twelve inches with shoes and hair. I had spent 45 minutes to put the pile of hair on me and to walk right was like walking with a bowl of water on your head, but it was incredibly fun and I wanted to do these crazy nails for my character. These long, long black nails that have Chinese characters on them.
Did you get to keep the wardrobe since they were custom made for you?
AT: No, I did not keep any of the wardrobe. It’s not practical to take these clothes home with you. It’s not like I will be watering the garden or making biscuits in these outfits. I’m sure it will end up on Ebay or something.
Outside of your days on Talk Soup, we haven’t seen you display so much comedic skills on films. Was this your chance to display your funny bones for all to see?
AT: After Talk Soup, I did (the TV Show) Friends, which was a great comedic run, but you’re right, I’ve been doing more drama, which has been fantastic for me and I was really excited to sink my teeth back into comedy and do something that was big and broad and fun and something I can stretch myself as a comedian and do the physical comedy as well as dialogue doing comedy in the film and it was so much fun because I have this film coming out which is really big and broad and comedic and then I have a really dark thriller coming out on the same weekend, so it will be great to so my range as an actor and it’s always nice to show people that you have versatility.
Speaking of your next film, let’s talk about your role in ‘Death Sentence’.
AT: ‘Death Sentence’ is a very dark, intense revenge thriller starring Kevin Bacon and I play a homicide detective named Detective Wallis and Kevin’s character loses his son in a violent way and my character has a lot of sympathy for him and is initially empathetic and supportive of what he’s going through and slowly realizes that he may be breaking the law and taking it in own hands. My character is torn between her compassion for his character and her obligation to the law. It’s directed by James Wan, who created the SAW franchise, and he made this film very edgy, intense and people were talking about it and holding their breathes for the entire 90 minutes. The action in the film is so intense and so real. It’s a movie on how violence doesn’t solve problems and how an eye for an eye leaves the world blind. It’s a thinking man’s Death Wish. It’s very intelligent and very thoughtful and really fun to watch.
And working with Kevin Bacon?
AT: He’s unbelievable. This is the guy who made movies since I was a teenager. He’s just a very down to earth laid back guy. We were living in South Carolina and making this movie and he was just down there with everyone hanging at the bar, playing the guitar and giving people rides around town. He’s just a very real guy.
What are your feelings towards the system? Do you always believe in it?
AT: I believe in the essence of the system and the nature of it. I don’t think it works because the system is just as fallible as human beings that are running at any one time. I think everyone always has a natural inclination toward the feeling that when watching a news segment about some crime, you always think about catching the criminals and beating the crap out of them. We all have that impulse. That’s a natural human impulse. At the same time, I do believe that the reason we have a legal system is to protect all of us, the innocent and our humanity.
You also have another film where you again play a detective in ‘Black Water Transit’ opposite Lawrence Fishburne. What’s the story about? What’s your role in the film?
AT: That was extraordinary. We shot that movie in New Orleans. It’s just a smart elegant movie about people struggling to get out a situation in which they feel trapped in some way and set in the aftermath of Katrina and I play a homicide detective in this movie, who grew up in New Orleans, and loves New Orleans, and is watching her city be destroyed and is very emotionally affected by that and is torn because she arrested Lawrence’s character’s son and put him in jail and they have this odd emotional bond because of it.
How was working with Lawrence Fishburne?
Lawrence is a legend and the first day I came in, I got to listen to him tell stories about doing ‘Apocalypse Now’ with Francis Ford Coppola and to me, that was worth doing the entire film. To stand behind Lawrence and let him let loose, I was just trying to keep up with him. He’s incredible. Karl Urban from ‘The Bourne Supremacy’ is also in it. People will be surprised by his performance, and Britney Snow from ‘Hairspray’. It’s just a really cool cast of people. I loved New Orleans. It’s my third movie there. I love the South. My assistant is from there and I met him on my first movie there and he’s been with me now for several years and grew up there and he felt good to come back and visit his old stomping grounds.
Now that you are doing more films, what sort of films are you looking to do?
AT: I just want to stretch. It’s important for me to play strong women, interesting women, inspiring women that offer diversity. As an African American woman, I want to choose roles that I can be proud of.
What are you looking to do next?
AT: Well, I wrote a movie that I will be directing in January, and we’re in the middle of prepping that movie now. I have a title for the film but it’s going to change. It’s an action thriller. Part of the cast is put together. I’m in it and we’re casting the lead role now.
How tough is it to tell folks what films to watch – ‘Death Sentence’ or ‘Balls of Fury’?
AT: I cannot tell them to see one or the other. Go see ‘Balls of Fury’ on Wednesday and then ‘Death Sentence’ on Friday. If you love going to the movies, then you can go see a very intense thriller as well as a comedy. There are 2 days in a weekend. ‘Death Sentence’ is incredibly smart and will get you going with the action. Kevin does an amazing job and James Wan has created a hard core film. ‘Balls of Fury’ is flat out fun with George Lopez, Christopher Walken, Maggie Q. and the film is non-stop laughter.
Will you be back on TV any time soon?
AT: You will and you won’t. I just did an guest episode on ‘Reno 911’ and also on an episode of the Boondocks, which will come out this Fall. I will be animated on the Boondocks but you can see me in real-life on Reno 911 and I’m working in developing a television show for next season.
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