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January 2008
An Interview with Martin Lawrence

An Interview with Martin Lawrence
By Wilson Morales

January 14, 2008

Sometime back in May of ’07, I got a chance to visit the set of Martin Lawrence’s latest film, ‘Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins’, which is being directed by Malcolm Lee (The Best Man). Filming was being done in the town of Shreveport, Louisiana, which is like the new Hollywood since so many films are now being shot here. The cast of the film also includes Margaret Avery, Michael Clarke Duncan, James Earl Jones, Nicole Ari Parker, Joy Bryant Cedric the Entertainer, Martin Lawrence, Louis C.K., Marty,
Mike Epps, & Mo'nique.

Leading an all-star comedy cast, Martin Lawrence is talk-show sensation RJ Stevens, who left behind his modest Southern upbringing and family name to transform into a self-help guru dispensing his "Team of Me" philosophy to millions of adoring fans. With a reality-TV-star fiancée and money to burn, there's no piece of the Hollywood dream RJ hasn't achieved.

In the scene that I, along with journalists, saw filmed was the kitchen scene all hell brakes loose when a fight ensues between Martin and Cedric the Entertainment. In speaking with Mr. Lawrence regarding the film, he talks about working with James Earl Jones, doing stand-up shows, and the sequel to ‘Wild Hogs’.

What led you to take on this project?

Martin Lawrence: I thought it was a funny script. Malcolm Lee is one hell of a director. I think you will hear big things from him. He’s passionate about his work and we had a dinner and we hit if off. It just seemed right.

Did you get to ad-lib on the script to make it work for you?

ML: Yeah, but as long as it’s not forced. If it makes sense to what we are doing then it’s fun. That’s where you can find magic sometimes.

What’s it like to work with James Earl Jones?

ML: An honor. He’s a legend. He’s somebody who paved the way for us and just really excited to be able to work with him. He’s a good dude, good man, good spirit and he makes you step your level up.

Have you had a chance to talk with him about advice or anything else?

ML: Not really. Not too many. I would compliment him and he would give a compliment right back. I’d be on cloud nine the rest of the day just because I got a compliment from Mr. Jones.

Were there any particular challenges to doing this film?

ML: What was so special about this was that there were no challenges. To have fun with the project that I really believe in; and work with a director that I really wanted to work with and a cast that I really wanted to work with and just make everything mesh and come along. I didn’t have to be going through something in my personal life or something on set to get to a point. all I had to do was bring a blessed spirit and I felt that it was given back.

With so comedians on board in this film, will we see back on the comedy circuit?

ML: I never say never, but I have to have something to say and after ‘Runteldat’, I can’t just follow that film with anything. I have to have something that’s meaningful that my audience is used to getting from me. If it happens and pans out that I’m able to come up with something, I’d love to hit that stage again.

Have you thought about going out on the road and doing something like the ‘Kings of Comedy’?

ML: Well, I haven’t thought about that, but you never say never. You never know what time presents, and if it’s right, and right to do. I don’t know at this point.

At anytime when you were adlib with the rest of the guys on the first, did you make up rules about not copying each other’s jokes?

ML: Nah. I’ve been doing it long enough, so I understand what it’s like to run in my lane, and if you throw a left hand, I know when to throw a right hand. I’m over the days of having to vie for position or anything like that. I love to watch comedians do their thing. If they are going for theirs, then I support them. If they come up with something funny and it works, hopefully it stays in the film.

A lot of comedians are starting to dramatic film like Eddie Murphy in ‘Dreamgirls’ and Mike Epps in ‘Talk to Me’. Do you see yourself doing this genre and do you just to stick to the comedy routine?

ML: I don’t get offered serious roles. Maybe they are afraid. It’s always comedies or things like that. You might see me in a movie or two where I have some shade of dramatic scenes, but for the most part, I don’t get that. If the right one came along, I won’t just do anything. If it’s something I can bring some credit to, and it has substance and is meaningful, it will be something that will make you go, ‘Dam!’ and maybe I’ll take it on.

I did like shooting in Shreveport, Louisiana?

ML: Shreveport has been wonderful to me. The people are nice, and respectful. I would shoot here anytime.

Can you talk about the project you had on Starz network?

ML: Yeah. It’s an opportunity for comedians. I lent my name to it for awareness. It’s for people to come out and see some comics that they normally wouldn’t see. I watched them go for theirs. It’s sort of like the Russell Simmons show.

As a comedian, is it hard to get someone to make you laugh?

ML: No. I love to laugh.

Is there an up and comedian or several comedians that you can say to watch out for?

ML: Be on the lookout for (Mike) Epps. Very funny. There are a number of people. Mike Epps is probably one of my favorites.

Why don’t you do more stand up?

ML: Well, ‘Runteldat’ was pretty big for me. It was something strong. I got to my story. I don’t like to force comedy so I don’t thirst for the road just because it’s there. If I have something to say and I have something to bring to the audience, then fine. Everyone that pays a dollar to see Martin, I want to leave them with something special. They’ll know that they got a part of me and that they didn’t waste their time or money. I’m not going to just go out and do something if it’s not there. I could probably go on tour anytime I want, but comedy material takes time to write funny stuff.

What do you expect to see with ‘Wild Hogs 2’?

ML: I was very happy with the success of ‘Wild Hogs’ Those are my partners, John (Travolta) and Tim (Allen) and Bill Macy. I look forward to hooking up with them again in part 2. I don’t know where they take the characters. I really look forward to doing that again.

WELCOME HOME ROSCOE JENKINS opens on February 8,2008


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