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February 2008
An Interview with Kym Whitley


An Interview with Kym Whitley
By Wilson Morales

March 3rd, 2008

Mostly known for her sassy wit displayed on numerous films and TV sitcoms such as ‘My Wife and Kids,’ ‘The Parkers’ and ‘The Boondocks,’ as well as guest shots on ‘Reno 911,’ ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ ‘Married with Children,’ an Emmy®-nominated episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’, Kym Whitley is no stranger to comedy. She can jive with the best of them, but with her latest film, she’s trying something new. She’s playing it ‘straight’ opposite Martin Lawrence and Raven-Symoné in ‘College Road Trip’.

In the Disney family comedy, "College Road Trip," Melanie (Raven-Symoné) is eagerly looking forward to her first big step towards independence when she plans a "girls only" road trip to check out prospective universities. But when her overbearing police chief father (Martin Lawrence) insists on escorting her instead, she soon finds her dream trip has turned into a hilarious nightmare adventure full of comical misfortune and turmoil.

In speaking exclusively with blackfilm.com, Ms. Whitley discussing working with Martin Lawrence and Raven-Symoné, her own college plans, and her upcoming films and projects.

What role do you play in the film?

Kym Whitley: I play Raven-Symoné’s mom and Martin Lawrence’s wife, which is wonderful, great and fun.

Having worked on ‘Martin’ and ‘That’s So Raven’, you’re the bridge between both leads. How did you cast in the film?

KW: That’s a very interesting story. Robert Lawrence, who’s Martin’s brother, and Martin had a meeting with Disney and a couple of executives. They didn’t want the film to be traditional and said, ‘What about Kym Whitley?’ I know that they were fighting for me because Disney had a couple of people they wanted, but these guys fought for me. It does lend itself that I’m not one of the ten size 2 models girls and that’s what made it really nice. I told Martin thanks for getting the real mother, the woman that America sees and stepping out the box. He agreed and was excited about that.

Well, Raven-Symoné is no size 2 either, so you just can’t get a woman that size to play her mom.

KW: Absolutely! That’s what people were saying. ‘Oh my God, you and Raven could really be mother and daughter’. A lot of times in these films the families don’t look believable. This looks to be real, and we have a little boy. I saw the movie and the movie looks very good. I’m not a skinny and Raven is small, but she’s not really thin. That’s how it came up. Martin and I are peers and it’s nice to work with people that you know, and with Raven, I’ve known her since she was a little girl, and to see her go off to college, the movie is real to me. I felt love for the two of them, and that’s what really made it a great part for me.

So, how was it to work again with the two of them on set?

KW:When I played on ‘Martin’, it wasn’t a big role, but it was fun then, and Martin was in the sitcom world. Working with Martin is working with a different Martin. He’s mature. He’s not crazy all over the place. He’s settled in his role. He’s focused. He comes on to the set and he’s very quiet and very polite, but when he’s in action, he turns into a comedy beast. You’re just like ‘Wow’. I see his energy and he’s on point and I see a growth in a grown man who has honed his craft and is comfortable in life. That was one thing that was great in working with him again. In working with Raven-Symoné, she reminds me of myself. She’s really crazy, all over the place, loves physical comedy, and I’ve known her, so to be able to work with her, hug her, lover her like I do in real life, was fun. With both of those actors, you gotta bring it. Those are people that challenge you. It’s a little competition and you have to be good in your scene. When they know their lines, I can’t be lackadaisical. Even if it was a drama or anything else, this is something you don’t take lightly.

Most folks recognize you as a comedian/ actress. Were you able to add your own wit to this film?

KW: A little bit. I was more of the straight person, the go-between Raven and Martin. I did get to have some sass in there but I know this film is for the kids. I did have another scene which I thought was funny but it was cut because the movie was too long. I think I needed to play something different, a loving wife and a loving mother.

Is this good for your career?

KW: I do think that this will take me to another level; maybe playing more mothers on screen as opposed to the prostitute or the sexy girl, or the wild crazy girl. I think it will open up doors to me being more dramatic or something else. That’s what I think it will do.

This film is about a girl and what to go away for college. You came from Shaker Heights, Ohio to Fisk University in Nashville. How was it for you when you had to go away?

KW: For me, it was different. My parents had already filled out my application, just like Martin’s character, and they knew where I was going. There was no ifs, ands, or buts. ‘You are going to college and this is where you are going’ and that was that. They dropped me off and four years later, they picked me up. It wasn’t a difficult, just part of life. I knew I was going to college.

What about prior to that? Did you road trip to check out colleges?

KW: No. My brothers did that for me. They had already picked my college when I was a little girl. It wasn’t even a question. The road tripping would have been fun but they knew I might have picked something else and probably thought I lost my mind. I also knew that I would end up in Hollywood, with or without a degree. I would also like to say that the director and the producers of the film made it easy to work on this film. They were all very creative and not just stuffy people.

What was the fun part of doing this film?

KW: The fun part of this film was working with Raven and Martin. One thing I learned on this film that I haven’t learned on another set was that Martin Lawrence says ‘please’ and ‘Thank You’ to every single people on that set. Even with his staff, his crew, his team around him, like his best friend, who’s his right hand man, Martin would say ‘Would you please get me some water?’ or ‘Thank you, very much’. He is unbelievably polite and that makes me look at myself and how I deal with people on and off the set. That’s one thing I absolutely learned.

With as much work that you have done, on TV and films, do you think you have reached a high point in your career?

KW: No, I have not reached that pinnacle. It is still a struggle. I get offers, but I still have to audition. I’m not completely satisfied. We still have to create things for African American women. Just like Tyler Perry is doing it, we can’t wait for things to happen; you have to go and make and create roles and go to people. I just did a voice over for ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ for the syndication. They are going to put it out again, and I was thinking, ‘Hey, maybe I need to call Larry David to get back on’. We have to reach out and create our own destiny. You have to do standup. You have to do plays or do you own one-woman show. It feels like I’m in a swimming pool and I am constantly trying to stay above water. Sometimes I feel like I’m slipping and you try to come up for air, and that’s how it is when looking for the next role. When you have passion and persistence, it is something that you can not help. It’s like a drug.

What do you have coming next?

KW: I just did a film called ‘Group Sex’ with Greg Grunberg from ‘Heroes’ and Larry Trilling. They wrote and directed it. It has Tom Arnold and Henry Winkler and it’s a comedy. I’m also about to do a film with Vivica Fox. It’s called ‘Sisters’. It's about a group of girls who are basically successful women but find themselves hating on the white girl, and it turns out that we are the perpetrators and instigating this whole black-white thing. It’s a comedy. I would sum it as black women and dating. It’s directed by David Silberg. I’m going on tour with David Arnold called ‘He said, She Said’ and I still have my comedy club in Los Angeles with Buddy Lewis, every Wednesday night.

Why should anyone see ‘College Road Trip’?

KW: ‘College Road Trip’ is colorless. It’s not a black film. It’s not a white film. It could be anybody in this family. It’s a movie that fathers and daughters are going to love. It’s a bonding film. It’s like ‘Shrek’. There’s fun for the kids and there’s fun for the adults. It’s rated G and good family fun and will make you laugh.



COLLEGE ROAD TRIP opens on March 3rd, 2008


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