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Gabourey Sidibe Talks Tower Heist

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Tower Heist
An Interview with Gabourey Sidibe

By Wilson Morales

November 4, 2011

Coming out this week is the latest film from Brett Ratner, the comedy caper film, ‘Tower Heist,’ that includes an all-star cast with Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Gabourey Sidibe, Matthew Broderick, Michael Pena, Casey Affleck, and Alan Alda.

When a group of hard working guys find out they’ve fallen victim to a wealthy business man’s Ponzi scheme, they conspire to rob his high-rise residence.

For Sidibe, this is her first film since her Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in Lee Daniels’s film, ‘Precious: Based on the Novel by Sapphire.’ Since the nomination, the Brooklyn, NY native has hosted SNL, and is currently starring opposite Laura Linney in the Showtime series ‘The Big C.’

In speaking with Blackfilm.com, Sidibe talks about playing a Jamaican, working with Eddie Murphy, and her next film, ‘Yelling to the Sky.’

Can you talk about playing Odessa?

Gabourey Sidibe: The story’s about a group of people who work in a high rise Manhattan apartment building and the richest guy there is like a Bernie Madoff character where he takes their pension and embezzles it. He’s soulless and these people have worked for years to make that and now they are about to storm the castle so they can steal the money back from him. I play a Jamaican maid names Odessa who is also a safecracker.

When you first read that you would play in a Jamaican in the script, did you immediately practice on the accent?

GS: No, she was written as a Jamaican and I didn’t want to do the accent but Brett Ratner, our director, thought it was funny. I was worried that it was too funny like in an SNL skit. I wanted it to be correct and not piss off any actual Jamaicans. So, they hired a dialect coach, which was great. But I was still afraid to do that.

Do you have any Jamaican friends?

GS: My best friend is Jamaican and although she was born in the Bronx, both her parents were born in Jamaica. Her mom is like a second mom to me and I tried my best to use her accent. My best friend would go over it with me and make sure I would say certain words correctly. I would talk to her everyday while I was on set and also with the dialect coach.

This is your first big film since ‘Precious,’ and I’m assuming your were offered other roles since then, so what the attraction that led you to say yes to this film?

GS: The convincing thing was being able to crack a safe and getting a gun. It’s sounds a little crazy and I’m not gun crazy but there’s something very powerful about a gun as a weapon; and being the only girl in on this heist, I thought it would really cool to do.

Although you’ve hosted SNL (Saturday Night Live) before, but when you’re working opposite two heavy duty comedians in Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, did you think you could bring in your own funny bones to the mix?

GS: I think I’m funny, by myself. I think I’m a funny person and my mom thinks I’m funny but the biggest test of whether or not you are funny is being in a scene with Eddie Murphy. Hosted SNL was a big test too, but there’s something about being with Eddie that made it more of a stressful process. I was trying to look like I fit in and not ruin the movie.

How was shooting the scene with Eddie where he gets flirtatious with you?

GS: That was really fun. That was the only scene in the film that was completely improv. It’s the scene where I’m teaching him how to unlock a safe and I thought it would be part of a montage, but Brett Ratner whispered in my ear before we started shooting and said, “work with him.” So, everything you saw was made up and that’s working with Eddie Murphy.

How was shooting the film in NY?

GS: It was a lot of fun. I live in New York so I didn’t have to travel and that was good.

From the films you’ve done so far, what have you learned as an actress?

GS: I certainly have gained more confidence with each film that I do. I’m always asked if this person give me any pointers or did that person give me any tips, and the answer is no. No one gives me any tips. I’m certainly not mad at that. I get to work with people that I look up to and admire. They trust me to do my job and that only makes me stronger.

You have another film, ‘Yelling to the Sky,’ coming out next year. Was that shot before ‘Precious?’

GS: No, I shot ‘Yelling to the Sky’ a few weeks before ‘Precious’ was released. I play a bully named Latonya where I beat people up and I drink. Just bad girl things.

Having done a few indie films and now a big budget film like ‘Heist,’ have you noticed the difference?

GS: The big difference is money. When you do an indie, there’s no money because there’s no studio behind you. For indie films, you’re hoping a studio picks it up. With a big budget film, you already know when it’s coming out before it’s done shooting and you also know that it will get some studio push, which is always good. It’s more of a gamble to do an independent film.

How’s working on ‘The Big C’?

GS: It’s going great. We just got picked up for a third season, which is amazing. I’m a really big fan of that show, and we’re all really excited. We’re probably start shooting early next year.

What sort of films are being thrown at you that either you have said no to or piqued your interest?

GS: Right now, I’m really interested in psycho-dramas. I’ve always been interested in watching films like that and I like thrillers. I want to figure out who the killer is and the things like that. There’s a project coming up that I get to be involved in things like that. There’s another dark comedy that I get to be a part of. I can’t mention their names yet because I haven’t started shooting them. I also just shot a video with Foster to the People and it’s a 3D video, which is really fun. That should be out in December.


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