Bernie Mac switching gears for the comedian opposite Terrence Howard in the film.
He's the Mac daddy of comedy, one of the Original Kings of Comedy; but in his latest film, Pride, you see a completely different side to Bernie Mac - the man brings the drama.
He plays the head of a run-down YMCA in inner-city Philadelphia; that is, until Terrence Howard comes in and rejuvinizes the center with the help of his hope and determination. Terrence portrays the real-life hero Jim Ellis in the film, who took that building and the kids around it, and gave them a home and something to focus on - swimming.
Bernie spoke candidly about switching back to drama, a genre he started his career in, and collaborating with Terrence on Pride:
This film gave you a chance to get back to your roots with the drama aspect.
Bernie Mac: Dramatic was easy; a lot of people don't know I started dramatic. Comedy is something you all know I can do; I've introduced myself with comedy and once you've introduced yourself as something that's where people keep you. That's where people like to hold you. But Miss Hunter in 4th grade started me in drama; that's where I first started doing plays. I took a page out of my Big Mama and my mother's notebook - don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. So that works in my favor; when you all see me in that light or an individual in that light, I love to hear you all say, 'Wow, I didn't know he could do that.' And for actors and stuff, ballplayers, they sometimes when they want to do other things and the media or the critics don't let them, they get frustrated; you shouldn't get frustrated because that goes with the territory. For example, it's an honor when people see you and without you saying a word just starts laughing and smiling. One person I know had that and that was Richard Pryor - and Richard Pryor in Lady Sings the Blues did an excellent job. Every time he came on the screen everybody was laughing; he was tight afterwards, 'Man, I did good I wasn't trying to be funny and I learned from that.' I remember when he said that and I said don't get mad Richard, they love you. You know what I'm saying? That's a compliment. But I realize the frustration on people's parts when they want to do something outside of what everybody else sees them. All you do as a performer is keep doing it; if you keep doing it and then it depends on why you're doing it. If you're doing something for superficial monumental reasons and if you're doing it for female attention, or if you're doing it money, it's like being upset. Only way you can you get upset is when you expecting something. If you don't yet this award or don't get that award that because you expect something. If you get mad at John or Jill or Jack you expect something - I've been knowing him for 30 years. Well, you gotta pay for it? Do you understand my point? Drama is something I can do man, I got chops, but you just have to always, always, every time you get the opportunity, that's what this life - life ain't' no dress rehearsal. Every time it comes, every time that light comes on or every time that camera comes on, every time that microphone comes on the Mac Man seek and destroy.
Is your character based on a real person?
Bernie Mac: Kind of, sorta; I came up in the community center. I used to be physical director of the South Central Community Center in Chicago on 83rd. It's still there; I've played at that Y and the Southtown Y. I grew up in the gym; I was a gym rat and I had Mr. Hill, Mr. Butler, Mr. Stevens those were Elston's. Those was the guys that were in my head besides my mother and my grandmother. Those were the individuals that were in my head pushing they were my councilor, my guidance teachers, my lawyers they defended me, they sat and talked to my parents and told them how and what I was doing, how I was improving, you know my boxing Mr. Hill when I was boxing and stuff, those were Elston's. So having experience as a physical director dealing with the black kids dealing with the single home mostly female parents, tying to get sponsors to help sponsor the kids, the kids don't like swimming, the black kids don't like swimming. Golf, tennis, track, gymnastics because those sports are put on the back burner, plus in my day they were sissy sports. Black kids, the minority kids feel there is no instant financial gain in those sports. But those are the most hardest working dedicated focused sports. Look at the build on a swimmer; look at the build on a gymnastics. They have the best build in the world. It takes every muscle in your doggone body to swim and water you're dealing with an element that is so under-rated. Water, man like Bruce Lee said it's as strong as mammal water is un-estimated. Water put out fire, water sterilizes you know, water drown, water tear brick and swimming is something that you know a lot of people just don't know. I got introduced into swimming by watching Bridges in the Sea Hunt. I always wanted to scuba dive; I used to scuba dive undercover. See, my imagination is this large you know. They wanted to put me in the hospital years ago, you know there's something wrong with my brother, something is wrong with him. I used to do voices and stuff like that and now I scuba. I swim all my life and boxing and sports, I never ran track and I never played tennis but volley ball, I played volley ball, you know, baseball, basketball, football. I kept chalk in my pocket. We used to play strike out. People used to holler at me 'Bernie Mac don't write on my wall' I'm not going to write on your wall. But I would draw that square on the wall. The playground used to be filled when I was coming up. Playgrounds are so empty now but my point is those sports are put on the back burner. I think those sports should be forced in the schools. We had the swim naked in high school because it was unsanitary to swim with trunks. Class after class you couldn't wear swim trunks, so we had to swim naked - that's where that line came from; we had to swim naked.
Do you ad lib a lot in this or was most of it on the page?
Bernie Mac: I only ad lib when Sunu (Gonera) told me to Bernie Mac it; I try to do and stay. I'm very disciplined and I'm a fan of respect - Sunu, a first time director, I didn't want to go all off the page and everything. But when Sunu instructed me he said, 'Bernie I need something right there; give me Bernie Mac,' that's when I did. We took a take the way Sunu wanted it and Sunu if he had a note for me I did it what Sunu's note described to me and then when Bernie Mac, I put the Mac Man on it.
Take a look at the Mac Man in action - in an amazing dramatic turn in Pride; it's in theaters now.