Joy Bryant has a couple of mean tricks up her sleeve in this funny family outing
In the new family comedy Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Joy Bryant plays the villainous ex- Survivor star Bianca Kittles. She is engaged to popular television personality Roscoe Jenkins (Martin Lawrence) and has formed a strong alliance with both him and his son. When they attend the Jenkins' family reunion, she finds herself being ditched in favor of Roscoe's longtime schoolyard crush Lucinda, played by Nicole Ari Parker. A battle of the wills breaks out between the two rival sweethearts and all-out chaos ensues.
There may have also been a bit of bickering off set as well. Word is that Bryant stayed in character during her down time. She disagrees with that notion, raising a suspicious eyebrow to the inquiry, "I don't think I stayed in character. Are some people saying I was a bitch? Are they saying that? Really? If I am staying in character, then I must be a bitch, huh? No, I don't think I was necessarily in character the entire time." Did she enjoy playing the villain this time out, though? "Totally. Who doesn't? It is awesome. It was such a pleasure to play that character. This is my first comedy, and just to be in a movie like this is a real treat. Having this type of character made me really needy. It was fun to create that person, and to play that person."
In the film, she goes up against some of today's biggest names in comedy. Along with Martin Lawrence, she appears alongside Mike Epps, Cedric the Entertainer, and Mo'Nique. Joy confessed to being nervous at first, "Before I got to Louisiana, I was like, 'Oh, my God! I am really working with all of these people.' These are all guys that I have watched, and laughed with, and I have really enjoyed their stand-up for a long time. It's like, 'What am I going to do?' I had to really focus myself, because this wasn't about me going in there and being funny. If I tried to be funny, I would fall flat. I had to play that character straight. I don't think she is a caricature. I had to make her as real as possible."
Bryant explained her seemingly villainous behavior with a little more clarity, "Even though certain people might think she is a bitch, she doesn't think that of herself. Everyone has their own motivation and reasons for doing certain things. You might not agree with their methods, but they believe in who they are and what they are doing. Everyone else is wrong and they are right. It is there world and you are seriously leasing space."
The young actress found herself adjusting to the situation with great ease, "Again, once I focused on what I needed to do, I found that everyone was really cool. I just needed to be prepared and relaxed enough to let it go. I needed to be flexible enough for the comedians. They need to riff and go off and jazz. I improvised as well, but that is there thing. I had to maintain and make sure I was in a place where I could focus on what I was doing, but also be able to open up and take in all of the stuff they were doing that is not on the page."
The hardest part about playing the role of Survivor alumni Bianca? Joy says, "Trying not to break character and crack up laughing. My character doesn't see humor in the things they do, but I do. So it is hard when you have Mike Epps being so funny. He is crazy. It is hard to do a scene with him and not laugh out loud. On the same note, I didn't want to get fired."
She continued, saying, "I wouldn't say Mike was the most out of control person on set. He is just crazy. And just awesome. He is so funny. He would keep me laughing. I would be sitting in the chair, watching from the other room because it wasn't my scene, and he would have me cracking up. They would yell cut, and there would be a little break, or whatever. And he would come over and try to crack me up. I'm sitting over there by craft services, and he would come over and crack me up. He was always entertaining. He is so funny. But everyone on this film was."
Did she learn any pointers from the comedians? "No, I never really heard them talking about stand-up. I think the key to being successful with this type of stuff is being relaxed. So that you can do what you are there to do. You have to handle what is being thrown at you. You can't improvise if you are tense. Or thinking too much. You have to really let it go. They had so much freedom, and they weren't afraid. If you are nervous, you won't be able to do it. They are used to jokes falling flat. It doesn't mean that you are a bad person. You just move on. The professionalism of everyone was crazy. Like Mo'Nique. She was just phenomenal. Her work, I said, 'Wow!' And just her spirit. How cool and funny she was. It was really uplifting."
Playing a former winner on a reality based competition show brought Bryant a lot of extra homework on set. She delved into the world of reality television and tried to learn everything about it that she could, "A friend of mine has a brother that was on Survivor. I actually got to talk with him about it one night. Briefly. We were going to link up but it never happened. So I just watched a lot of Survivor. I never really watched the show from beginning to end before this. Everyone knows the premise of it. As a fan, I got all of the Survivor tapes and I watched them as far as I could get. I watch a lot of TV, so that is a good thing. But I also read about it. There is a lot of literature out there about reality shows."
The actress was quite excited about one piece of literature on the subject, "There is this book I found that is so genius, but I eventually lost it. It is called The Reality Show Handbook. It basically gives you a step-by-step tutorial on how to deal with being on a reality show. It didn't talk about specific shows, but it talked about the different genres. And how to behave when you are on certain shows. I read about how they have all of these psychologists on the shows. This was basically my homework. That plus my imagination. It was awesome."
Joy loved getting to work with director Malcolm Lee, "The stars were aligned. We had a great director, great writing, and a great cast. It was on. And Lee was so supportive of everyone. Especially with me. This was my first go at a comedic film. He really made himself available to me if I had questions or doubts about anything. He just allowed everyone to play. He laid out all the right cards. That was so great. He was such a positive force on set. I would love to work with him again. He is so talented. I am excited that he gave me this chance."
What is next for the beautiful young actress? She says, simply, "I am going to Fiji. And I am going to listen to Faith No More. I love that band. I love listening to Epic while I snow board."
You can catch Joy Bryant in Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins when it opens nation wide February 8th, 2008.