Nicole Ari Parker reveals her secrets behind keeping up with this ensemble cast of comedy legends!
The new comedy Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins finds actress Nicole Ari Parker caught in a competitive struggle between on-screen cousins Martin Lawrence and Cedric The Entertainer. She plays Lucinda, the schoolyard crush of Lawrence's successful TV personality Roscoe Jenkins. Back in high school, little Roscoe lost a bet to his cousin Clyde (Uncle Ceddy) that saw him having to forfeit a date with Lucinda. Some years later while attending a family reunion, the very successful and engaged Jenkins finds that he still has feelings for his old hometown sweetheart. Before bread can be broken at the first family dinner, he once again finds himself engaged in a competition with his cousin to win her heart and her hand in marriage.
I recently caught up with some of the cast members from Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. The first person I talked to was Nicole Ari Parker, the green-eyed beauty of such hit films as Boogie Nights, Remember the Titans, and King's Ransom. I wanted to know about one of her earlier projects. Back in 1999, she starred with Martin Lawrence in the film Blue Streak. A lot has changed for Lawrence since that time. I wanted to know how big a difference it was working with him then as compared to now.
Funny thing is, neither She nor Lawrence remembers meeting each other on that set. As she tells it, he didn't even know she was in the film. Parker states, "I don't think Blue Streak counts. This time I really got to know him. I saw him work. He is so graceful, and elegant, and punctual. It was a pleasure to see his professionalism at work. This wasn't the Martin you heard about on the news. He wasn't the wild man of the past. But he did keep the set alive with his jokes. He kept everyone motivated. He was a professional actor."
Martin has expressed an eagerness to return to his roots with this film. He has surrounded himself with some of the biggest names in comedy, including Cedric the Entertainer, Mo'Nique, and Mike Epps. Throughout the course of this hilarious backyard romp, Lawrence finds himself getting beat-up by his peers. I asked Nicole if she felt this was an underlying metaphor for the way Lawrence has been treated in the past. She thinks it has a lot to do with it, "Yeah, I am sure it is. It is kind of a metaphor we all go through in life. You scream, 'I am working so hard and no one understands me!' It's that moment of self-realization that you go through. Like, 'Whoa! It is all on me.' Then you shape up and make the best of your life. His peers do beat him up, but they manage to beat some sense into him."
What was it like getting to work with some of Lawrence's peers? They are hands down some of the biggest names in the stand-up comedy circuit. "It was just so funny. Every day had me falling over laughing. Food would come flying out of my mouth. I'd have to run to the bathroom. I'd have to check my pants afterwards." As most of the cast will tell you, Mike Epps was the hardest guy to keep up with, "I think director Malcolm Lee started shooting with him first thing in the morning. But five hours later, Malcolm was still trying to get the original line out of him. After awhile, he switched it up. He had Mike doing all of his scenes near the last part of the day. With comedians, you have to respect their style. There is nothing you can do. These are the people that you hired. Mo'Nique is Mo'Nique. And Cedric is Cedric. Mike is Mike. There is nothing you can do about it."
Did Nicole get to do a lot of improving on set? Not the way she tells it, "I had to keep on my toes. Malcolm looked to me and my character as someone that could reel them in. It was my job to keep them on the page. Since I was the straight man, I was the one that would get that look on set. It was on my shoulders. I had to throw the cues. I had to tell them that it was the part where everyone starts eating." Sometimes, it was a hard job for her, "I was a little jealous because I wanted to have some jokes. Cedric would tell me, 'Babe, your time is coming. Don't worry. Next film.' Maybe they will do a sequel to this, and Lucinda just goes buck wild."
I wanted Nicole to clear something up for me. In the PG-13 rated film, we are treated to a vary gratuitous sex scene between a large golden retriever mix and a small Pomeranian. After the scene is over, Martin is carrying the tiny white dog home, and it looks to have a suspicious substance on its stomach. I ask if it is supposed to be blood. Parker turned up her nose, "I think it is just the orange dirt. The mud of Louisiana. No, I don't think there was blood on the dog. Was there? I don't know about that. There were very serious dog trainers there that took care of those dogs. I don't even think they would put blood on the dog. That would have been too much. I don't remember. Well, maybe...Gosh! Everything was orange down in that part of Louisiana. I hope it wasn't blood. I really don't know."
Quickly changing the subject, I asked her about the very funny outdoor barbeque scenes her and her co-stars had to struggle through, "I think that took three days to shoot. The first day the food was really good, because you see the caterers bringing it in. And you can't wait to eat some of it. Six hours into the shoot, the potato salad is still sitting there. The props people are fanning the flies off of it between takes." At one point, Mike Epps picks up a giant congealed blob of potato salad, "That's how it looked at the end of the day. It wasn't very appetizing."
Has Parker ever found herself in a similar situation as to what her character Lucinda goes through in the film? Has she ever had two guys competing for her at the same time, "Um, no. It was fun to play that girl. To be the one that two guys fought over old fashion style. I have always played serious, tough, dramatic women. It was nice to play the nice childhood sweetheart kind of role for a change." What about having to acclimate herself into someone else's family? "Yeah, I had to do that with my husband's family, actually. He is half-German. Everyone is German. To go over there and not speak any German, and to have all that food being passed around. I had folks asking me if I liked Wiener schnitzel. I asked if they had chicken schnitzel. I eventually made my way around there. The chicken Schnitzel is not real Schnitzel, though. They think that is basically silliness. There is some that is made out of pork, and some that is made out of veal."
During the last scene of the film, Cedric's character breaks down and starts crying in front of his entire family. How does she feel about men that cry in public? Parker states, "I think I like it when a man cries. I just don't want to see it. My husband got a little choked up at the Michael Jordan Celebrity Golf Tournament that we went to earlier this month in the Bahamas. He got rained out. He came home kicking dirt. His nose was a little red. I don't know if he was a little cold. But he was playing, and on the last day, they got rained out. This was at the height of the day. At the ninth hole, there was this huge tropical storm. He didn't get to go back and finish that game. They cancelled it. There was no winner. Nothing. It was full on tears. Yeah. Men and sports. I think there is some kind of weird emotional chamber there that gets locked up. With the football and basketball, and the championships? It opens that door, and all the water comes rushing out." She claims she even saw Michael Clark Duncan cry on set, "He actually cried on my shoulder one day in the hot sweaty sun. I had big huge Michael Clark Duncan asking me to comfort him. I'm not sure about what. But I remember his head on my bosom. And tears coming down his face. He was fully crying."
Her final thoughts on the film? "I really wanted to play Lucinda. I really wanted to bring to life the nice girl. And I got that chance. She is pretty nice. Sweet as pie. I enjoyed the experience."
We will have more with the cast of Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins in the next couple of days. The film opens February 8th, 2008.