It struck me as a bit strange and fun that three of the four leads in the remake of ABOUT LAST NIGHT worked together in movies both before and after the Steve Pink-directed relationship comedy/drama was released. Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy and Regina Hall all starred in the surprise 2012 hit THINK LIKE A MAN, as well as its upcoming sequel to be released this June. Along with Joy Bryant, the four actors play two couples in search of a relationship they can make work. It's a remake and update of the 1986 Edward Zwick film, starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, but this version has been transplanted from Chicago to Los Angeles, thus the dating scenes seem quite different and modern.
Ealy is a long-recognized gifted actor who is really just now coming into his own as a leading man after getting noticed as an ensemble player in such films as KISSING JESSICA STEIN, the BARBERSHOP films, BAD COMPANY, Spike Lee's MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA, Tyler Perry's FOR COLORED GIRLS, and as Morgan Freeman's son in last year's LAST VEGAS, as well as the aforementioned THINK LIKE A MAN. He's also outstanding and sly as the android police officer opposite Karl Urban in the J.J. Abrams/Bryan Burk-produced Fox series "Almost Human."
Hall is a versatile character actor whose first screen credit was the 1999 hit THE BEST MAN, which was given a sequel (THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY) and was a massive hit with audiences. She followed that up with four entries in the SCARY MOVIE franchise, a long run on "Ally McBeal," LAW ABIDING CITIZEN, THE HONEYMOONERS, DEATH AT A FUNERAL, and the film that binds us all, THINK LIKE A MAN and the upcoming sequel THINK LIKE A MAN TOO.
They are each paired with other people in ABOUT LAST NIGHT, but they were a great, amusing team when I spoke with them together a couple of weeks ago in Chicago. While waiting for Hall, Ealy and I had a chance to chat about "Almost Human" (which we also did during the interview), so please enjoy my chat with Michael Ealy and Regina Hall…
Capone: You’ve both done your fair share of sequels over the years, but a remake is a little different, because in some cases you might be treading on some people's memories of another movie. Why was this the right time to make this movie, and are the issues even the same as back in the '80s?
Michael Ealy: One, I feel like this is more of a contemporary adaptation of the play, as opposed to a remake of the 1986 film, I really do. I feel like Edward Zwick brought all the sensibilities of the '80s at that time in 1986 and really, really nailed it. A bit melodramatic for me, but nailed it at that time. I feel like what Steve has done with this film is contemporize the environment a little bit in terms of it being 2014. You’ve got cell phones, Facebook, Debbie and I are sending selfies to each other. Stuff like that. That’s what’s going on now.
Regina Hall: I think those kind of scenes of love are timeless.
ME: Timeless. It’s falling in and out of love. It’s so easy. It’s really easy, if you think about it, to fall in love. Staying there is the hard part.
RH: Yeah, especially if the connection is there, and you’re talking about two couples who have that initial attraction and then, you’re right, the work that it takes is the tough part.
ME: To stay.
RH: The work within yourself too, and then between the two people.
ME: And if you haven’t done that work, i.e. Danny. If you haven’t done that work on yourself, it manifests itself in other ways.
Capone: Was there something about these versions of the characters that you latched onto and said, "I can work with that and build on that"?
RH: Yeah, definitely. I liked Joan. She was different than something that I played. I liked that she was irreverent but responsible, free yet she still was a professional. I felt like she was passionate, but also level headed. I felt like she was a lot of things and a lot of me.
ME: "Level headed" I wouldn't use.
RH: [laughs] Well, level headed with Debbie.
ME: Yes, a good friend.
RH: And a lot of times as a woman, you have really great advice to give, but you’re not so level headed in your own relationship.
Capone: It’s not just women.
ME: Do as I say, not as I do.
RH: Yeah, exactly.
Capone: It’s fun that you two and Kevin have all made these three movies almost right in a row. Does it feel like you're in an acting troop now, getting to work with each other again and again? Is that kind of fun to be able to keep coming back?
RH: Well, when you really think about it--[to Ealy] and I think you touched on this before when you talked about how many times Matt Damon and George Clooney have worked together--there are groups of people who do this. But for us, I thought it was really fun. There’s a trust that you build and a respect that you have for one another’s work from the onset, but you become friends or friendly on set, and that has to be a really trusting atmosphere. It allows you freedom to work and not feel judged. I think it makes a difference. You feel very comfortable to explore, and it’s fun to watch somebody do something different from one movie to another. It’s fun for me to watch him be different in this movie, then another movie, and have a different connection and a different relationship.
ME: I’m going to jump out on a limb--and hopefully I don’t offend you when I say this--I remember reading the script and thinking...When you say working with each other and getting to know each other, this is how much you don’t know. I’m going to explain to you how much you don’t know. I thought Regina would have been a better Debbie, and Joy would have been a better Joan.
RH: Oh wow. I never knew this. See, this is good about doing press together.
ME: And that’s my whole point, that’s what so great about working together again and again is you’re proven wrong if you have like a theory like that. The first time I saw Regina’s work in this movie, I was like, “Holy shit. Fuck. Yeah, I was wrong. Wow, I was wrong. Oh my god, I was so wrong.” And it was wonderful to discover that because the work that she put in this character was, what’s the word I’m looking for? Counterintuitive, so to speak, to the Regina that I know, because my interpretation of Joan was a little bit different than what she did, which I thought was even better to see. I read Joan almost a bit more--you know how Joy is, she's a little more tomboy-ish, you know what I mean?
RH: Yeah, and I can totally see why you'd see that.
ME: Joy is not the most vulnerable girl in the world.
Capone: She’s tough.
ME: Joy’s a tough girl. She’s from the Bronx; she’s a tough girl. But Joy nailed the vulnerability, and Regina nailed the volatility of Joan.
Capone: It’s funny you said that because I would not have guessed that Joy would have been able to keep up with Kevin. Joy, your comedic abilities are proven without a doubt, and there are very few people--men or women--who can match what Kevin is doing in scene after scene. I can’t even think of movies off the top of my head where there has been a woman that has been asked to match him, but you're right there. There's so much energy. No offense to Joy, because she’s great as Debbie, but I don’t know that she could have done that in quite the same way.
ME: Who knows. But you're right, Regina and Kevin is a heavyweight fight for the ages. It really was, and I feel like what I’ve learned with Kevin is I’d rather work with him than against him. If I try to out-funny Kevin, I’m working against him. And I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I'll be Chris Paul, and he’s Blake Griffin. I throw it up there, and he slams it home, you know what I mean? With our dynamic, somebody’s always got to be the straight guy, and there are scenes when Kevin’s got to be the straight guy. But we work on that kind of stuff.
Capone: You’ve been in some of the funniest movies I have seen, but they almost always want you to be the straight guy. Is there like a key to pulling it back a little, other than not laughing at what everybody else is doing?
ME: Well, in those same movies, I’ve also worked with great comedians. In BARBERSHOP, I had Cedric the Entertainer. At that time, just throw something at Ced, and he would come up with something genius. And the same thing applies with Kevin. He’s just on fire right now and you have to feed that and not be insecure about what you are and what your lane is.
Capone: Regina, tell me about just in those scenes with you and Kevin, where you’re really just blow-for-blow matching him. Is that exhausting?
RH: It’s not. You know what, it’s actually really fun for us. You don’t know what chemistry you’re going to have. Kevin and I in THINK LIKE A MAN never really worked together. I don't think Kevin and I ever had any scenes of dialogue together ,minus the end where we’re all just looking at him.
Capone: It’s all these group scenes.
RH: Yeah yeah, it’s group scenes. I think Kevin and I have done six or seven movies. We were in DEATH AND A FUNERAL, he was in two SCARY MOVIEs, but I never worked with Kevin, so this is the first time we actually got to work with each other and be in the same movie. We didn’t even know what our chemistry was going to be. So, when we got on set when it started, we were like blown away and thrilled. So for us, it was fun. It was just instinctive, and I think we have a similar sensibility. Kevin’s different, you know what I mean? I can’t be Kevin.
ME: Yeah, you’re Regina. That’s what makes it so dope.
RH: And within the couple of Bernie and Joan, their dynamic works because they're both crass a little bit.
Capone: I hadn’t noticed.
RH: [laughs] So yes, it makes sense when he says they get each other.
ME: They are picture perfect for each other. Whether they know it or not, they are made for each other, and it’s weird because it’s not like you guys complement each other. Usually in a relationship, you complement the other person. It’s weird to see it. I can’t even say you guys are complementing each other because you guys are so the same. You’re so similar.
RH: Yeah, it’s one of those things where it can be smooth and then go wrong at any second. It’s like, don’t say the wrong thing please.
ME: Yeah, don’t fuck this up. Don’t fuck this up.
Capone: I was about to say, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the play done, but I don't remember Jim Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins in any way sexual.
RH: Oh no, they weren’t together in ABOUT LAST NIGHT. There was just one moment where I think it was alluded to that maybe at the end they might date, but it never got to that, which is why it was so fun in this one that you have these two couples. I love that Kevin and I meet and then as soon as they meet, there are fireworks. It’s these two couples, best friends, one-night stands, totally different relationships. You totally see why they work, and why they don’t. You see the problems in both, the plus and minuses in both.
Capone: I thought I read somewhere that this was a fairly tight shoot. Is that right?
ME: I think it was two months.
RH: Yeah, it was two months. But we had to do certain scenes quickly, because Kevin had to leave and go do that small movie RIDE ALONG.
ME: [laughs] Yes, yes. He turned around in 48 hours.
RH: Yes, yes. I mean, it was a lot to do in a short amount of time, but it wasn’t a month.
ME: I got the script like maybe three or four months before we started shooting. Yeah, we had plenty of prep time, but once we started shooting, we were rolling.
Capone: The film is not a romantic comedy as defined by today's standards. It’s a drama with some laughs in it. It’s a romance that deals with issues about commitment.
RH: A romantic dramedy.
ME: I think it’s a relationship movie, it’s more than a romantic comedy. It’s more of a relationship movie, and that's what I enjoyed about it because we dealt with the complexities of the relationship--the good and the bad. It’s about timing.
RH: Isn’t timing 90 percent of it?
ME: Timing is just so important, and Danny’s maturity, or lack thereof rather, is a big flaw for him. Debbie’s got her shit together, and he knows that, but that also reminds him of his ex. So, his baggage comes out. He’s a relationship guy, but when his job situation falls apart, that just carries over to the relationship.
RH: And what about the moment when he comes home to after the job situation, and he just isn’t mature enough to realize that, yes, the pregnancy test was false, but you can’t show that much elation. You can’t be like, “Whew, we’ve got two things to celebrate.”
ME: But you know what? I think there’s a little trepidation about it, but I think for him to quit his job, that was a big big decision. It was a big thing for him, and at that age, he thought he conquered the world. He really did. He thought he conquered the world, and guys make that fucking mistake all the time.
RH: And listen, she had sex with him really quick.
ME: Yeah, guys will make that mistake all the time. “You’re not pregnant, right? Ugh.” It’s just a gut reaction because you just got out of 18 years of being trapped just now. So it’s like, “Thank god.” I mean, not that bad.
Capone: I did appreciate that you all left the "a whole drawer?" scene almost word for word. When you start to move in with somebody, that's how it starts. That’s a classic.
ME: But that’s the way Danny approached this whole relationship. My choice was to make it like, "I’m going to live in the moment man. I’m not going to overthink it. I’m just going to live in the moment and be." And that was his thing. When the time comes, they say, “Are you coming back tomorrow?" "Yeah/" "And the next night after that? And the next night?" "Yeah." "So why don’t you leave some stuff?” There’s not a lot of thought into it. Then she starts fucking with him, so he says, "You know what? Alright. Boom. You’re in, you're in." And most guys are probably like this, “What are you doing?”
RH: Yeah, like Bernie, who was like, “No. That’s fucking stupid.” Me and my friends were debating afterwards like, “I think he was really upset when she bought the table.” And I was like, “I didn’t think he was upset when she bought the table, I think he was annoyed when she kept saying stop leaving glasses on the table because the table became a reminder of order and structure that he didn’t have to have.” And we were like, “I think it was the table. I think she should have asked him before she bought the table.” I said, “The table made it a home.”
ME: He loved the table.
RH: Yeah, he loved the table. It’s just that the table became a “Honey, could you put the coasters on the table?” The table was supposed to just be a beer table that he could hang out with.
Capone: The story has always in the past been set in Chicago. Is there anything uniquely L.A. about the way these stories play out? Is it different?
RH: It is. It’s uniquely downtown L.A., which is the new L.A.
ME: That hasn’t really been captured much unless you’re watching something that’s noir. That’s when you see downtown L.A., the old downtown L.A. But other than that, this contemporary downtown L.A., I don't think anybody’s really shot it like we have, I really don't. I can’t think of a movie where they explored downtown, because you never saw the beach. You never saw Santa Monica, you never saw Hollywood, you never saw Pasadena; every single thing was in downtown Los Angeles.
Capone: Is there something uniquely L.A. about the attitudes about dating and relationships?
ME: Well, one of the things that I observed was that it’s L.A., and there are no actors in the movie.
Capone: That’s true. They have regular jobs.
ME: There is a small contingency of people in L.A. who have nothing to do with the business. That’s something I think gets overlooked a lot. She’s a dentist; I’m in restaurant supply. Who the fuck does that in L.A.? Somebody.
RH: And yet somebody must.
Capone: Yeah, they can’t all be actors. I have to ask you about your TV show. I love "Almost Human." When we were talking before about how you always get stuck playing the straight guy, that show might be the funniest thing you’ve ever done. They let you be funnier.
ME: Really? Thank you.
Capone: Have you got some makeup on your face that makes you look...
RH: Perfect? [everybody laughs]
Capone: …not shiny. I'm afraid of insulting you if that's just your natural complextion.
ME: Washed out?
Capone: A little bit, yeah.
RH: A glow, dewy?
Capone: Almost plastic. Do they put something on?
ME: I will tell my makeup artist that you said that because that is exactly what she was going for.
Capone: That's what it is, right?
ME: Yeah, there’s gotta be an element of synthetic skin that she was trying to capture, and so he is very washed out. I go through makeup on most shows and movies in about 15 minutes tops. On this show, it’s like 35 to 40, because they’ve gotta put a prosthetic piece here, and then she’s just got to blow me out so I’m totally even all the way around, and it creates that effect that you’re talking about. So, I’m glad you noticed that actually.
Capone: I was afraid I was insulting you by asking you that.
ME: No, no. I’m a machine.
Capone: Since J.J. Abrams is one of the producers, does that mean you’re secretly in line for the STAR WARS movies that he’s making?
RH: Yes. Absolutely. J.J., I’m saying that. Do you hear me, J.J.? Absolutely. [laughs]
ME: I wouldn’t take anything for granted. J.J. Abrams is a great guy, and who knows, but I doubt it, but who knows. It’s good to work for Bad Robot.
Capone: You have THINK LIKE A MAN TOO coming out later in the year. What’s going to be different about that? I assume there are a lot of things in Steve [Harvey]’s book that you can pull from for story ideas.
RH: This was balls-out fun.
ME: Balls-out fun, and it’s original. The book has nothing to do with this one.
ME: This one is about these couples that you’ve gotten to know and grown to like and love, now you’re going to go see them have fun all together. We were just talking about this: What I love most about this film is the girls have their own movie. The girls and the guys, we get together and then we split up. Guys go one way; girls go the other. So there’s two movies going on. The guys are doing their thing, the girls are doing their thing, and then they intersect. And the girls might be a little more raunchy than we are, which I didn’t think was possible.
Capone: Thank you both so much. It was really great to meet you.