The “Insidious: Chapter 3” Interview
with Kam Williams
Shaye at Play!
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Lin Shaye loved storytelling for as long as she could remember and knew that she was destined to act. She performed in many plays in college at the University of Michigan, and then moved to New York City when she was accepted into Columbia University’s Master of Fine Arts program. Remaining in NYC after graduation, she further honed her skills with celebrated stage directors like Joseph Papp and Des McAnuff, appearing in such productions as Tartuffe, at the New York Shakespeare Festival, as well as in The Tempest and The Taking of Miss Janie.
She made her film debut in 1975 in Hester Street, which was shot on location in Manhattan, and featured Carol Kane in an Oscar-nominated performance. But when Jack Nicholson cast Lin in Goin’ South, she relocated from New York to L.A. Her other early films included The Long Riders, Brewster’s Millions and Extreme Prejudice, all directed by Walter Hill. In 1982, she and a dozen fellow thespians formed a theater company called the Los Angeles Theater Unit, which produced only new plays over the course of its decade-long existence. She earned her a Dramalogue Award for Best Actress for her work in the troupe’s staging of Better Days. The Farrelly Brothers recognized Lin's extraordinary talent and cast her in a series of memorable roles in their films, among them Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin and, perhaps most memorably, as the overly-tanned neighbor in There’s Something About Mary. Her other notable comedic roles include the KISS-hating fanatic mother in Detroit Rock City and the head of the Bikini Tanning Team in Boat Trip. Lin has almost 200 screen credits to her name, including Snakes on a Plane, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ouija, The Hillside Strangler, My Sister’s Keeper, The Signal and Corrina, Corrina. Here, she talks about reprising the role of Elise Rainier, the heroine of Insidious: Chapter 3, in the latest installment of that vaunted fright franchise.
Kam Williams: Hi Lin, I'm honored to have this opportunity to speak with you.
Lin Shaye: Well, thanks, Kam, and vice versa.
KW: What was it like being directed by your co-star Leigh Whannell this go-round in what amounted to his directorial debut?
LS: He was a fantastic director. We were both a little nervous when we started filming, because you always are, even if you're a veteran actor or director. But we obviously had already forged a wonderful friendship and relationship making the first two films together. Leigh, being a performer himself, had a different directorial style from James [Wan] who is more of a cinephile. Leigh's was more emotional and more informational, since he'd created the characters as well. So, he probably knows more about Elise than anybody, although he said, “No, I don't,” when I tried to tell him that. [Laughs] But making the film with him was wonderful, because he could step into the shoes of any of the characters, if necessary. He was also open to anything you had to say, and there was never a sour word out of his mouth, even at the end of a 17-hour day. He was just amazing! And you know, when you're the director, everybody on set wants something from you. Leigh handled it like a true prince.
KW: How would describe this third chapter of Insidious, as a prequel?
LS: It's basically an origins story. You don't have to have seen the first two to understand this film at all. In fact, it works quite the opposite. After you've seen this film, it informs you about the history of the next two. Seeing Insidious 1 and 2 after this episode makes more sense, because now you'll know where Elise started. In a weird way, this is really the first film in the series.
KW: How were the new cast members?
LS: Stefanie Scott and Dermot Mulroney were wonderful to work with. They were both very supportive and totally present in terms of making the scenes work. I can't say enough good things about them. Dermot is a very skilled actor who's aware of everything that's going on around him. He's not just about “Me! Me! Me!” Dermot was a true friend to all of us. And Stefanie was only 17 at the time of the shoot, but she was totally professional.
KW: How do you like the final cut?
LS: The film is so scary, and in ways people are not going to expect. It's got some emotional elements in it that I think are going to hit people in a very strong way.
KW: What’s the key to creating a memorable character, as you’ve done again and again, whether in Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something about Mary, Dead End, Kingpin, Detroit Rock City or Snakes on a Plane.
LS: Wow, you know all my good ones, Kam. [Laughs] I don't know the answer. I hope I'm a good storyteller. I think very carefully about the details of my characters. I've studied with the best: Stella Adler, Uta Hagen, Lee Strasberg, and I'm a member of The Actor's Studio. I mean, I've really studied my craft over all these years. And I'm still learning. If you ever think you've stopped learning, you've stopped living in my opinion. The details that I look for in each character is what makes them memorable. The first read of a script is always very exciting to me because you get an imprint that you never get again of the material and of your character. I'm very consistent about looking for the details that make the character work on a personal basis and also in terms of storytelling. So, thank you. I'm glad you find them to be memorable. I want them to be.
KW: You just made me think of Quentin Tarantino, because he's the only director who sends me the script instead of letting me see his movie before I interview him.
LS: Oh, that's fabulous! I didn't know that. That way, you see the narrative and the stage directions. Wow! That's a very rich way of expressing himself to you other than what you will see on camera.
KW: You’ve also been asked to play a number of older and unflattering characters. Does that call for a special talent, especially as a female to be willing to go there? In real life, I’ve noticed that on Halloween, women very, very rarely want to make themselves look older or less attractive.
LS: Again, it kind of goes to character. I look in the mirror and I see what I see. And then I don't look in the mirror because I don't want to see what I see. [LOL]
KW: You're a very pleasant and attractive woman in real life, but they've asked you to play some rather repulsive characters at times.
LS: The exciting part for me is that I have a slightly transformational quality. But I try to not look at my characters. Instead, I just try to be them. You do the looking, and you do the definition. I can only tell you what I'm feeling from the inside. And then, whatever I look like, that's what I look like. That's the truth of the character. I have no vanity about it. I really don't. In real life I have vanity of sorts, and sometimes see myself from the outside in. I'll look in the mirror and go, “Look what just happened,” or “This outfit makes me look ridiculous.” [Laughs] But as an artist, I always want to see myself from the inside out.
KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What did you see as the main challenge in playing Elise Reiner this go-round?
LS: That's a great question, Patricia. The main challenge was investigating the darkest side of her. It's a very emotional and a very frightened side. People like to think of Elise as strong. But I cried a lot making this movie. I got in touch with a lot of sadness and a lot of fear. That's why I believe audiences are going to experience it in the scariest way yet. It's a very scary film.
KW: Patricia also asks:What is the secret to your enduring career?
LS: Probably the love of my craft. I love what I do. I'm not ambitious, but I'm obsessed with my work.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
LS: People don't know that I like to watch boxing, even though I don't really know anything about it. What I like about boxing, and about sports, in general, is the psychology of what makes the athletes who they are.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
LS: I don't know if this is too much information, but I remember standing up in my crib and feeling embarrassed about my wet diaper because I thought my mother and a friend of hers were laughing at me. Isn't that crazy? [LOL] I asked my mother about it when I got older, and learned they were really just laughing about something the two of them were talking about. When you have a secret memory like that, and you open it up to the person it's about, it often triggers a discussion about things that are important. In this case, it led to really important exchange with my mom about appreciation of each other. She told me how much she loved me when I was little and how she would never have made fun of me as I had suspected all those years. So, all those early memories are really important, even though as little kids, we're sometimes tempted to discard stuff for different reasons.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
LS: I'm embarrassed to have to admit that I mostly read scripts. But the last book I read was a collection of poems by e.e. cummings. He used to be my favorite in college because his poems were so beautiful and whimsical, which I like to believe is part of my soul.
KW: Lastly, what’s in your wallet?
LS: About 25 cents. And I took my driver's license because I know I'm going to need it when I travel.
KW: Thanks again for the time, Lin, and best of luck with the film.
LS: Thank you for the lovely interview, Kam. I appreciate it.
To see a trailer for Insidious: Chapter 3, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DNXUvHm-S8
The “And the Good News Is…” Interview
with Kam Williams
Dana Marie Perino was born in Evanston, Wyoming on May 9, 1972, where she grew up herding cattle at the crack of dawn on a cattle ranch. In college, she moonlighted as a country music DJ while majoring in Mass Communications. And after graduating from Colorado State University-Pueblo, she went on to earn a Master’s in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Dana made history as the first Republican female to serve as White House Press Secretary. After seven years in the George W. Bush administration, she was recruited by the Fox News Network to co-host a new show, The Five, which has become one of the most highly-rated programs on cable TV.
Christians in word and deed, Dana and her husband, Peter, devote considerable time to philanthropy causes, traveling to Africa on numerous occasions to volunteer with charities ranging from Living Hope to Mercy Ships. The former is a faith-based organization working with AIDS victims, while the latter is a state-of-the-art floating hospital which sails down the Congo River to bring free medical care to desperate people living is some of the poorest countries in the world.
Here, she talks about her life and career, including the time spent as President Bush’s official spokesperson.
Kam Williams: Hi Dana, thanks for the interview. How are you?
Dana Perino: I’m pretty good, thank you.
KW:You know, I feel like I already know you, from seeing you on The Five everyday.
DP: That’s one of the favorite things I hear a lot on the book tour. I think that’s a huge compliment to The Five.
KW: Even though I’m very liberal, I still enjoy the show, especially because you and Greg Gutfeld aren’t predictable in terms of your political stances.
DP: I know what you mean. Bill Shine, an executive at Fox, once said, “Who would’ve ever thought that it’d be Dana Perino always defending the unions and the TSA?”
KW: Or coming to the defense of Obama administration White House Press Secretaries. What were your expectations, when you agreed to do The Five?
DP: When we first started, we didn’t think it was going to be a permanent show, based on the way it was pitched to us. They said it was only going to run for six weeks. I said okay, because I didn’t really have anything to lose. And I didn’t want to have an act, since all I know how to be is myself. The good news for me is that Fox has let me be that person. It’s been great for me, actually.
KW: I think the show has really humanized you and allowed you to blossom. Most people probably had you pigeonholed very narrowly, after only seeing you as the mouthpiece for the Bush administration.
DP: And who knew the show was going to be so much fun?
KW: It reminds me a lot of The McLaughlin Group.
DP: You’re not alone in that. Gutfeld says our show’s like The McLaughlin Group.
KW: I’m going to be mixing in readers’ questions with my own.
DP: Oh, good!
KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What is the primary message you want people to take away from your book?
DP: That you don’t have to have attended fancy prep schools growing up, or gotten an Ivy League education, or have your life completely planned and mapped out to enjoy a great deal of personal and professional success.
KW: Patricia also says: You became the second female at your former position at the White House. She’d like to know what advice you have for women trying to break the glass ceiling, given that there have been so few females, historically, in such government positions as White House Press Secretary, Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice. She’s wondering if you think some obligatory measures should be taken ensuring parity between the genders?
DP: I don’t. I think I was the right Press Secretary at the right time. I know that I was chosen because President Bush felt I was the best person for the job. I’m also very encouraged by developments in Washington, D.C., a place where women in government can advance even more than in private corporations. If you look at the number of females who have been chiefs of staff and undersecretaries under the past two administrations, the chances of a woman succeeding there are very good, and I think that corporate America is trying to catch up. And that’s happening not just in terms of political positions, like the one I held, but with the bureaucracy as well.
KW: Scott McLellan, the White House Press Secretary who hired you, wrote a book which was a scathing indictment of the Bush administration after he resigned from the post. Did his memoir make your job even harder, and how did that betrayal affect you emotionally?
DP: One of my favorite passages in the book is where I recount the lesson in forgiveness I was re-taught by President Bush.
KW: I was astonished to read that President Bush had urged you to forgive him.
DP: That’s how President Bush lives his life. One of the reasons I wanted to write the book was to explain what I saw: he was focused on his job and he lived his faith. One way to succeed is to make sure you’re forgiving of little things… even big things. Certainly, that was a betrayal by Scott McLellan. And it made my job harder for about a week. But, at that point, when the president heard that I was still tied up in knots over it, he called me into the Oval Office at 6:40 in the morning and asked me to try to forgive Scott. That just took the weight off of my shoulders. But what really helped me continue to do my job well the most occurred later that day as I was leaving the White House, when President Bush said, “By the way, I don’t think you’d ever do this to me.” So, he was a good enough manager to know that I was tied up in knots because I was concerned about his press coverage, and about how I was going to deal with the briefing. But then I was also worried about my special relationship with him, and that the closeness and access I needed in order to do my job well was going to be curtailed. So, what he was doing was taking the time to assure me that that access was not going to be curtailed, and it certainly wasn’t.
KW: What’s your best memory of the late Tony Snow, your immediate predecessor as White House Press Secretary?
DP: He was a giant of a Press Secretary. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received in my life was from him on his last day at the White house. I was very nervous, because I’d be taking over the next day, and he’d been so popular and so great at the job. I didn’t know how I was going to measure up. He was 6’5” and I’m only 5’ tall. He made me stand up, and he put a hand on my shoulder, tilted my chin up, and said, “You are better at this than you think you are.” I sort of made light of it at that moment. But it did hit me, after getting through two weeks of briefings and finding my rhythm. I thought, “Oh, that’s what he meant. I don’t have to be like him in order to be good at this job. I just have to be myself.”
That’s a theme that recurred throughout my career in Washington, and was also true with Roger Ailes at Fox News. I wasn’t really ready, but he gave me enough time to come out of my shell.
KW: Speaking of your height, how do you feel about the way Greg always teases you about being tiny whenever he does the intro to the show?
DP: I love it. One of my favorites was when he said, “She uses toothpicks for ski poles.”
KW: Finally, Patricia says: As an executive at Random House, what would you say helps distinguish a great book from an unknown writer?
DP: I think trust between the editor and the writer, and a belief in the project. Word of mouth helps as well.
KW: What inspired you to get involved with the Mercy Ships, and doing so much volunteer work in Africa?
DP: Initially, it was when President and Mrs. Bush launched the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS relief. So, I knew of the program for a long time, and I was familiar with the statistics, but I had never been to Africa until I went with them in February of 2008. I was really touched by the whole experience. I told my husband that I’d like to go back to Africa for six months after leaving the White House. He whittled that down a little and we went for six weeks. Volunteering and advocating for poverty alleviation, maternal health and early child development on a global scale are very important to me. Later, when I learned about Mercy Ships, I decided I’d like to see it for myself. And Peter, ever the trooper, came with me to the Congo. While we were there, we shot a video that reached millions and millions of people, letting them know about Mercy Ships. I was so proud of that.
KW: I think a lot of people were very impressed by your doing that, especially since so many Democrats are convinced that Republicans only care about the rich?
DP: That’s a shame! It surprises me that people might think that, because when they publish the charitable donations each year you see that, across the board, conservatives give more. The AIDS relief program was started by President Bush, in part, because of encouragement from Evangelical Christians who felt a moral obligation to save a continent that was about to lose an entire generation of people. And now, Bono starts his concerts by asking everyone in the audience to thank President Bush for saving ten million lives.
KW: Documentary Filmmaker Kevin Williams says: It seems like the past several White House Press Secretaries since you left the job have been much more combative and antagonistic towards reporters asking tough questions. Do you think that’s the result of the recent jobholders’ nerves wearing thin or of a fundamental change in the role of the White House Press Secretary?
DP: I would say that there was a great deal of tension as well between the press and my two predecessors as well. But I don’t necessarily need to comment on other people’s styles. I would just say that I didn’t feel that it was very productive or helpful to the people of America for the White House Press Secretary and the press to be at each other’s throats everyday. That wasn’t how I wanted to live my life. They had a job to do; and I knew it was an important one. And I had a job to do, too. So, I tried to meet them halfway. I saw 50% of my job as advocating and defending the United States of America through the eyes of the Bush administration. I saw the other 50% of my job was defending and advocating for the press so it could maintain its access to the president. I don’t understand the antagonism we see today, or why this administration has cut off some access, like they did with photographers. President Obama is so handsome, he never takes a bad picture. So, they didn’t need to antagonize the press with that piece. In Chapter Six, I write about how swallowing sarcasm and carrying yourself with dignity and grace will make you more effective as a communicator than fighting all the time.
KW: Kevin has a follow-up: Is it fair for people to see an unhealthy relationship between the political class and the press at the White House Correspondent's Dinner? Did you enjoy the so-called Nerd Prom?
DP: Hate's a strong word, but I hate the Nerd Prom and I have not been back since 2008. Big group events don’t suit me well. I’m not impressed by meeting celebrities. And one of the things that disappoints me about the dinner is that it is meant to celebrate the young people who are being awarded scholarships. Yet, the guests sitting at the tables won’t shut up long enough to allow the young people to enjoy their moment to shine.
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: What would be the most important piece of advice you’d give to an incoming Presidential Press Secretary?
DP: I think I would pay forward the advice I got from Chief of Staff Andy Card, o say a little prayer of thanks every morning before the Marine opens the door to the West Wing for you, and it will set your day off on a better foot.
KW: Children's book author Irene Smalls asks: What is the toughest challenge you faced at the White House?
DP: I'd say the accumulation of stress and intensity, and the overwhelming amount of work we had to do. If I got to go back and do it over again, I would have taken better care of my health, because I really let things spiral out of control, and I think I would've been a better Press Secretary, if I'd focused on taking better care of myself.
KW: As Press Secretary your hair was short. Now it's long. Which is your preference?
DP: I had long hair for a long, long time prior to the White House. Now, I have the benefit of professional help in getting ready to appear on The Five. But I loooooove to wear a ponytail.
KW: Irene also asks: What are your hopes for the country?
DP: That we would recognize that we are so blessed to have been born here, and that we are an exceptional nation with a great deal of responsibility in the world which we need to take seriously. And that we need to live our lives with joy, because that's what was intended. And that we would come together and recognize that our problems are solvable. We sometimes just lack the will to solve them.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
DP: [Chuckles] I'd just like to share my favorite piece advice from the book: Choosing to be loved is not a career-limiting decision. My marriage has helped me in my career more than perhaps anything else I could've done, despite leaving an enviable career-track in Washington, DC when we had nothing.
KW: What was the last book you read?
DP: I'm almost finished reading “All the Light We Cannot See,” which is a novel about World War II. I'm also reading “Munich Airport” by Greg Baxter.And another book by him I loved was “The Apartment.”
KW: What is the last song you listened to?
DP: Last night, I listened to the new soundtrack from the TV series “Nashville,” a show which is like a combination of “Dallas” and “Fame.” [Laughs]
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
DP: My husband and I love steak with some sort of vegetables. But I'm also very good at making a dish I call Blue Cheese Heaven, which is stir-fried vegetables with blue cheese crumble melted served over sourdough toast with horseradish spread.
KW: Who is your favorite clothes designer?
DP: I didn't really learn a lot about fashion growing up in Wyoming, so I'm a little intimidated in Washington and New York at times. I'm lucky that I found a young designer named Bradley Scott who takes such great care of me. Whenever I have a special occasion, I pull out one of his dresses.
KW: When you look in the mirror what do you see?
DP: An older version of myself. [Laughs] I have found a way to be joyously content. I don't see myself as worried, or stressed or fearful anymore, like I use to. I also used to see a very hard-edged person when I worked in the White House, although that wasn't the kind of Press Secretary President Bush wanted me to be. And it wasn't good for my marriage either, so I tried to be the way I believe God intended my life to be, which is a little more joyous.
KW: I suppose that position forces you to be a little harder-edged.
DP: I think it's very hard to leave those arguments in the Briefing Room. But I was very much supported by President Bush and the White house.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
DP: I would like the feeling of serenity to be shared by more people in the world.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
DP: My earliest, childhood political memory was watching the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. My earliest memory was riding a pony my grandfather bought me named Sally at the ranch. I loved that pony.
KW: Would you mind giving me a Dana Perino question I can ask everybody I interview?
DP: Sure: What keeps you up at night? President Bush used to ask that of other world leaders because it would help him understand what their anxieties were so he could work better with them.
KW: Excellent! Thanks. The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
DP: I remember very well when I was dumped in college by this guy I'd dated for two and a half years. All of a sudden he failed to show up one Friday night; and I never saw him again. I got the flu and was feeling sorry for myself until my friend Andrea said, “We gotta get you up and outta here.” And we started going to these country music bars in Pueblo. We'd danced with every guy but go home with no one. She and I are still such good friends. That experience taught me that you can survive a broken heart.
KW: What is the biggest difference between who you are at home and the person we we see on TV?
DP: I think I'm quieter at home. I need time to think, and I need time to read which isn't an indulgence but part of my job, since I get a lot of galleys
KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
DP: I actually believe it is optimism, not the unrealistic, Pollyanna sort, but the type that enables you to keep striving to achieve in the face of adversity.
KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
DP: As kind.
KW: Finally, what's in your wallet?
DP: Some credit cards and an I.D. And you know what I carried around in my wallet for five years? A scrap of paper with my sketch of an outline for this book I wanted to write. For some reason, I never threw it away, even after the first publisher I approached said the book would never sell. When I showed it to the one who did end up publishing the book, he said, “Leave this with me.” And he even wrote my proposal, because he believed in it so much.
KW: Wow! And it's been #1 on Amazon's best-seller list for several weeks straight.
DP: Would you believe it? Well, I loved talking with you, Kam.
KW: Same here, Dana. It's been an honor. Like I said, I love you on the show because you're not a predictable, hack Republican spouting the party line, but a very sensitive and intelligent person who obviously thinks for herself.
DP: Thank you, Kam, you made my day!
Bass Clef Bliss
Film Review by Kam Williams
Before Terrence Partridge turned 2, his parents first noticed an arrest in his development of age-appropriate social skills. In fact, he actually started regressing soon thereafter, as words he had already been using began to disappear from his vocabulary.
But it would still be a couple more years before they would receive the devastating diagnosis that their son was autistic. Unfortunately, the marriage would not last, as is so often the case with families touched by this affliction, and the burden of raising Terrence alone would end up falling entirely on his mother Therese’s shoulders.
Since early intervention can be critical in a kid’s prognosis, he was lucky she committed herself to giving him the love and support of even more than two parents. And she resolved to become an expert in autism, since it can manifests in myriad ways, making what might be a viable protocol for one child, totally inappropriate for another.
In Terrence’s case, he exhibited an early interest in music, being among the 1 in 10,000 people blessed with perfect pitch. His attentive mom recognized his talent which she proceeded to cultivate with the help of Louise Titlow, his trombone instructor. Under his patient teacher’s tutelage, the boy blossomed into a promising prodigy to the point where he would one day play in San Diego’s New Youth Classical Orchestra as well as jazz in a combo led by trumpeter Gilbert Castllanos.
Louise modestly explains away her student’s seemingly miraculous achievements with, “All it takes with Terrence or any autistic child is a little bit more love, a little more time, and a little more faith.” Perhaps of greater significance is her further assertion that, “He can be an angel of healing self-expression through music, and heal others as he’s uplifting himself.”
Directed by Patrick Scott, Bass Clef Bliss is an alternately heartrending and uplifting biopic chronicling the tight bond between a mother and son as together they confront an assortment of daunting challenges associated with autism. Scott makes a most impressive debut here, as he oh so delicately balances the access he was afforded to his subjects ‘daily lives with their plausible concerns about personal privacy.
Besides focusing on Terrence and Therese’s trials, tribulations and ultimate triumphs, this informative documentary features a cornucopia of facts and figures about autism, courtesy of both experts and anecdotal evidence. Did you know that in 1985, 1 in 2,500 babies developed the disorder, and that today the number is about 1 in 68?
Thus, autism is now, effectively, universal in nature which makes a labor of love like Bass Clef Bliss certain to resonate deeply with any spiritually-inclined soul compassionately attuned to other than self.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 70 minutes
Distributor: Dance House Productions / Passage Productions / BKLYN2LA Productions / Drama House Productions
To see a trailer for Bass Clef Bliss, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiWffnyp1so
Film Review by Kam Williams
Cash-strapped Katherine McCoy (Vivica A. Fox) is holding down a couple of jobs to make ends meet while praying that her sons stay on the straight and narrow path until they can make it out of the ghetto. Though grown, both boys still live at home, yet neither is helping their struggling single-mom much financially.
At least the younger one, Michael (Robert Ri’chard), is close to graduating from college and works part-time at a diner as a short order chef. But he hasn’t even been able to save enough from that minimum wage position to have his car fixed, so he has to get around Los Angeles by bicycle. By comparison, his 30 year-old brother Chris (DeRay Davis) is a trash-talking hustler who shows more of an interest in hanging out on the streets than in finding gainful employment.
The siblings’ fortunes change the day they decide to patronize the local gentlemen’s club. For, while Michael is relieving himself in the men’s room, he’s approached by the owner (Michael Jai White) about stripping there on Ladies’ Night.
Initially, the handsome hunk hesitates out of concern about how his girlfriend (Imani Hakim) and his Bible-thumping mother might react to his moonlighting in his birthday suit. However, after taking the time to watch girls go wild over buff beefcake (played by Tyson Beckford, Ginuwine and others), he decides to throw caution to the wind.
So, on the advice of his brother-turned-promoter, he’s given the stage name “Sexy Chocolate.” I suppose taking “Magic Mike” might have been a tad too transparent even for this unapologetic rip-off.
Despite soon raking in the big bucks, Michael’s life nevertheless starts to come apart at the seams. His grades plunge from As to Fs. His mother worries about whether her son’s sudden gains are ill-gotten. And his girlfriend gets the surprise of her life the evening she shows up with her BFFs.
Written and directed by Jean-Claude La Marre (the Pastor Jones franchise), Chocolate City is basically a blackface version of Magic Mike that trades shamelessly in the same sort of titillating fare which made that flick a runaway hit a few years ago. A derivative, estrogen-fueled, overcoming-the-odds saga strictly recommended for females interested in seeing sepia-skinned Adonises gyrate while disrobing to mind-numbing disco music.
Good (2 stars)
Rated R for profanity, brief violence, partial nudity and pervasive sexuality
Running time: 91 minutes
Distributor: Freestyle Releasing
To see a trailer for Chocolate City, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42HA58cBHAM
Vivica A. Fox, Tyson Beckford and Robert Ri’chard
The “Chocolate City” Interview
with Kam Williams
Is Vivica Really Dating the Handsome Hunk Who Plays Her Son in the Movie?
Vivica A. Fox, Tyson Beckford and Robert Ri’chard co-star in Chocolate City which is basically a remake of Magic Mike. Director Jean-Claude La Marre explains that he felt an African-American variation on the male stripper theme was in order, given the absence of black faces in the original.
This version of the tale revolves around a cash-strapped college kid (Richard) who hides from his mother (Fox) the fact that he’s moonlighting as an exotic dancer at a neighborhood nightclub on ladies’ night. The three recently spoke to me via a conference call about the film, and also about the rumors circulating in the tabloids of a steamy set romance between Vivica and Robert.
Kam Williams: Hey, thanks for the interview.
Robert Ri’chard: Hey Vivica, how are you?
Vivica Fox: I’m fine darling. How are you?
RR: When are you going to take me out for a glass of champagne, so I can buy you some chocolate?
VAF: [Laughs] You’re starting way too early, Robert. What, are you in need of a mimosa already? You’re too much! Too much!
Tyson Beckford: [Joins call] Hey, what’s happening everybody?
VAF: Hey, Tyson.
RR: I heard you’re in Vegas.
TB: No, I was in Los Angeles a few hours ago. But now I’m in New York. And I’ll be back in Vegas at this time tomorrow.
RR: I wanna dance tomorrow.
TB: You keep sayng that, but you’ve got to rehearse. You can’t just show up and get onstage. We’ll have to work you out. You’re rusty.
RR: I want to come to a rehearsal tomorrow.
TB: We don’t have one scheduled. I’ll have to bring you in and rehearse you real quick, if I have time for it.
KW: Let me start off the interview with a question from children’s book author Irene Smalls. She asks: What interested each of you in Chocolate City?
TB: I’ll answer first, since I was the first to sign on. What interested me was the script. I loved how the characters showed their emotions. It made me feel for Robert’s character [Michael], because I’ve been through that as a college student trying to make my way through life. And I did the whole topless waiter thing in a male revue before, so I knew I could connect with it. In addition, I found the idea of Jean-Claude [director Jean-Claude La Marre] building an entire cast around me kind of intriguing. I was eager to see what he would come up with. So, that’s why I jumped in.
VAF: I’ll be very honest with you, Kam. I had worked with Jean-Claude before and, when I heard that he was doing this, I went to see Magic Mike. And I went, “Wow! How crazy is it that they don’t have any African-Americans in this?” I felt that whoever makes this film African-American will win. Jean-Claude let me know he wanted me to play the mom and, when he told me about the cast, I said, “I’m so totally in for this.” I’ve seen it, and it’s awesome. It’s a feel-good, girl’s night out film that everybody will enjoy.
KW: And why’d you do the film, Robert?
RR: Because I had a crush on Vivica.
TB: You see, that’s how rumors get started, Robert!
RR: The first time I ever modeled, I walked the runway with Tyson. And he let me walk in front of him. He was the man! I was like, “This is my dude!” So, when I was approached about working with him for a whole movie, I didn’t hesitate for a second. I just said, “Count me in.”
KW: Is there any truth to the rumor that you two are an item since making this movie?
VAF: Yes, Robert Ri’chard is the love of my life!
RR: The rumor’s not big enough.
VAF: [Laughs] We’re having fun, but let me set the record straight. No, it’s not true. It was my first time working with him. And our scenes were so intense that everybody was like, “Wow! They have a major connection with each other.” But it was literally mutual respect as actors. There’s no romance going on.
RR: Yet. I wonder how the tabloids are predicting the future.
KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier for Vivica: I am a big fan and have followed your career since the late Eighties. I probably watched Two Can Play That Game, one of my favorite romantic-comedies, over 40 times. Is there any chance you’ll make another sequel of this movie?
VAF: We actually made one sequel, called Three Can Play That Game. I did co-produce the film, but it didn’t do as well, because they didn’t allow me to have my original cast back. Lord, would I love to get that original cast back together, and do the real sequel that should’ve been done, because it’s a cult classic, and it’s been done by other nationalities. So, I’d love to do a true sequel. Absolutely!
KW: Patricia would also like to know whether you might like to direct in the future.
VAF: Ooh! Directing is a lot of responsibility. In the future, yes, but I probably wouldn’t get into that for another five years or so.
KW: Patricia has a question for Tyson. She says. You have roots in Panama, and I am taking this occasion to say that I went there last year for almost a month. I was very moved by the warmth of the people there. Not one person was impatient towards me when I looked for words in my French-Spanish dictionnary to communicate with them. Given your diverse background, would you be open to play in a foreign film in the future?
TB: Yeah, I would definitely love to do that. Panama is like one of my homes. I have cousins down there that I’d like to bond with. So, I‘d love to make a movie there.
KW: What advice do you have for guys who want to follow into your footstep in modeling and for those who want to be involved in modeling?
TB: That’s tough to answer, because you have to be cut from a certain type of cloth. You have to have be a certain height, build and a have a certain look. You can’t just wake up and decide to model one day. It’s hard to explain, but getting into the business is all about the features.
KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan says: Vivica, when you're really feeling naughty, and you just want to let your diet go off the rails, what's your guiltiest pleasure? Is there a place you specifically go in LA to get some really “bad" food? The type that makes you say, “Boy, I'm gonna have to hit the gym tomorrow.”
TB and RR: [LOL]
VAF: Do you hear them giggling in the background? I hear you. They’re so bad! Can you imagine having to deal with this all day? Where do I go? Two places: Casa Vega, because I love some good ole Mexican food, and California Pizza Kitchen, because I also love pizza. Those are my guilty pleasures, and not something else that they’re snickering about.
TB and RR: [Laugh some more]
KW: Jimmy also says: Tyson, you've enjoyed an enduring modeling career. When you started out, did you think this modeling thing would last as long as it has? Did you always have your sights set on the acting thing as a logical extension?
TB: A lot of people don’t know this, but I started out as an actor. Along the way, I was offered a modeling job, and the modeling took off. So, I put the acting off to the side. Still, I always told myself that once I made enough money, I was going to get out of the game. I didn’t intend to stay this long. I figured once my contract with Ralph [Lauren] was over, that I would go right into acting. But it’s taken awhile for Hollywood to recognize me. In fact, I still feel like they don’t recognize me yet, but they’re going to soon.
VAF: I know that’ right!
TB: You know me, Viv. You see how hard-headed I am. I ain’t stopping ‘til I get there.
VAF: I can tell you I’m so proud, because everyone’s really, really loving you at Chippendale’s, and you are just doing your thing. I’m so proud of you!
TB: Oh, thank you, babe.
KW: Reverend Florine Thompson asks: How do you maintain centered spiritually?
VAF: For me, it’s by keeping things simple, as far as the crowd of people that I’m around. I’ve also really learned to focus on family, and on how to be happy with myself from within.
RR: I come from a very religious family and, for me, the key is my family unit which supports me and keeps me grounded when it comes to just giving it up to God, and putting God first.
TB: I might not go to church as much as I should, but I walk with God every day. I speak to Him, I ask Him for things, and what I can do for Him. And we have a fair trade that has worked out for me.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
TB: I see someone with drive who is not a quitter.
VAF: A grown woman who’s happy in her skin.
RR: An ordinary American son with extraordinary experience.
KW: Lastly, what’s in your wallet?
VAF: American Express and $200 in cash.
RR: I’ve got a Mastercard and about the same amount of money.
TB: American Express. I never leave home without it! [Laughs]
KW: Thanks again for the time, everyone, and best of luck with the film.
VAF: Alright, thank you, Kam
TB: Take care.
RR: Thanks, Kam.
To see a trailer for Chocolate City, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42HA58cBHAM