Monday, May 30, 2005

Cedric the Entertainer: Honeymoons with CeeP (Q&A)

As I mentioned earlier, I worked a junket in Beverly Hills. The film was Cedric the Entertainer's upcoming feature, "The Honeymooners," a re-make of Jackie Gleason's classic sitcom of the same name which also co-starred Audrey Meadows, Art Carney and Joyce Randolph (Ralph & Alice Kramden and Ed & Trixie Norton, respectively). While I'm going to use the copy from the interviews with Gabrielle Union (Alice), Mike Epps (Ed Norton) and Regina Hall (Trixie) for other publications -- which I'll post on the left once they turn around -- I thought the Q&A with Cedric shouldn't go to waste, hence this posting...I thought I'd just transcribe everything and let you suss out what's cool and what ain''s what went down...

Q: How scary was it to take on a re-make of The Honeymooners? Was it weird walking in Jackie Gleason's footsteps?

A: You know, it was actually something to consider [deeply] I mean it's such an iconic figure, one: Jackie Gleason as well as the character Ralph Kramden -- it means so much to so many people that I wasn't sure if that was something that I really wanted to do. At the time I had already agreed to do Back to School, so I was thinking "alright, well I'm going to be doing Rodney Dangerfield over here and now this...but [Back to School] went away, now that MGM's sold to Sony, that kind of went away for now. So this ended up working out -- it was a real strong vote of confidence from the studio, the studio executive at the time really thought I was the only guy that could play Ralph Kramden in these modern times -- who could capture that "everyman aspect" that is Ralph Kramden. I thought that was a strong vote of confidence coming from a major studio like Paramount. So, I had to look at it and decide how to pull this off.

Q: How much of the original series did you look at to get the flavor of Kramden -- how much of your character is you and how much of it is Jackie Gleason?

A: What I didn't want to do was an imitation of Gleason and it's very easy to do -- because he's such a dynamic character and the way he played Ralph was one of those things, I mean Eddie Murphy did a great koke on it [in Eddie Murphy: Raw] that became a very popular joke for him -- it's just an easy thing to do, to do it exactly like him, so I got the DVD box set once I got the role and got all 39 episodes -- I probably looked at about 6 of them. I looked at the rhythms, figured out what I wanted to do. I thought it was going to be important to hit that voice from time to get his irritation to a certain degree but also make him loveable, where you definitely want him to win...a few of the things that I loved about the way Gleason did it, is that he would milk jokes. He would milk the moment -- if there was something going on [funny] he would just look at you for like 30 seconds before he even responded and you'd know that something was ticking in his head. So, we tried to get in a few of those things in there; those were the things that I felt were most important -- then I just put my own personality back in it and made him a lot less gruff, a lot less irritable...but enough so that you could recognize the character.

Q: His stuff like "to the moon, Alice" might've been too aggressive for these times, was that part of your decision as well?

A: Yeah, that was definitely something that we all talked about -- all the producers as well -- as an actor I thought that that was one of those things that would be politically incorrect in this day and age, to threaten any kind of spousal abuse, "to the moon," you can try to make it soft but we tried to make it a bit sweeter. I thought it was important to try to get some of those old cliches in...we thought about playing around with the "homina, homina, hominas" but (whispers) nobody says that [nowadays]...(laughs) "Homina, homina, homina?" come on...

Q: How was it shooting in Europe?

A: That was really different...we were all quite surprised that we were going to be shooting Dublin for Brooklyn (laughs) but for budgetary reasons we went over...we had a good time. You know it was different to be out of the country like that, to live where the things that we trip off of, working so hard to get a dollar and you find out that you need two to buy anything over there. It's like "Aww, our dollars ain't worth a dayum! I was over there cussin' everybody out (laughs).

Q: According to Gabrielle Union and Regina, you and Mike had a bit of "fun" by shooting over to Amsterdam...any tales about Holland?

A: ...They have great coffee (laughs)...great coffee shops!

Q:..and chocolates?

A: (laughs).

Q: How much of Ralph Kramden is really in Cedric the Entertainer?

A: To a certain degree, I guess, I still am a dreamer -- I still have things that I want to do and I'm not sure that some of them are the perfect I'm getting into auto racing, I'm getting with a champ car team next year -- I'm not gonna drive (laughs) -- my wife was like "what are you doing?" and I was like "It's fun! I went to the races and I loved it -- I want me a car." Some of the things can seem a little lame-brained at the time but I'm definitely pretty adventurous like that...

Q:What do you think about sitcoms with blue-collar over weight characters with these beautiful young wives? Gleason was like the first and the wives have just got better looking and progressively younger...

A: I think he's a genius for that. (laughs) That's a part of his genius. It's like "Yessss! Big guys are sexy too! We can get 'em hot and young!" But seriously, that was one of the main things about being an Executive Producer, you get to be involved in the casting aspect of things and so I, basically, stalked Gabrielle and then I don't even know if she knew the movie was happening, I just came and like rang her doorbell and was like "come on and do this movie with me, girl." It was really good to have her be a part of it as well as Regina Hall -- both of them are just great. They're strong actresses, really funny, witty and fast and they could hang with us, you know, like one of the guys. Both of them are really fun to hang out with. I think that -- to tackle your question -- those were one of the things to set the precedent for television and I know that Kevin James (from CBS' King of Queens) is happy about that.

Q: In terms of your film-making career, are you comfortable with being "the main guy" or do you prefer where you come in and kill for a few days, get the laughs and bolt?

A: I love them both. The thing about being the lead actor and "number one on the call sheet" as we always like to joke about; who's number one, is that you really have to be there everyday on the shoot. I mean they would have these off days and they would be killing me, Mike and Gabrielle would be like "We're going over to London -- we're off!" And I was like "awww!" (laughs) They'd hang out because London was 45 minutes away and they'd hang out without me and just do things and it was like, "well, I got to shoot everyday, so I definitely loved, like in "Be Cool," I loved the opportunity of just shooting for a week, coming in and stealing scenes but being in a movie with great actors and just having fun...

Q: This is a pretty hot summer for you, you've got like Madagascar coming out as well, have you seen it yet?

A: Yeah, yeah. I saw Madagascar, it's great...the thing about it is, you turn into an animated character and it's like you've got your voice and your attitude and you also know that it's going to be seen 50 gazillion times because kids can watch these things over and over and over again...Dreamworks is very good at these movies, making nice storylines and Madagascar had a super voice cast.

Q: Do you do a movie like that for your family, for yourself or because you want your kids to see you in

A: It's a combination, I have small kids. I have a four year old and an eight year old at the house and so, you know that they're going to enjoy it. My son has a huge movie collection -- every movie that comes out, he definitely wants the DVD as soon as it's on do that for those reasons and so that the kids will identify with you and you can say, "that's me in that movie."

Q: Has he seen/ heard you in the movie?

A: Oh yeah, yeah...he thinks it's cool.

Q: How's everything going in Charlotte's Web?

A: Charlotte's Web is going well too, I've only had one recording session so far because it's coming out next year, so we'll go back and forth and there's the opportunity for me to do something with Oprah -- I'm actually playing/voicing her husband, either I'm a goose or a gander, I don't know. (laughs)

Q: A gander -- she's the goose. Have you seen any of it yet?

A: No, they've only shown me small portions of it but it's going to be really good -- I mean, they've only shown me small portions of how they're doing the animation...

Q: Did they take any of your physical characteristics and apply them to your character in Madagascar? Did you notice any similarities?

A: Not too much, he had a little cuddly belly but not too much because I was a lemur and I guess there's only so much that you can do with a little lemur, you know? (laughs)

Q: In the break dance scene you did a little dancing, are we going to see any more dance routines in the future? You enjoy dancing onscreen and is there going to be a musical?

A: I believe do enjoy dancing, when I had my TV show I'd try to dance every episode. It's something I like to do, in The Kings of Comedy I brought some dance moves and we pulled it out in The Honeymooners because I still have my Soul Train contracts and all...

Q: You're working on something else right now, The Cleaner, right?

A: The Cleaner is myself, Lucy Liu, Liz Hurley is attached at this point...this is an action comedy/ comedic version of The Bourne Supremacy where you have a janitor at a Microsoft-kind-of-company and I get caught up in some stuff that's going on inside the company -- I think I'm a big bad spy and end up trying to figure out who I really am...

Q: I always wanted to ask you, how much of Gus Petch (his character in Intolerable Cruelty) was yours?

A: Oh, Gus Petch -- "Nail that Ass?" (laughs)

Q: Yeah, did you free form on that at all or was that all in the script?

A: It was written, you know the Coens, they write all of their stuff and they want you to stick to it...

Q: The other actors said in The Honeymooners you all were kind of playing off of each other --

A: Yeah, we had the opportunity to ad-lib a lot in this one but we also understood that we were playing these iconic characters, so we also stayed [true] to the script too...

The Honeymooners opens nation-wide June 10th, 2005


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