*Seeing James Pickens, Jr. doing promos for prostate cancer testing just before Fathers’ Day was not surprising. Besides playing Dr. Richard Webber on Grey’s Anatomy,” Pickens is deeply involved in community work and giving back. A father of two, Pickens feels the best gift a man could give himself is a prostate exam.
As a father of a daughter, it was not difficult for Pickens to assume the role of Queen Latifah’s father in “Just Wright.” AS luck would have it, I’m the father of a young woman and it was easy to make that transference,” Pickens told The Film Strip. I look at Queen Latifah and think of my daughter and our relationship.
“So it was good to see that kind of relationship in a film] because I don’t think we see enough in film of families where there is as positive a message. If nothing more than that they love one another-and I hope that that doesn’t go by the audiences because of all the other stuff in the film-that this is a family with the dynamics of one of love and support.”
Pickens has been married twenty-five-years to Gina Taylor who was a member of the group “Musique” that had the hit “Push, Push in the Bush.” Pickens and his wife established the James Pickens, Jr. Foundation with the “goal of bringing increased value to the lives of people of this generation and the generation that follows. The organization seeks, selects, supports and/or partners with individuals and community groups that work to tirelessly to revitalize local communities.”
“Cyrus,” released nationwide this week, is rife with dysfunctional relationships that appear to be the norm these days. Marisa Tomei(“The Wrestler,” “The People Speak,” “Wild Hogs”) is the mother of box office draw Jonah Hill (“Get Him to the Greek,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Superbad”). She explains why she and her son are so close. “She had her son when she was young. That’s part of why they’re close, because they grew up closer in age than other circumstances that could’ve been. They just kind of grew up together.”
There are a plethora of parts Tomei has tackled over the years but she is new to the game of directing. She traveled to Ethiopia to make her directorial debut shooting “Half the Sky.” This TBS documentary focuses on the exploitation and abuse of women from around the world. I asked her to talk about this venture. “It’s actually a fifteen minute short that just kind of came up spur of the moment and I had to go to Ethiopia.
“It’s a film based on this girl’s life and she was documented in Nick Kristof’s book. He’s writing a lot about what’s going on with women globally and then he came out with a book with his wife. Then he had the idea of bringing these stories to life but not in documentary format but in a format that’s more accessible, just different. So this was the first one that they funded.”
When asked if he knew anyone like his character in “Cyrus,” Hill says somewhat. “I’ve had friends in that position but never to the extreme of this. I think that Cyrus might not even know anybody else besides his mom. He might not have any friends or anyone besides his mom. I have a few friends who are close with their family. I’m very close with my family but I don’t think in a considerably unhealthy way.”
From a relatively unknown, Hill has shot to the top in a relatively short period of time and The Film Strip wanted to know if he ever expected this kind of success and how he is handling it? “I never expected any kind of success. I come from a family where it’s very engrained in all of my siblings by our parents to just work really hard. So my intention was just to work really hard. I’m very aware that making movies is a privilege and not a right for anybody, especially not me, but for any actor. For me I’m really thoughtful about my choices and really just am lucky.”