*On Friday, May 6 the film “Jumping the Broom” will be released to theaters nationwide. Recently Lee Bailey had the chance to participate in a press junket where the equal parts powerful and beautiful entertainment mogul Tracey Edmonds and veteran director Salim Akil were on hand to talk about the film, its cast and everything that went into making “Jumping the Broom.”
“I think it’s really important for this film to do well and show people that positive films actually do good at the box office,” said Edmonds. “This is a very modestly budgeted film. In casting the film, the producer, director, all of us reduced our fees and all joined hands and said ‘Hey lets make something special with this film’.”
Though admittedly modest in budgetary allotment, “Jumping the Broom” is filthy rich in talent thanks to snagging Angela Bassett early on.
“As far as casting the first person I reached out to was Angela Bassett, who has always been my idol in terms of all the roles that she has accepted,” Tracey told reporters. “The grace, the dignity that she has always shown throughout her career … she was always our first choice as far as Mrs. Watson. We reached out to Angela and she was the first piece of talent that we signed to this film. Once we signed Angela it just became all the more easier to get the rest of the cast because then I could say ‘Hey, Angela Basset is doing it.’ All these people were first choices. With Loretta (Devine) we knew she would be the perfect Ms. Stevens.”
For those of us in the media that have had the opportunity to watch screenings of the film have all applauded its brand of comedy and its dialogue as well.
“One of the things that we all shared the same vision for is we wanted to make a film that was smart,” Edmonds told reporters. “We didn’t want to go too broad with the comedy, we didn’t want to make any silly, slap-sticky type scenes at all. We wanted all the dialogue to be smart, we wanted it to be intelligent. We wanted it to be funny but not over the top. We wanted it to feel like it was actually grounded in reality. These were real characters. A lot of times you see these movies with these big, flamboyant characters and they were just characters. We didn’t want any of our characters to feel like that. We had the blessing of having Elizabeth Hunter. She is an amazing writer. She and I went to school together and it was just a joy to be working with someone that you have known for many years.”
Another one of the film’s key components is director Salim Akil. Though the average moviegoer may not be familiar with the brother, he’s very much known by those in the know.
“Salim, as a director, the reason why he was hired was because we had worked together on ‘Soul Food’ the television series,” explained Edmonds. “We had worked together for about 2 seasons and I knew that he was an intellectual, but he also knows what’s funny.”
In addition to the all-star cast, and handpicked director, the film is also produced by Bishop T.D. Jakes, who also makes an appearance in the film.
“We decided to partner with Bishop Jakes because we thought it would be great to include that community in the project as well,” said Edmonds. “One of the things we had to be cognizant of were the romantic scenes between Sabrina and Jason to make sure we didn’t alienate the faith based audience, but another thing we wanted to be aware of was, even though we had a faith-based film, we wanted it to be relatable to a secular audience. We didn’t want it to feel like a faith-based film.”
Aside from the noticeable tangibles involved in making a successful movie, director Salim Akil told reporters that he was initially more concerned with the “intangibles.”
“I’ve done a lot of television and usually the television, from ‘Soul Food’, to ‘Girlfriends’, to now ‘The Game’, that we’ve done we’ve never had enough to do what we’ve done,” explained Akil. “The thing that me and my wife (Mara Brock Akil) have always prided ourselves on is respecting our audience. We always wanted the people who watched anything that we did to never notice the production side. If you don’t notice it then it feels real and you must like it. When I agreed to do this film the one secret that I knew is that if I found the right house, in the right location and I shot it the appropriate way then it could lift the film. So, we found this house, and the surrounding area was beautiful and I shot just about every inch of it. That’s sort of how we began to make it look as if it cost a little more than it did. Then, the wardrobe … Tracey Edmonds, who I basically made take over the wardrobe department, did a wonderful job of picking out the clothing and giving me choices. Then, just people coming prepared lifted it even more. When people are prepared, when artists are prepared, you can start the conversation at a different point.”
What has garnered the most attention from reporters is the setting of the film in Martha’s Vineyard, and many of the film’s characters being affluent. There are also themes of abstinence and true black love. Akil told EURweb.com this was just as real as it gets.
“I have the ghetto pedigree. My mom went to jail, I was on my own blah, blah, blah. We’ve heard it, we’ve seen it and that’s a part of our existence,” he explained. “But these people are a part of our existence as well. In popular culture there’s this notion that African American men and women can’t fit together and we’re having these issues, and I’m sure that’s the case, but I think it’s an American problem. I know a lot of white women and men that are having just as many problems finding that person as anyone. But the thing I like about this story is it started from the concept that these men loved these women.
“Mr. Watson loves Mrs. Watson, Jason loves Sabrina and, even as misguided as Malcolm is he’s attracted to black women. It’s never a part of the conversation whether we’re going to get together. It’s how we’re going to proceed through these relationships. That I could deal with. I think that’s the real conversation. When you talk about intelligence? Loretta is a Phd, Angela studied, Paula went to USC film school. These are artists so, I can’t come to them and have them say a curse word every moment because I want them to keep it real for some elusive, fantastical audience that wants us to keep it real. I had to keep it real for my vision and my vision was I know these people. I know the Watsons and I know the Taylors and I didn’t want anybody going to this movie feeling like a victim.”
Though many in our readership are at least familiar with the idea of affluent African Americans others still have a hard time wrapping their minds around the concept. Salim Akil told reporters that he hopes this film will help open the door to dialogue and greater understanding across cultural lines.
“The people in this movie are people that you come in contact with everyday and if you go see this movie hopefully you’ll get some insight into who they are if you’re not talking to them, or it can act as a jump off point to a place where you can talk to them. A lot like when Obama was running for President. I had never talked to so many white people in my life. They were just curious and they needed information that they were not getting from CNN, they were not getting it from MSNBC, they were not getting it from Fox. They wanted to go to the source. So, I would be sitting at a restaurant and some random white guy would walk up and say ‘Look man! I need to talk to you! Because this sh*t … I’m just saying, what is a magical negro? What is a Reverend Wright?’ It really opened up a dialogue for Americans to start having conversations and, for some damn reason, it just went away. Yes, It’s an African American film because it’s mostly African American actors, but ultimately what we’re talking about is the American experience. Let’s not always reach for Will Smith or the acceptable negroes. I love them, but there’s also these other little things that are happening.”
“Jumping the Broom” stars Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Paula Patton, Mike Epps, Meagan Good, Gary Dourdan, Laz Alonzo and many others. It hits theaters this Friday, May 6. Stay tuned to EURweb.com for more ongoing coverage of “Jumping the Broom.”