By Darlene Donloe
Historically, “Jumping the Broom” is an antebellum tradition in which slaves who wanted to marry, jumped the broom to signify their union.
Today, couples continue the ritual in deference to the ancestors.
The custom becomes a bone of contention in the new family comedy, “Jumping The Broom,” set to open nationwide May 6.
“Jumping the Broom,” tells the story of successful corporate lawyer Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton), who is about to marry Wall Streeter Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso). Sabrina comes from a well-to-do family, while Jason’s family is just everyday folks. His mother, Pam (Loretta Devine) works in the Post Office and her mother, Claudine (Angela Bassett) is a socialite.
I caught up with a glowing Patton (“Déjà Vu,” “Idlewild,” “Precious”) and a finely dressed Alonso (“Breakout Kings” “Avatar” “Stomp the Yard”) recently to talk about the film and their careers.
DD: What do you look for when deciding to do a film?
LA: I will say that typically, what I look for is does this character help push the story forward. Even if it’s one little moment plot-wise. It helps make the story memorable. Sometimes it may not be on the page, but as an actor it’s our duty to make it important.
DD: So did you get what you wanted out of this role?
LA: Now when it came to “Jumping the Broom,” I came to a point where I said I have to pump the brakes on the antagonist role. It’s time for me to play more heroic roles, otherwise I run the risk of creative things to do. You can only play it so many times before you run out of things to do.
DD: Are you very particular about the roles you take?
LA: As an actor it takes a lot of discipline to say no to a movie and money. I sat workless for eight months. I was going to see where my career was going. I was willing to wait. I got offers. I turned them down. I would prefer to audition.
DD: Did you have a masterplan for your career?
LA: At times you have a plan. I’m very loose when it comes to having a master plan. I’m always open to a good character. I want to do something you haven’t seen me do before. I want people to see a new human being every time they see me onscreen, that’s my goal.
DD: How do you know when you’ve gotten it right?
LA: first and foremost the director knows when you’ve gotten it right. You want to do it again even if you think you’ve gotten it right. The director says nope we got it. In “Jumping the Broom” I wsa standing by my car and had a complete breakdown. The scene took so much out of me. I just was not looking to have to recreate that scene. We had to do it again and again.
DD: What did you expect and what did you get?
LA: I think this is the hardest question I’ve been asked. Recognition from your industry and your peers - that is something that you really put a lot of weight on. You appreciate it. You realize what you’re surrounded by. There’s a lot of talent in this town. It’s not always going to happen, so don’t look for it. What I got was, the reality is you’re not always going to get that recognition when you think you deserve it.
DD: Paula, did you have a master plan for your career?
PP: I did not at all. I came to this late in the game. I was working behind the camera. I worked at Discovery Health Channel. A boss allowed me to become a producer. Then the show ended. I don’t know why I didn’t want to find another job as a producer. I liked it, but didn’t love it. I didn’t have the passion. My friends were out there making short films and videos. I was procrastinating. I sat at my desk and asked myself, ‘what do I love to do since I was a little girl?’ I put on plays in my parents’ backyard. Always playing make believe. I started taking classes and got lucky. I was older when I started my career.
DD: How did you see your career unfolding?
PP: I didn’t. I had a small part in “Hitch.” I thought I had arrived. I was flown first class. I remember auditioning for “Idlewild.” They auditioned everyone in Hollywood. I was hoping they would give me at least a small role. The director asked me to come back the next day in costume. I auditioned, about five times. It ended with a screen test with Andre [Benjamin].
DD: What did you expect from Hollywood and what did you get?
PP: That’s tough. I don’t know. When you start out, you think anything is possible. You realize that the people that succeed are hard workers and smart and resilient. It’s no mistake that you find a Tom Cruise or Angela Bassett and they become stars. They worked hard. It takes more than talent. It takes hard work, intelligence and tough skin. Believe in yourself.
DD: How do you know when you’ve gotten it right?
PP: I know when I’ve got a scene right when I can’t remember what I did. When they yell cut and they say that was good, that’s when I know I’ve given myself over to the character. In “Deja Vu,” I worked with my hero, Denzel [Washington]. He never did a scene the same way. He would fall down the rabbit hole. He was like a jazz musician - improvising and playing music. You need to do the work. Once they yell, action, let the feelings be. I feel like I got lost in that.
DD: How do you like to work?
PP: I trust a director, if he’s great and like a lot of rehearsal, I’m game. I’m adaptable. Everything is different. Too much rehearsal stifles you.
DD: What is the hardest part about being a mom and an actress and wife? How do you balance?
PP: Being so tired, the lack of sleep, the deprivation is on another level. But when you see your child, that’s the only person you’re wiling to do that for. My mantra is he comes first and everything else falls in line. Take it one day and hour at a time. I literally get paralyzed. Do the best you can and trust that God has your back and everything will fall in line.
“Jumping the Broom,” (TriStar Pictures) stars Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Loretta Devine, Meagan Good, Tasha Smith, Julie Bowen, DeRay Davis, Valarie Pettiford, Mike Epps, Pooch Hall, Romeo Miller, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Gary Dourdan.
A TriStar Pictures release and presentation, in association with Stage 6 Films, of a T.D. Jakes/Our Stories Films production. Produced by T.D. Jakes, Curtis Wallace, Tracey E. Edmonds, Elizabeth Hunter, Glendon Palmer, Michael Mahoney. Co-producer, Salim Akil. Directed by Salim Akil. Screenplay, Elizabeth Hunter, Arlene Gibbs.