Michael Ealy Talks ABOUT LAST NIGHT, His Most Compelling Scene, Working with Kevin Hart and Shooting on Location in Downtown Los Angeles

     September 26, 2013

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First, there was the play, “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” written by David Mamet.  Then, there was the 1986 feature film, About Last Night, starring Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, James Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins.  Now, a modern re-imagining of the classic romantic comedy, which follows new love for two couples as they journey from the bar to the bedroom and are eventually put to the test in the real world, is hitting theaters on February 14, 2014.  And back on October 25, 2012, Collider was invited, along with a handful of other press, to the set on the second-to-last day of shooting.

At the Broadway Bar in Downtown Los Angeles, a Halloween party was in full swing, with Kevin Hart as Channing Tatum’s character in Magic Mike, Michael Ealy as Ike Turner, Joy Bryant as Tina Turner and Regina Hall as Nicki Minaj.  Find out more about the film, what the actors were doing and why after the jump. 

Out for a night on the town, Danny (Ealy) and Debbie (Bryant) were joined by Bernie (Hart) and Joan (Hall).  While we were on set, we got to see various snippets of a longer scene set in the bar, but it easily illustrated the balance of comedy and drama that they’re clearly going for in the film.  Both Kevin Hart and Regina Hall were throwing out hilarious improvised lines, exchanging quips and barbs with and at each other, while Hart and Michael Ealy were sharing a bit of a heart-to-heart moment.

While on a break from shooting, actor Michael Ealy – who was dressed in a full-on stage costume with a guitar and stick-on facial hair – took some time out to talk to us about how About Last Night is different from Think Like a Man, why he likes working with producer Will Packer, how he chose not to watch the original movie or read the play, which scene he found the most compelling to do, that the movie has a balance of comedy and drama with a lot of sex, working with Kevin Hart, and what being on location in Downtown Los Angeles adds to the film.

almost-human-michael-ealyQuestion:  Obviously, there are going to be comparisons made between this and Think Like a Man, but Will Packer was very adamant that this is a different movie.  What can you say about your role in About Last Night, and how this is going to be different?

MICHAEL EALY:  I play Danny Martin, and Danny is a restaurant supply guy, just like Bernie.  He’s a blue collar guy who’s looking for a little more out of life, and he’s also trying to get over his ex.  I think where we separate ourselves from Think Like a Man is that, in this particular film, we get into the minutiae of the relationship.  There are good and bad times.  You start to understand more about how a relationship can go awry when two people spend too much time together.  They tend to overlook all of the red flags that pop up early because they want to make it work and they want to believe it’s right.  Ultimately, this movie is all about timing.  Is it the right time for Debbie and Dan?  Is it the right time for Bernie and Joan?  Think Like a Man definitely had a bit more comedy, and this one has much more drama.  But, not tonight! 

This is your third project with Will Packer.  What keeps bringing you two together?

EALY:  It’s always about the material.  Will has a good eye for good material.  Obviously, once you’ve developed a certain relationship, it just becomes family, at that point.  I consider him family.

When you do something that’s a remake, do you pay attention to what’s been done before?

EALY:  No.  I don’t, personally.  I didn’t not watch the original.  I looked at the script as a separate movie.  I know there is a movie called About Last Night out there, and I know who was in it, but it’s important for me to approach it as a fresh idea.  I find that, if I look at the old one, I may try to repeat that.  If I just take it as a fresh script, then I’m gonna put my best foot forward.

Is that true of the stage play, as well?  Did you read or see the stage play?

EALY:  I didn’t read that either.  Some actors can watch that stuff and do what they want to do.  For me, I like to do that stuff afterwards.  That started when I first started acting, actually.  My first acting class, I did a scene from Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, which is the play.  The movie was Frankie & Johnny, with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer.  It was just a habit that I picked up when I decided that I wasn’t going to watch it.  For that particular performance, we just did a scene from the play, and it was what it was.  It stood on its own.  When I saw the movie, I thought, “That’s great.  That’s their interpretation.”  And I think there are going to be multiple interpretations of About Last Night.  We definitely have a much more comedic version, but at the same time, we get into the minutiae of each and every relationship.

Will you watch the original film, after you finish shooting? 

EALY:  Absolutely!  I’ll probably watch it next week, just to check it out.  I’ll be like, “Oh, okay, that’s what it was.”  I think it’s important for our movie to stand on its own.  I know that’s difficult to ask when you’re doing a remake of such a classic film, but when you’re redefining a project like this for a whole new audience, a lot of people were born after ‘92 that have no clue about what About Last Night is.  For them, this is going to be their version, so I think it’s important to have a fresh take on it. 

about-last-night-posterThere have been a lot of remakes of movies with all-white casts that are now being done with all-black casts.  Should we look at this movie as a black movie, or is this just a movie that has black actors in it? 

EALY:  That starts with the script.  Just like Think Like a Man, this script doesn’t have character descriptions of race, so you read it independent of race, so to speak.  Ultimately, if it’s cast predominately black, so?  Are you going to stay that the original was cast predominately white?  No.  It was a movie, and so is this one.

Has there been one scene, in particular, that you felt was the most compelling to do? 

EALY:  Good question.  We did a break-up scene the other night.  Unlike my character in Think Like a Man, I’m highly flawed in this movie.  That was actually part of the appeal of this role.  It’s so interesting to see this guy haphazardly wrap himself up in this relationship, and then just lazily and sloppily get out of it.  He’s terrible about getting out of it.  He’s sloppy about it.  That’s so much fun to play and it’s compelling because he just ignored everything.  He should have seen it.  He was caught up in the glow of love, so to speak, or what he thought was love.  He wakes up and things are different, and there are a lot of people that can relate to that.  I know I can.  As you get older, you learn not to make those same mistakes.  You learn to be more careful and pay attention, especially in the early stages of a relationship.  He just drives a truck into a wall, and then talks about it.  How do you explain what just happened?  His excuse is somewhat pathetic.  At the same time, he’s finally being honest.  What I’ve learned is that the most precious commodity you can have in a relationship is honesty, good or bad.

How much comedy do you actually get to do in the film?

EALY:  We try to keep it somewhat light.  Danny and Debbie’s storyline is a bit more romantic, especially in the beginning.  There’s a lot of sex.  The comedy just comes.  With Bernie and Joan, they are written funny, they act funny, and they are funny, pretty much non-stop.  We bring a bit more gravitas to the entire story, and a reality.  There’s comedy in that, but obviously the break-ups, the fights and all of that stuff that we go through can get pretty intense. 

Having done it before, are you used to working with Kevin Hart now?

EALY:  There is no version of Kevin that catches me off-guard with his comedy.  If he says something that is just unbearably funny, I just laugh.  I can’t try to hold it back.  What we discovered on this film is that we now have a familiarity and a certain rhythm.  We know how to set each other up.  I consider myself Chris Paul and he’s Blake Griffin.  We just set each other up and we play well together.  We’ve had even more fun on this one than we did on Think Like a Man because we’re much more familiar with each other, this time around.

Have you guys cracked up a lot, during this shoot?

EALY:  Yeah, especially with [Kevin Hart and Regina Hall].  We did a scene up here last night, where the two couples all meet for the first time, and they were so on fire.  Regina [Hall] did something that literally, in the middle of a take, brought tears to my eyes.  I was just bawling.  I could not stop.  The good thing is that Debbie and Danny’s storyline is pretty separate from Bernie and Joan, so we only had a couple of days together.  Most of the time, I held it together because I didn’t have to watch them.  But watching them, you cannot help it, and it’s more fun that way. 

Michael-Ealy-About-Last-NightHow has it been to shoot on location in Downtown Los Angeles?

EALY:  Obviously, the original takes place in Chicago, which is definitely an urban environment that is a character within the play.  What we tried to accomplish in this one was that, by keeping it in an urban area like Downtown L.A., there will be people in Chicago that can relate, and there will be people in D.C. that can relate.  If you’re in an urban environment, in any other major city, you understand what it’s like to live this life.  I think that was one of the smartest things we did.  If we had shot out in Santa Monica instead, people in Kansas City can’t relate to that.  There’s no fucking ocean.  It’s just not happening.  But, keeping it urban and keeping it in Downtown L.A., we’ve made it more accessible.   

About Last Night opens in theaters on February 14, 2014.

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