Cedric the Entertainer Interviewed – ‘Code Name: The Cleaner’

     January 4, 2007

Interviewedtoday is Cedric the Entertainer. Most people know Cedric from all those BudLight commercials that aired almost every Sunday for a few years. But you maybe surprised to learn that Cedric has been in a lot of films — a few from thelist are Barbershop, Be Cool, The Original Kings of Comedy and IntolerableCruelty.

Openingtomorrow is Cedric’s new movie called Code Name: the Cleaner. In the filmCedric plays a regular guy named Jake who wakes up in a hotel room with nomemory of who he is and how he arrived there. To add to the problems, next tohim are a dead body and a briefcase of cash.

As youcan probably guess from the set-up, the film is about Cedric figuring out whohe is and how he got there. Also starring in the film is Lucy Liu andNicollette Sheridan.

Theinterview was done a few weeks ago and in roundtable form. Cedric talks prettyhonestly about how the film came together and why certain people were cast insome of the parts. Hope you enjoy it.

Cedric: How’s everybody?

Question:Tell us about the suit your wearing.

This is – let me see who this is.This is from my tailor, so it’s designed for me it’s Reggie J. – I have myname in there. You gotta do that, cause lot of times, you don’t know whoseclothes you’re wearing.

And ifyou ever forget your name.

Yeah, ‘Hello, I am…(looks in coat)Cedric the Entertainer. No, nice and loose good fabric, 1000 thread count.

Have youever considered your own clothing label?

I’ve thought about it, I’vethought about it something for the grown and sexy. Yeah, I might do that it’sa hard business to be in though. You got to go and pick out the swatches –

You getto go to Paris and Italy.

Aw man, I’d have to go to Paris and Italy– maybe it’s not that hard I’d have to think about that.

So howdid this movie come about?

It started from Brett Ratner’sproduction company, they had the idea we sat down and talked. And I wasinterested in the action/comedy, kind of get out of the ‘family guy’ stuff, andjust do something where you could have some fun, knock down some walls, shootsome weapons. As we got on and started developing the script a little more, andfound good spaces to add in more characters, so Lucy Liu and Nicollette gotinvolved. It just seemed like something fun to do, so we just kept trying towork it from there.

How doyou bring the ‘Cedric’ to a ‘janitor who thinks he’s a spy’ movie?

It was trying to take the ‘everyman’ aspect of it it was taking the energy from the character in the Bud Lightcommercials. It was just this regular, every day guy and something happens andyou’re put in this extraordinary situations so that’s the ideology behindbeing thrown into the circumstance. And I tried to have some fun with it,playing with the Bourne Identity of it all kind of a comedic, looser versionof it. I didn’t want to take myself too serious, but I did want to jump out ofhelicopters and stuff like that.

Was thiskind of a tune-up for more serious action movies?

As a kid, we all had thosefantasies, we get the GI Joe’s and play the Army men I think that ideally, I’dlove to have the opportunity to play the role when you play it a little moreserious, action figures are something people can see you in a different light.So this was an opportunity – you had to learn how to shoot the automaticweapons, and you go through a little bit of training to shoot the weapons offand the door kicks, and they tell you exactly where to put your foot, and allthat kind of stuff. And then, you start getting into it you start dressing inthe camouflage and the vest on, and I started to feel like I can do this, eventhough I’ve never been in the Army Reserves – I’ve barely been to the SalvationArmy.

Did youreally train for this one?

No, I had two hours of training –intense, though!

Andtraining to use the buffer?

Well, yeah that was the wholething, cause you had the real janitors coming out saying, ‘Hey, what are youdoing? You don’t buff like that, come here. Let me show you how to buff, youngman.’

Are youinto video games?

I play a little bit I actuallyplay the sports games like Madden and NBA Live. It’s been a running thing withmy crew, but we have a PlayStation on the set or in my trailer so usually, ona brake, we’re playing the game. I’m not as intense as my character, givingnotes on the game, but I do play.

You’renot into the war games?

No, I don’t play anything likethat – except for standing in line for a PlayStation 3 I was there and peoplehad to look out cause I had been doing the movie, and I had been highlytrained. I actually beat up three people in line.

Are you atrash talker when you play the games?

Yeah, I do I usually trash, andthat’s the thing about it. You put the comedy on top of it and the thing isyou win a few games and nobody can ever beat you. You try to get in their headfrom the top – ‘You don’t really belong in the sticks’ you always tell people.You always tell people, ‘You don’t belong in these sticks’ I ain’t worriedabout it, the game controllers.

Do youhave a PlayStation 3?

No, no, I got beat up this littleold lady beat me up. I beat up three people, and then this old lady did a shinkick on me.

Whatabout the elevator scene with the old lady?

Hmmm…I was smackin’ some booty,the old booty smack – and that was her idea, ‘Smack it!’ I was like, ‘Damn!’No, it was actually a – we were just having some fun with the fantasy sequencesand so we thought it was a fun scene to add it. We thought about it to add inthe comedy, and so when I’m hitting my guys to get on the helicopter and in myimagination, I’ve caught this little old lady who’s there on a family vacation.She seemed to enjoy it, she calls me I get emails from her quite often, ‘Heybig boy!’

Who picksout the different versions to do for the outtakes and the various takes?

That’s kind of a directorialthing, the directors kind of get to do that but as a producer, you come in.While they’re doing the cuts, I’ll say, ‘What about this take?’ And there wouldbe weird things, whether the audio wouldn’t be quite right, or he didn’t likethe camera angle so at the core of it, it’s the director/producer kind ofsituation, but the director usually gets his way in the end. You can battleover certain things, so you pick and choose on which one’s the best one. Andit’s all about the audience you’re targeting, and you’re only allowed to say‘asses’ before you go to NC-17. ‘Do we use our fourth ‘ass’ here?’ Or ‘Do youhave a better take?’ ‘Let’s not do it.’

So howmany takes did you have?

It was when we were doing thescenes – I asked for a lot of takes on when I’m kind of delirious and I’mcoming up. And so it was just things that I wanted to make sure we made theright choices there, but I was pretty happy though cause I was improving a lotof ‘em, so you just vary it on taste at that point so it didn’t really matterthat much to me.

Who wasmore nervous during the sex scene?

I think it was me Nicollette waslike, ‘Let’s do it!’ She’s a very ‘sure of herself’ kind of woman in general.Once she got the idea of the scene, and why we wanted to do it, she was coolwith it but there were moments when she climbs on top of me, and I’m trying tobe an actor here, and I’ve got Nicollette Sheridan on top of me right now. Soit made it a little more hard for me to stay focused.

How manyalternate takes do you have for the DVD?

Oh man, there’s got to be a lot,cause I was just – we would do – a lot of the times we went until I ran out –‘Just keep the camera rolling till I run out.’ And I’d just go down, come upwith another one, go down, come up with another one so that was fun. So whenwe get to the DVD, it should be other varieties and different takes that aren’tin the outtakes there.

How didLucy Liu come to the project?

Well, she came in, but it was veryimportant – especially in today’s movie world, to get your foreigndistribution. So it was one of these things, the necessary aspects to have someonewho has that kind of presence in that world and that’s how Lucy came on as anexecutive producer, cause she was an important aspect of making sure we wereable to openly get the movie and shoot the movie at a budget we thought wasgoing to be necessary.

Was thegood rapport with her there from the beginning?

It was actually fairly quick Ihad to convince her to do the movie – it was different than what she’s done. Iheard she was looking for a comedy, and I thought she was a great choice forthis. But on our first meeting, she has this really infectious laugh, and sheseemed like she was having a good time, so we talked about it. And then in ourfirst meeting, I could feel we were getting along, and I could feel it wasgoing to be unique chemistry on and off screen. And then as we worked together,and continued to grow, we had a lot of fun working on set and I thought shebrought something different than what her normal ‘she’s the tough girl’ eventhough we needed that – we needed her to do the kicks. She just has some quickliners she was spitting off, and it was just fun to see her in that light, alittle different.

How doyou look back at The Honeymooners experience?

Yeah, man it’s one of thosethings that you don’t have control. I think in theory it was a great idea, andwhen we first started talking about it, there was one studio head who broughtthe idea to me and Mike (Epps) and we wanted to do the movie. We were trying tocapture a different kind of energy, and then he left the studio and anotherexecutive came in and he had a whole nother idea in order to get thegreenlight. So you’re halfway down the street and decide to do the movie hewas gone, and by then the whole Brad Grey regime was in and they just put themovie out. And it came out with Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Spider-Man, and it’sjust not that kind of movie you don’t put that kind of movie out along withthe summer blockbusters – of course, you’re going to get your ass kicked. Itjust felt like a bad spade it wasn’t that bad of a movie, it could have been alot better, but it definitely didn’t belong in the time slot in which it cameout.

Does thatmake you more cautious about initiating projects?

It is overall, especially havingthe opportunity in developing projects from the beginning you look at thewriters and come up with ideas that are great ideas. And by the time you putthem into the studio’s system, and people have different hands on them, itmakes them pretty difficult. And you see that especially in the African American-ledfilms, cause we don’t have the executives on our sides to support your originalidea you don’t have anyone to say, ‘No, let’s stick to this plan.’ You have aroom full of people who don’t exactly know that experiences, determining whatthe experience is. So you end up getting something that’s not quite what youwant at the end of the movie, and that’s pretty much my experience, and it’sstill the same. And I think it makes it a little difficult, but it’s a time aspace now, the digital world coming up, and even Hollywood is doing a lot ofself financing. And you’re starting to see people make moves – Will Smith andother people are trying to raise funds and do things where they’re going to bein control of a lot more of the product. So you’re starting to see a lot morematerial and movies that have better story lines and ask for a different pointof view than what has been asked from the norm.

Whoseidea was the cat fight?

(raises his hand) Yeah, it was just one ofthose things Jake is this character where he’s having all these crazyimaginations of different things. Of course, you have these two beautiful womanfighting over you the guy’s not seeing the actual physical fight, he’s seeingsomething totally different – ‘nuff said.

Werethere outtakes of that?

A few.

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