Jan 29, 2008 - Joy Bryant tackles her first starring role in a comedy movie with Universal Pictures’ Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, written and directed by Malcolm D Lee. Martin Lawrence stars as RJ Stevens, a TV talk show host whose ‘Team of Me’ philosophy inspires millions. Bryant plays his gorgeous - and narcissistic – girlfriend, Bianca, whose every move is calculated to keep the couple in the spotlight.
Bianca’s claim to fame before hooking up with RJ was having won a particularly tough season of Survivor. In real life, Bryant says there’s no way you’d ever find her on that reality TV show. She’s caught the show a time or two, but definitely wouldn’t call herself a fan and would never try out for the program. “I’m not eating anything that resembles a rat! I’m not, no, I’m not doing that. I would not outlast on that show. Not at all. Not at all!”
Exclusive Interview with Joy Bryant
How nervous were you heading into your first comedy?
“Actually, really nervous! I mean, it wasn’t so much about the fact it was my first comedy in general, it was just sort of like working with all these great comedic actors and comedians. I just thought, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do?’ And I just had to focus on the fact that I’m not a comedian. ‘Don’t try and be funny, just play the role.’”
Were you actively seeking out a comedy?
“You know what? Yeah. It’s funny because you know definitely a lot of the roles that I’ve done weren’t comedies or whatever. My characters in the various roles might have had funny lines, but all my friends are like, ‘Why are you trying to do a comedy?’ I was like, ‘I know, I know.’ I think people were really surprised. Even when I got cast, they were sort of like, ‘She might be good…but…can she…’ But I think it turned out well. I think it exceeded expectations. I’m happy.”
Was it everything you expected or more difficult?
“You know what? The most difficult thing about it was keeping a straight face. I didn’t really factor that in. I was just sort of freaked out about just doing a good job. The pressure was of people just cutting up and being as funny as they are when I’ve watched them all on television or movies or their standup routines, and they’re doing it now on set in front of me. I’m not ever really supposed to get the humor on camera, but I get the camera in real life. ‘How am I going to do it?’ It was a challenge. I did it, but it wasn’t easy. I don’t know how I did it.”
Was there a special trick you used in order to keep yourself from laughing?
“I just tried to just be the biggest bitch ever possible. Being the most preoccupied, being a bitch - that worked. It seemed to work [and] I’d wait for somebody else to crack up and then I’d crack up. If I saw Martin [Lawrence] crack up, I’m like, ‘Okay, cool, it’s safe.’”
You don’t have the comic background of most of the cast so with all these comedians going off the script and ad-libbing, how easy was it for you to keep up with the flow?
“I think just in general in anything, even I’m sure with what you do, you, we perform or we’re better at the task at hand when we’re relaxed and prepared. And that also being prepared in what you need to do, being relaxed enough to do it, but not being rigid. You have to be open and still really sort of flexible to take whatever comes at you. If you kind of just stick on being relaxed and trust in yourself and what you prepared and knowing what your position is and playing that position, then you can pretty much take what comes at you.
I’m not saying it’s easy, but you’re more likely to be able to absorb the blow or take it and run with it. But if you’re rigid or if you’re only worrying about the words of the script and not really the meaning behind it or whatever, then you’re in a difficult position because you’re not going to be flexible enough to take the improv or whatever. When you’re working with comedians, they need to have their room to be able to go off script and do their thing because that’s what they do and they’re good at it. You can’t even approach it like, ‘Okay, these are the words. I must stick to these words.’ The thing is, whether you’re working with comedians or not, it’s never going to be exactly that. You always have to give yourself room to play.”
How difficult was it to play someone so self-centered? Was she a tough character to connect with?
“How I approached her was not really looking at her and judging her. Some people are bad or good or a bitch or whatever and they don’t think they are. They think they’re actually normal and everyone else is screwed up. I played it more like that. Everyone has a method to their madness or reasons why they do things. You and I might not agree with what they do or how they lead their life or what they say or whatever, but to them, that’s their own thing. So I kind of had to keep focused on that and never, never, never judge her at all. If anything, I tried to humanize that as much as possible.”
She’s seems like a real difficult character to try and humanize.
“Everyone has motivations for the things they do, so as long as I kind of kept those things in mind… Her tactics you might not agree with, but sometimes you can understand why one might do certain things. One of the things I’ve learned just from watching people or going to acting classes and stuff, if you’re playing a character you can’t judge that character. I’m not trying to give the Inside the Actor’s Studio-kind of comment here (laughing), I’m far from accomplished or whatever; but you really have to. It’s our job to bring out the humanity in the characters we play.”
Having worked with models and actresses, have you met people like this who need to constantly be in front of the camera and who have to be popular to be happy?
“Yeah. Maybe not to that extreme, you know, because it is still a comedy. I did get to sort of exaggerate it. But that was a balance, too, in not making her a caricature.”