Mo’Nique plays Martin Lawrence’s tell-it-like-it-is sister in the Universal Pictures comedy Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. And playing the part of a woman who doesn’t pull any punches is right up Mo’Nique’s alley. The actress/comedienne/author has always been a person who says what she thinks. According to Mo’Nique, that’s the only way she knows how to tell it. “The best person to ask is my grandmother because she’ll tell you, ‘That child is the same child she’s been since she was a child. You’re all just meeting her, but I know her.’ She always says, ‘Nique’s going to tell it. She won’t stay mad at you, but tell you how she feels and keep going.’”
How tough was it to mesh with all these other comics who have their own style?
“You just let it happen. You let it flow because it’s very natural. For me, when you try to put a comedian in a box, you’re going to get a horrible performance. We’re used to being our own director, writer… We’re everything on that stage by ourselves. So [writer/director] Malcolm Lee was brilliant in knowing when to allow us to just do what we did.”
Is it easy to get into the flow when you’re ad-libbing?
“Not with real good comedians, it’s not. Because when you have really funny people, everybody’s bringing their ‘A’ game to the party coming in. Like, when they say, ‘Martin Lawrence,’ you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game. You can’t bring no bulls--t because it’s Martin Lawrence. So we all were like, ‘Okay, everybody got their ‘A’ game? Action.’”
And Malcolm Lee just let it flow?
“Yes, because you discover things when you do that. Malcolm Lee was so smart because he knew the right times to let us go.”
Do you think it would have been the same had he not also been the writer? Or do you believe it’s just his style?
“This is the first time I’ve ever worked with him but I’ve got a feeling that that’s just the way he is. He’s so unselfish in that way. Some people would be like, ‘Oh my God, I wrote this and I want you to say...’ But he was smart. It’s like, ‘Listen, is it going to make it funnier? Then say that sh-t because the sh-t I wrote it might not work right now.’”
He wrote this part specifically for you. Did you feel any extra pressure knowing
somebody had written a character with you in mind?
“You know what? [Laughing] I don’t take none of this sh-t serious so it’s not any pressure.”
With all that improvising, there had to be a bunch of outtakes or alternate scenes. Is there anything in particular you regret not being included in the final cut?
“You know, I’ve seen a screening and it was so funny you don’t even remember what didn’t make it. No, sh-t, I’m glad that one scene of mine made it in [laughing]. I’m still a kid. It’s like, ‘Oh my God, I’m in the movies!’”
Are you pretty good at holding it together or is it difficult when everyone is throwing in their own lines?
“No, because I love to laugh. I love to laugh. I’m professional, though sometimes it’s like, ‘Sh-t, we’re going to be here for a while because I’ve got the giggles in my tummy and I can’t help it.’”
Martin Lawrence has his ‘Team of Me’ philosophy of life in Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins. How would you sum up your philosophy on life?
“My philosophy is there’s nothing special about me. And if I keep that philosophy I will always be okay. I don’t ever want to think for a second that I’m funny. I just thank God for using me. That’s it.”
Having worked with Martin Lawrence, what is it about that makes him so special?
“The foundation and his unselfishness. Like when we did The Oprah Winfrey Show together, he literally, and you’re the first person I told this to as a reporter, but he literally sat himself back - almost giving me the baton. Like, ‘You know what, Mo’Nique? It’s your turn.’ It was the sweetest, most giving gift that someone could have given me in this business. It was just so beautiful and so incredible.”
That sounds like an incredible gesture on his part.
“Yes, so unselfish. You’ve got to watch it and then you’ll understand what I’m saying. You can literally see him push himself back in the chair like, ‘Mo’Nique, go ahead.’ It was beautiful. There’s nothing that man can’t get from me, nothing.”
Did you expect that from him going in? Had you known that was how he was going to be to work with?
“I’d never met him. I expected goodness, because it radiates from him. So I expected to have a great time. I didn’t expect to make a friend and I made a friend.”
You must be offered a lot of scripts for comedies. How do you decide which ones to do?
“I do what I like. If it makes me laugh… When I got the script for Soul Plane, so many people were saying, ‘Oh my God, don’t do that! Don’t do that!,’ but that sh-t had me laughing. I’m like, ‘This is funny to me.’ I can’t wait for Soul Plane 2. I’m going to be the first one to sign up. It was so good! I don’t get caught up in the studio and the budget and the this and the that.”