September 2001
A Real Renaissance Man : More Than Just A Comedic Talent

Interviewed by Midas

A Real Renaissance Man : More Than Just A Comedic Talent

For those of you not familiar with the name Anthony Anderson, check yo’ self. He may not be on the hot lists of up and coming stars, but believe me when I say you will be hearing from this brotha. The Howard alum has a good head on his shoulders and seems to know which direction is best suited to bring him success. His sense of humor is as strong as his desire to be the best and to take care of his mom. had a chance to talk to the scene-stealer from “2 Can Play That Game.” In this interview, Anderson reveals he is a momma’s boy, business savvy about the industry, and cynical about Hollywood’s insistence that black films don’t play overseas.

M: He (Morris Chestnut) tried to explain the role you played in getting him acclimated to the comedic nature of his role. He also tried to explain how you had so much expertise for a man who was not attached.

AA: Well, you know, Tony had been there and done that. He’s gone through all of that and that is why he had all of that worldly insight that he shared with Keith. If you noticed in the movie everybody that had a relationship was going through some problems, except me. I was the voice of reason. I say every man needs a friend like Tony and every woman needs to be a Shante or have a friend like Shante. Everybody needs that voice of reason, that pillar of strength. Keith would have folded a long time ago if it weren’t for Tony.

M: How many men have a Tony in their life?

AA: I got a Tony in my life and I am a Tony to a lot of my friends.

M: Does Tony kinda complicate matters?

AA: No, maybe? I’ll tell you this, I would not have taken all of Tony’s advice. Tony gave him advice to counteract what was going on with Shante. In the scheme of things, Shante was wrong in doing what she did as well. There was manipulation on both sides. That’s why I think it is such a fitting end to the movie. That epiphany that you can’t control your man or your woman and you can’t make them act right by implementing games. Especially, when it comes to matters of the heart. More specifically, not when it is true love. Now you may be able to pull this off when you’re out there fooling around and just in it to get some cookie then fine. Other than that though, games do not work.

M: Morris talked about your role in his getting up to speed with the whole world of comedy. Because of your background as an actor and not as a stand-up comedian, it was easier for him to learn.

AA: Yeah, and I take it as a compliment and I take it as a compliment from Morris because he actually called me the other day. I take it as a compliment when people come up to me and think that I am from the stand-up world because I do not. I know what they go through. I just happen to be a comedic actor. Morris and I were able to work a lot off of one another and complement each other. I think that is what this whole cast is. It was a great ensemble and everybody was hitting it out of the park. It was a great team to be on.

M: Do you remember the first time that you realized that you were funny?

AA: It is probably a story I should not tell. A lot of people who come into my life and have the opportunity to meet my mother and meet her for the first time realize it comes from her. When they meet her, they are like that is just who you are. This is natural. I get my sense of humor from my mom. She is the inspiration for what I do today. This is the person I watched and knew that this is what I wanted to do. I saw her when I was 9 in a production of “A Raisin In The Sun” at Compton Community College and I was like this is what I want to do. I only wanted to be three things in life; a lawyer, a professional football player for the Dallas Cowboys, or an actor. Choosing to be an actor allows me the opportunity to be all three and more. My mom gave me the inspiration to do this.

M: This movie afforded you the opportunity to play a lawyer and there was that great scene where you are holding a mock court.

AA: Yeah, I was like I made the lawyer one. The mock court was fun. The director allowed us to run with that. He gave us a nice blueprint with the script as a whole. He allowed me to be me and afforded me the opportunity to add. I saw it for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I really enjoyed it. I watched with the cast and crew and everyone was pleased. I think it will be well received across the board because we are dealing with universal themes and issues. Battle of the sexes, us versus them. I think anyone from any background will appreciate the script. It is dealing with an emotion and you cannot put a color on that. It just happens that it is a story being told by African Americans, but it is not just an African American story.

M: Did you have a lot of freedom to add-lib like in that scene throughout the movie?

AA: I cannot take all the credit for the success of my scenes. Mark Brown gave us an excellent blueprint for us to execute. It is up to me to color it my unique way. Sometimes he has a vision of it and sometimes I have a vision of it and they may conflict, but more often than not what we came up with as a collective was what we went with. We were in this together. As long as the pertinent points were hit on, I have never had a script that did not allow me to do what I do. That’s why they cast us in the movie so that we breathe life into the characters. They know what to expect from us and sometimes they expect a lot, but that’s why we get paid the $5.50 that we get paid.

M: Why are you so confident that this will transcend racial boundaries?

AA: I am confident because it is not a black story. Everyone has some problems in their relationships; everybody has lied in their relationship. It just happens to be a story that is told really well. We’re all sexy on the screen, we’re all intelligent and we all have our shit together. That’s just the story we are telling and it just happens to be that we are people of color. Latinos could have told this story, Native American could have told this story, Asian Americans could have told this story. I HOPE everybody identifies with this story, maybe I am naïve.

M: Who plays the game better, men or women?

AA: Women, hands down and all these men at the table would be able to say that. I think women are more vindictive than we realize and more intelligent than what we give them credit for. I sit in the beauty salon for three hours every week and I sit and become part of their world. By listening to women, I know women play this game a whole lot better than we do.

M: Beauty salon every week?

AA: Why not? I get to sit around beautiful women; I get my hair done, my nails done, and my feet done. I take care of myself. I am sure you do to. Every week.

M: You went to Howard University?

AA: Yeah, Wendy Robinson and I were in the college of fine arts together. In classes together, that’s my girl. That’s why we had such a good time together on the set. Vivica and Morris go back 10 years to “Out All Night.” Wendy and I go back another 10-12 years in college. I worked with Vivica on “Kingdom Come.” I’ve known Mo’Nique for a while. Did a movie with Gabrielle and Tamala. So it wasn’t like work, it was going to have fun everyday.

M: Was your relationship on the set indicative of Hollywood and black Hollywood?

AA: Any time you put together an all black cast, the budgets that we get are significantly smaller than a mainstream American movie. The budget on this movie was only $6 million. That’s relatively small. Sometimes people are narrow-minded and believe that they can only market films like this to African Americans. They don’t understand that black culture is embraced all over the world. I have traveled the world and have seen the way people have embraced me. From the largest mainstream film that I have made to the smallest urban film, “3 Strikes,” “Trippin” - these are films that they can’t keep on the shelves overseas. So when people say there is no overseas market, I know that it is a lie. They are going to have to tell me another excuse. Let’s look at hip-hop culture - it is embraced all over. Our music and our culture have been embraced worldwide.

M: You seem to have an intricate knowledge of the business side of the industry. Any plans to take on a greater role through perhaps production?

AA: Definitely, that is part of the plan and that plan has already been set in motion. I have sold two movies, one is at Disney and another is at USA Films. Both projects I am starring in and executive producing. I am starting and have started a production company it is just not up and running the way I want it to. So in the next couple of years, if I am not starring in a film I would like to have a name brand that I can attach to it. So if A2 (A Squared) Productions is attached to it you know what type of quality it is.

M: What’s holding the production company back right now?

AA: It’s just having the time to set it up and setting it up the way I want to set it up.