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April 2005
King's Ransom: An Interview with Anthony Anderson

King's Ransom: An Interview with Anthony Anderson

Wilson Morales

Anthony Anderson is steadily climbing up the Hollywood chain. After appearing in numerous films as the sidekick to some big name star and basically steal any scene he's in, he's been given the green light to be the lead for a change. Not only that, but he's currently impressing many people with his dramatic performance in the TV show, The Shield, opposite Glen Close as well as his supporting turn in the indie film "Hustle and Flow" that got rave reviews out of this year's Sundance Film Festival. To top that off, legendary film director Martin Scorsese has cast him in his next film, The Departed, opposite Leo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Anthony Anderson spoke about his role in King's Ransom and the other projects he's working on.

How is it on the set of The Shield?

Anthony Anderson: Glen Close, man, I'm not going to lie, everyday I go to work and I have something with Glen Close and Michael Chiklis. I literally try to make them sweat every scene. That's what I want to do because when people watch this. Glen Close is a living icon. You look at the work, some of her favorite work and I think it's wild because she thinks some of her best work was in Dangerous Liaisons and that's what I believe as well. We sit there and I want them to sweat. Just with the work not even the intent of the character, all that, I want them to work. It's like I want them to want me to work in the scene, and that's where I'm coming from. Because when you watch it, I don't ever want it to be lopsided with Glen Close or Michael Chiklis or whoever I'm working with is here and I'm here so and I've got to bring it.

Is there somebody else who kind of tripped you up?

AA: Jay Mohr. We were in a scene one day in that basement, me and Kellita are tied to the chair. Jay Mohr comes down the steps butt naked. Butt naked. I don't want to see a white man's penis. I don't want to see another man's penis. You know what I'm saying. Sorry. I ain't looking. But you talk about what caught us off guard, that was it, you know, but as a comedic actor, I'm not a comedian. I'm an actor who just happens to be funny on occasions sometimes. You know, okay. You say you're a comedian but you know you always have to be on guard for something like that. You know and that just took us for a loop.

What was he doing - trying to be frisky in that case?

AA: I guess so, I don't know. Baby, no it was warm inside. You know, Jay just wanted a moment for himself I guess. He just wanted a moment. I was like all right and I think the cameras were rolling. I was like all right.

How do you pair it off, the comedy and the drama, like you got the part and what's up next?

AA: You know what man, there isn't a switch that I turn on. For the most part want you seen at this table where you seen in a lot of the films that I've done. Big Mama's House, Barber Shop, Me, Myself and Irene, Two Can Play That Game, you know those have all been extensions of me. Hopefully with a different twist so you don't say oh, he's just doing that again, they're just extensions of who I am so it's not like there's an on switch that I go to comedic wise. I'm an actor. This is what I do. This is what I've trained at since I was 9 years old and going to the High School for Performing Arts, and being accepted to Howard University on a talent scholarship. And you know being trained by Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Al Freeman, Jr., Bill Duke, Michael Malone and people like that. I just recently was given the opportunity to show that other side. This is something that me and my team of always you know, design, this is our plan, it's just now coming together. So you just flipping it on and off. It's just a matter of me opening up the page and whatever is written on the page that's what I'm here to do.

How do you about working with Martin Scorsese on The Departed?

AA: That's exciting. You know, because not only is it Martin Scorsese but its Jack Nicholson. It's Leonardo DiCaprio, its Matt Damon, it's Mark Wahlberg and you know, it'sAnthony Anderson. I don't mind validating a few more people - you know if that's what I need to do. I've done it with Ice Cube. I've done it with DMX. It's cool. I've done it with a few rappers.

What role do you play?

AA: I just played cop. One of the cops, DiCaprio, Damon and myself, we all joined the academy together and come up, and one's tapped to be a mole in the police department and the other's tapped to be a mole in Nicolson's gang. It's a remake of a film called Inferno Affairs, I don't know if you've seen that but if you haven't, go check it out. It's a Hong Kong film and if we come anywhere close to what they did in the original we're going to have a hot property on our hands, because Inferno Affairs is just a great piece.

Have you seen all three of them?

AA: No, I've only seen the original. I couldn't find the other two. So I got people working to get the other two to me so I can check those out. But you know, I'm one of the top cops, just like those guys are, you know, we just happen to be in the Academy together. There's been a rewrite on the script that I just recently received so I don't know how the characters changed. I know in my meeting with Mr. Scorsese, he was like "Don't worry, there's much more coming for you in this" and that was even before I got the role. He was just speaking about the character and when I walked out of the room the casting director Ellen Brown came to me and said "Anthony, you're in the film." So it will be interesting once I read the new version which I have at home right now just to see how it's changed.

Did you have to audition for the role?

AA: No, I auditioned. I met Ellen Brown. She put me on tape. Sent the tape to Mr. Scorsese and then I made his short list and when he came to Los Angeles for the Oscars he had a small window of time to meet everybody that he wanted to meet on the West Coast I mean because they saw everybody in New York and they were seeing everybody in Los Angeles and I was just fortunate enough to make the short list and once I got in with him it was over, that was it.

Can you talk about "Hustle and Flow"?

AA: It's a great film and I'm not saying that just because I'm in it. If I wasn't in it and saw it I would tell you the same thing. You know, you read about it. They tell you the story, it's about a pimp, some whores who's a some time drug dealer - it's much more deeper than that, it's really about two men really trying to find themselves and going through mid-life crisis, Terrence Howard and myself. It's just a powerful piece and hands down there isn't a weak link in that film with regards to writing, with regards to directing, with regards to acting, with everything and it was written by Craig Brewer, and directed by him as well. A white boy who tells a story and shows a side of Memphis and it's not the stereotypical side of Memphis that one might think Elvis and velvet paintings and all that. He shows you know a real side of it that's refreshing and when you see it you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

Was that taking a chance for you because at the time it was an indie film with no distributor?

AA: Not at all, Independent films are where you really get to cut your teeth and have some fun and do the things that mainstream Hollywood doesn't want to do. Specifically this film; this film could not get made at a studio and now every studio in town wants it. So that's where you really get to do the real, and just not only have fun but just do the work that you might not ordinarily get to do with the studio backing the project. I have to tip my hat to John Singleton and Stephanie Allain. They mortgaged their house, their homes and paid for this movie themselves. Three and a half million dollars out of their own pocket because of what they believed in this script and this young filmmaker who hasn't made any films of any sort.

Why do you think John Singleton didn't direct the film himself?

AA: Who John? Because Craig always wanted to direct it I believe. John just wanted to produce, but working with him and just seeing John and knowing how he is, you can see he's like damn I wish I was doing this, not because Craig wasn't doing a great job but you saw what was going on with it. You saw it was like wow and that's what it was and like I said there isn't a weak link in that piece.

So in coming back to King's Ransom, when people look at the commercials, why should they go see it?

AA: Because its fun. I think we resembled a great cast. I think we tell a great story and hopefully I haven't disappointed many people with the work I've done in the past. They have all just welcomed me in everything that I've done, and why not come see a project that I'm actually the lead in as opposed to being the second and third lead in something and you're respected and really responded to that work, with me doing that. Imagine what I can do if it was my show.

So what story would you like to see on the picture?

AA: There's so many. We're working on this story right now. My partner and I about not the first black police officers in Los Angeles but it's a book called Defender of the Angels and Bob Black police officers in the 20s here in Los Angeles and it's a great compelling story about Central Avenue which was called Centrale Avenue back in the day where we had the Savoy, we had you know our own Apollo, we had that, everything that was going on in Harlem we had on Central Avenue, you know, Count Bassie, Lena Horne, everybody came there to perform and not only was it that but it was all built and owned by black folks.

And is it optional?

AA: Yeah, we're working on that right now.

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