An Exclusive Interview with Vivica A. Fox
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February 18, 2008
With as much that has been talked about or blogged about when it comes to Vivica A. Fox, the part that’s missing in these conversations is how much of a hard working actress/ businesswoman she is. Outside of her personal business, when it comes to work, she’s gives it her all. While every actress Black and White is out fighting to get those plum roles, Ms. Fox has been there and done that and while she continues to go for some key roles, she’s also giving others a chance to shine while capitalizing on the business as well. In the last few years, not only her career has reached a higher lever with the ‘Kill Bill’ franchise that brought her international stardom, but Quentin Tarantino also introduced her to the world of the DVD market where she has produced sequels out or ‘Motives’ and more recently ‘Three Can Play That Game’. Besides the film industry, Fox has also dabbled in the TV world every so often; recently earning an NAACP image nomination for her role opposite Larry David in ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’.
Coming up Ms. Fox is a supporting role in ‘Cover’, a film directed by Bill Duke dealing with gay issues and the strain it has on a family. It’s about a young woman (Aunjanue Ellis) who comes from Atlanta with her daughter and husband and they come to LA and he’s a young doctor. He has his own practice and she helps him. She’s a Christian woman and after a certain point, the practice grows beyond their wildest dreams. They move to the Palisades and have a great house and in the middle of this, she finds out that her husband just viciously betrayed her. The story is how she deals with it and her redemption and also his redemption. It’s also a murder mystery and who killed a certain person. It’s very Hitchcockian style-wise. As the story goes along, she tells her story in a police station and we go back and forth between interrogation and the real story that happen.
Also featured in the film are Aunjanue Ellis, Razaaq Adoti, Lou Gossett Jr., Richard Gant, Patti LaBelle, Leon, Mya Harrison, Paula Jai Parker, Roger Gueneveur Smith, Victoria Platt Tilford, and Clayton Prince.
In speaking exclusively with Blackfilm.com, Ms. Fox talks about her attracting for doing ‘Cover’, bringing back the character Shante Smith for ‘Three Can Play That Game’, and her upcoming film with Jessica Simpson in ‘Major Movie Star’.
What attracted you to this film?
Vivica A. Fox: The main reason I was attracted to ‘Cover’ was Bill Duke to be very honest with you. I worked with Bill Duke on ‘Missing’. He directed an episode of ‘Missing’, which was a series for Lifetime that I starred and executive produced and he came on and worked as a director and we just had a great time. We clicked and I always respected him as an actor, and when he directed me, I had even more respect for him because of his style of directing. He’s an actor’s director, which I just love and when I found out that Bill was doing the project and they got me the script, I was like, ‘Wow! This is great.’ When me and Bill got together to discuss it, he started breaking down this information about how 50 % of the new cases presented every year African American women and that he had a personal connection with a family member and which is the story needs to be told.
How was it working with Aunjanue (Ellis)?
Vivica: Oh my gosh! Aunjanue is so wonderful. Some day she can go places where I was so proud of her because it was a very difficult role to play, but she came in much focused, and just ready to be open and mental for the project for ‘Cover’. I really enjoyed working with her.
Have you known anyone in this position?
Vivica: I definitely know a lot of people that are affected by the H.I.V virus. I have a lot of people in my life that have died over the years and some are still surviving as members of society, but yes, I know people that have been affected by it.
This is a subject matter that’s almost taboo in the black community, specifically in the film industry. We don’t see so much about it and we certainly don’t see a lot of stories. Why do you think this is so?
Vivica: I just think that the African American culture is a little homophobic and we like to think that AIDS was a gay disease and we’ve tried to sweep it underneath the rug and that it affects other people. Since the 80s, the only person we thought was affected by it was Magic Johnson, and he’s still alive and we’re all good. I just believe it’s just a little bit of us that are homophobic and we need to address the issue and more importantly we need to practice safe sex.
Do you think there’s an audience that wants to see this film?
Vivica: Oh, absolutely! We had a screening up in Sacramento once and a lot of people showed up and I was like, ‘Wow’. Besides Black people, there were White people there as well as Asians and it’s because of the names that are attached to the film. Even without that, if it’s a good storyline, they will stick around. If it’s well directed and a quality project, people will enjoy it and not look at color. This has been a passionate thing for Bill Duke. He really wanted to get the story out. He really, really has applied himself and has ask for us as his co-stars and leading ladies to help him with this and because I believed so much at what he delivered that he brought it over to my home for me to see and I was like, ‘Great job. I will support you.’
The film also puts the women in roles outside of the traditional girlfriend or wife roles we usually see in male dominated films.
Vivica: I totally agree with you. That’s why independent films is where people have a tendency to once in a while say that’s where the roles are at. You have your popcorn films that we are all vying for, or maybe that’s where we will compete for, but independent films have roles where you can sink your sink into.
You are one the few actresses out there that we constantly see, either on the big screen or small screen with ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ or films that go straight to DVD.
Vivica: That’s because I’ve always chosen to have versatility in my career. I don’t things where I will be pigeon-holed. I can do comedy. I can do drama. I can independent films. I can do your popcorn films. You know if Vivica Fox is involved in a project, she’s going to make sure that we have a quality project that you can enjoy and that I can be proud of.
You never know what’s going to happen once the film is complete.
Vivica: You’re right. You don’t. You hope it will turn out well and all that stuff.
As of late, some of your films have gone straight to DVD. Is this a new marketing place for folks to see your work?
Vivica: Absolutely! (Director) Quentin Tarantino actually introduced me to that. I had gone to the DVD awards and Quentin was there and he was being honored and he said that ‘every five years or so I’m gonna put out a big popcorn film where I have to have the box office success’ but he also said, ‘Vivica, there’s a huge market out there where films that are going straight to DVD that bring you less pressure.’ People may say that you are not doing well or you’re bombing, but there’s a market for that. People are not going to films that much. Sometimes they want to go to an artist whose material they like and bring it on home. With my films that are going straight to DVD, I produced them and that makes me feel good as a producer that each time I’m getting a project done, I’m employing other African American actors, grips, crew; I’m employing more that just myself and each time that film is a success, then we get a bigger budget.
Speaking of straight to DVD, why did you come back for ‘Three Can Play That Game’?
Vivica: To be honest with you, the reason I got involved with that was because I was doing ‘Motives’ with Rainforest Films (Will Packer, Rob Hardy) and I just kept putting it out in their ears. When I see someone producing direct-to-DVD films, and I get so much feedback from some of the stuff that I have done and will there be a follow up, and Rob said, ‘You know what Vivica? Let me look into that’ and six months later, we were shooting it.
What makes your character in that film, ‘Shante Smith’, so special?
Vivica: Shante is so much fun to play. One of my favorite movies is ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ and there really weren’t any films where a female had broke that fourth wall and talked to the audience, and that was my inspiration for Shante. In some theaters, the brothers and sisters will be talking to the screen, especially if it’s good, then she can pull you in and say, ‘Now, you know they are trippin’’ That’s why she was so relatable. She was this businesswoman who had experienced in life like everyone did. She had her heart broken and her face cracked, had her girls, and had experiences. She was a relatable fun character to play.
Did you think about bringing back the other actors from the first film like Morris Chestnut or MoNique?
Vivica: Oh, I wanted to so bad. In my mind, I wanted me and Keith (played by Chestnut) to be married and we break up and we go through stuff, but Sony Pictures would not allow for me to bring him back. For me as a producer and the star of the film, it became important just for me to get the sequel done. They gave me everything I wanted, but in making sacrifice, I brought in some fun new actors that I haven’t had the opportunity to work with that delivered from Terri J. Vaughn, Jason George, Jaszmin Lewis, Tony Rock, and Melissa Ford. They did a great job as well. Shante has moved from LA to Atlanta, which we know as Chocolate City and she’s there giving couples advice on love. I break the fourth wall and involve myself to the audience and it was fun to do.
This past summer you also shot a film with Jessica Simpson and Jill Marie Jones called ‘Major Movie Star’. How was filming that?
Vivica: Let me tell you something. It was 105 degrees in Shreveport, Louisiana. It was really hot.
What role do you play in the film?
Vivica: I play First Sergeant Morley. I sort of play the head chick in charge who is a former B movie star actress who now is in the Marines and has her own problems with Jessica who shows up as a very spoiled movie starlet and I just give her a hard time. I tortured Jessica and Jill for about a month and it was great.
Did you go through boot camp like the others did?
Vivica: I didn’t have to do as much boot camp as they did and I’m glad. I only had to do two days of boot camp with learning as opposed to what they had to do. They had to get in the dirt and in swamp water and I commend Jessica because she did 95% of all her stunts. She was black and blue and was working hard on the weekends and shooting commercials and doing tons of magazines and she never showed up with a bad attitude. She was like, ‘Let’s do this’ and it was blazingly hot.
How was working in Shreveport? It seems like there are a lot films are being shot there now.
Vivica: It has become a new film capitol. They give you tax incentives and they are bringing business to the community.
What’s next for you besides these films?
Vivica: Well, let’s see. I have ‘Major Movie Star’ coming out, the DVD of ‘Three Can Play That Game’ is now out, and ‘Cover’ coming out, and I have a reality show in the works with VH1 that I did the pilot for, hopefully that will be picked up and called ‘Glam Squad’ with myself and Philip Bloch where we put stylists to the test.
Is there a character on the big or small screen that you haven’t done yet?
Vivica: Well, I’d like to get back to the whole detective state. I really, really enjoyed that with the Lifetime show and that was prematurely short. So, I’d like to get back more into the Foxy Brown detective action, with a little bit kick butt characters.
Why should anyone go see ‘Cover’?
Vivica: Go see it because it’s an important film with great acting and an insightful message that we all need to reintroduce ourselves to, but more importantly it’s a great story with amazing acting.
‘COVER’ opens on February 22, 2008
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