The movie may be called Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, but we’re talking wild and wicked funny man Martin Lawrence here. So expect the extreme unexpected when Lawrence’s big city talk show superstar pays a visit back home to his rural Southern roots, and possibly the weirdest family in America. The stand up sensation sat down to talk about tapping a little into his more serious side for the movie, the rumored dark side of comedians, getting wiped up by the physical regimen necessitated by his role, and the amazing team effort from the likes of co-stars Michael Clarke Duncan, Mike Epps, Mo’Nique, Cedric the Entertainer, and James Earl Jones, without which, Martin insists, this dysfunctional family values comedy would not have been nearly as possible.
What grabbed your attention about this movie, and lured you in?
MARTIN LAWRENCE: For me, I love the heart that it has. And I love that it reminds us that we need to stay true to what started us, which is family.
What exactly goes into picking and choosing your movies?
ML: The paycheck! Yeah, the paycheck usually helps me know. No, it’s the script. But the paycheck helps! But if the script is good, then I try to get into it for you guys to see, and hopefully enjoy.
Do you think comedians are really depressed types with dark sides, like what happened with Owen Wilson?
ML: Right, but all of us could have very dark lives, and everything else.
But do you think there is lots of pressure that comes with trying to make people laugh?
ML: Sometimes the pressure is what you make it, you know? I don’t think you have to have a dark side, to make people laugh.
We get to see a different side of you in this film, something a little more dramatic and serious. Why did you want to go there?
ML: Well, to be able to show a dramatic side in this movie was special for me. Because I don’t get an opportunity to do that very often. And to be able to do it opposite James Earl Jones, was just big.
You know, he showed me who the real vet was. I thought I was doing something, and he turned around with a tear in his eye saying, young man, can you do this? And I couldn’t do that. And I said, oh my god, I’m dealing with a real veteran here. But it was a lot of fun, so I was glad I had the opportunity to do that.
And the obstacle course, I was just glad I was in shape for it. Because I didn’t realize we were going to have to do so much physical stuff. And I just thank God I play a lot of basketball, and exercise. Because I really had to put that to the test.
What was some of the hardest physical stuff for you?
ML: I don’t know, probably some of the sprints, yeah.
This movie is also about finding true love with somebody you’ve always wanted to be with, after years and years, Do you believe that can happen?
ML: Yeah. I believe you can connect years later, if you ain’t happy with the one you’re with! If you ain’t happy with the one you’re with, you can connect back with an old flame. Sure. Why not?! Yeah!
You’re a funny guy, but what makes you laugh?
ML: The cast that’s in the movie, they make me laugh. We had so many fun moments filming it, that I got to laugh off camera and on camera with this cast. So that was beautiful.
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins is opening during Black History Month, do you think Black History Month is still relevant?
ML: It’s always going to be relevant. We as Black people deserve all the wonderful things that put us in a good light, you know what I mean? So if it was up to me, it wouldn’t just be this month, it would be year round, every day. So that we get recognition for what we do, and who we are.
Any chance you’ll do another concert movie?
ML: I hope so, I really do. I want to do one more concert film. I love coming on stage and seeing that audience, and getting that rush and all that. But I don’t want to force it. I want to have something to say.
You’re pretty wild in Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, it was terrific seeing you take the lead on screen again.
ML: I’ll gladly take that role. You know, meaning the Chicago Bulls had to have Michael Jordan, right? Lakers got to have Kobe, Miami got to have Shack. So yeah, I’ll take that. But you know what, I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. We’re one big cast, so we’re one. That’s it.