Paula Patton is a high spirited woman. As soon as I walked in the room to conduct her interview my own energy level went from a 7 to a 20!
In the film “Baggage Claim,” she plays the leading lady, Montana Moore.
In the role she gives us a range of emotions. She is the film’s pilot, as we join her on a wacky, and yet romantic journey to love. Will we encounter turbulence? Yes, of course. But in the end, we will land home safely.
Creating a memorable character is a serious job for an actor. If you were to stop and think about leading African American actresses and their roles, could you name ten memorable characters?
When I think of memorable characters, I think of Whoopi Goldberg as Celie Johnson in ‘Color Purple,’ I think of Diahann Carroll as Claudine, I think of Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, I think of Phylicia Rashad as Clair Huxtable, I think of Halle Berry as Nisi in ‘B.A.P.,’ and more of course.
I believe that Paula has created a memorable character in Montana Moore. Memorable as in you will wonder how the character lives; even when the movie is over.
Shadow and Act: Can you tell us about the character that you play?
Paula Patton: I play Montana Moore, a really fun character. I loved this story the minute that I read the book, and then the script. She has a great career, great friends, and she is dating a man that she think is so dreamy, but soon realizes that he’s not so dreamy. She soon finds herself brokenhearted and eating ice cream, when her younger sister comes to tell her that she is getting married in a month. But because her mom and other added pressures, she has just had enough! So she goes to her best friends to get help to find a man in the next few days. She decides to revisit ex boyfriends to find a man. She’s not thinking of love, she is thinking about pleasing other people.
Shadow and Act: What is your favorite part of the film?
Paula Patton: Well, I believe that there are two happy endings to this movie. One is that I feel that she falls in love with herself, and she stops caring what anybody thinks. She says love me as I am, because I am okay with me. And of course the other ending, I won’t tell!
Shadow and Act: Can you tell us about the actual casting process?
Paula Patton: I read this script initially when I was making the film, “Just Wright” with Queen Latifah, and when I was soon to be pregnant. I read it and I laughed out loud! I then gave my husband and then my best friend the script, and we did our own table read. I was like I have to have this role! Its so major for a black actress to lead a romantic comedy. And I was like I want this film so badly! David had a meeting with me, but the movie did not get a go at the time, I did not have enough on my resume, and things fell apart. But then I had my son, and I had just finished doing Mission Impossible, and then my agent said it looks like they’re going to make Baggage Claim again, and David Talbert only wants you. So, I cried. And I was like this is a dream come true. Its a celebration because now the film has finally happened, years and years later.
Shadow and Act: Can you tell us about the atmosphere on set?
Paula Patton: It was like a party. It was always new people coming in you know? I have to give credit to Dave because he always made sure that we had a fun and relaxing environment. And for being the writer, and being open to people bringing their own flavor to their character. This is important for a comedy, and it showed the strength of the director. He allowed collaboration, and I believe that is what makes movies magic. The actors felt very comfortable; we’d read our scripts on book, and then we’d do it another way. And every time it was someone’s last day on set, it was literally like the publisher’s clearing house. I mean David would make it the biggest deal. Streamers would fall, and more. It took long hours, but the film had to look big budget. And we had fun making it happen.
Shadow and Act: How many weeks did you all shoot?
Paula Patton: For about six weeks. But the days were like very long days.
I always got out of bed while filming excited to play Montana. But by time the shooting came to the end I literally dropped out of bed. Sometimes your body stays up, and then down.
Shadow and Act: Do you enjoy doing romantic comedies?
Paula Patton: Comedy is not supposed to be funny. Its supposed to tell the truth and then that’s funny. The film shows extreme honesty; from me being in a trash can and more. Listen, I’ve done some stuff like that before, and I got caught snooping. My husband was like what are you doing? Love makes you do crazy things.
Shadow and Act: All of your characters, no matter the role have strength. Do you create them that way?
Paula Patton: I don’t try to intellectualize characters too much. But I always think of the audience. I always make sure that my characters are likeable. Maybe at the core of me, I’m a survivor, but I don’t do it on purpose. Sometimes, in acting of course with your performance, some of your own personal character seeps through. My performance goal has always been to perform for the audience. People pay their hard earned money, and so I always desire to give all of myself in every single scene.
In David E. Talbert’s, “Baggage Claim”, Derek Luke offers us a character that’s grounded, charismatic, and thoughtful. He give us a noble man.
Unlike his previous roles, in this film, you will get to see his amazing on screen chemistry with Paula Patton. In my humble opinion, and to my surprise, the chemistry between the two was way better than Paula and Laz Alonso in “Jumping The Broom”. I hate to compare, but I did, and those are my thoughts.
Maybe it’s the scientist in me, but I am deeply interested in why some actors have on screen chemistry that melts our hearts, and then some just don’t do it.
In “Baggage Claim,” Derek takes on the role of William Wright. He is gentle, kind, moves slow, and is deeply loyal. His character is the guy that you do not pay attention to if you are in pursuit of love. If you are chasing love, you will race right past him, because his movement in life is slow and relaxed. His character thinks before he acts.
Shadow and Act was able to catch up with Derek to talk “Baggage Claim,” his role selection, and more.
Shadow and Act: Is it fair to say that you’ve been very selective in the roles that you have taken? The roles are noble. Is this by design or strategy?
Derek Luke: My Dad was not there when I was growing up, and I always had this longing for him. So as an actor I would tell myself stories about where he was. So as an actor now, I’m getting to tell the other side of that coin. So, the nobility, is more so by design on how God made me, rather than strategy.
Shadow and Act: Can you tell us about your character in the film?
DL: I play a character by the name is William Wright. He is a combination of a guy that I’ve been, and a man that I remember hearing my mom and her girlfriends talk about when I was a kid. The guy that wanted a commitment, that’s the character of the man that I play in this film. I was initially submitted to play Damon Diesel. And I really wanted to play that role. But when I read the script, in my heart, I knew that was not the role for me. But I wanted to show my comedic chops. For me, that would’ve been a more of a career risk.
Shadow and Act: How did you prepare for the role?
DL: I prepared for the role through the audition.
Shadow and Act: How so?
DL: I really did not want to go into the audition. Sometimes my faith becomes more sensitive to how people feel, as opposed to what needs to be. So if David was looking at another actor for this role, I would have been like oh cool. That’s great, but David was looking to me to bring life into this character.
SA: You’ve been in Hollywood for more than a decade now. Has it been everything that you’ve thought it would be?
DL: Hollywood is a place where if you abide by the rules and laws, you can get depressed. That’s why faith and spirituality is a higher law. In saying all of that, I feel that personally, when people feel like I have done my best, I now know its time for me to move into developing my own ideas. What I’ve done to date has just been school and training. But who I am, is a whole different cat. I’m from Jersey, I have another story. Its not what Hollywood can do for you, its what you bring to Hollywood. That’s a quote, and its a quote that I have to actually develop. Its one thing to bring to Hollywood what they are hiring, but what about what you are adding?