Laz Alonso jumps the broom

We sit down with the Breakout Kings star to talk about his new film, Jumping the Broom.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

We’ve been telling people about Laz Alonso for years. He pops up with memorable characters in Fast & Furious and Avatar, now with his own show Breakout Kings. Now maybe the ladies are starting to notice. Jumping the Broom is a romantic comedy. Alonso plays Jason, a groom to be who has to survive the meeting of parents. So we got to catch up with the softer side of Laz Alonso.

Crave Online: We know you from Fast & Furious, Avatar and Breakout Kings. Is Jumping the Broom the kind of movie you’d go see on a Friday night?

Laz Alonso: You know, it typically would not have been. I’ve always ran from the “chick flick.” So when I did get this film, my first priority was to rent and buy as many romantic comedies as possible. I’ll say, I have to hide my DVD collection now from my friends because I’ll get made fun of. I’ll never be able to walk in the barbershop again if they see my DVD collection. I probably watched every single one out there from Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Roberts, Matthew McConaughey. You name it, I studied them. It was more or less just to get the tone of how they worked. They have their own kind of rhythm and comedy. The lead man always has something that you can’t really put your finger on it, but you have to fall in love with him as a viewer as well. I hope that I was able to find that in the character that I played, Jason. But it was a process. It’s its own hard work, totally different from the boot camps and the martial arts training that you do to play all these other films that you mentioned. This was in and of itself hard work as well but you’re using different muscles.

Crave Online: Which of those DVDs you rented did you actually enjoy?

Laz Alonso: I would say Hitch helped me a lot. The reason was because not only was Will Smith playing the lead character. Just watching him was studying as well. But it was also being coached at the same time because he’s coaching guys on how to be romantic. It was almost like a 2 for 1 watching Hitch. I got to study what he did as an actor but then I also got a little bit of coaching as well. One thing I remember that stood out in Hitch that he said was, “It’s all about tone.” A very large part of our communication isn’t what is said but it’s how it’s said, the tone. I worked on that. I practiced on the tone in which I would speak to Paula versus the tone that I would speak to everyone else in the film as far as all the other characters on screen. I’m hoping that people can hear that, a little more sweetness and softness. Still being man enough to be attractive to her, but at the same time I wanted people to feel that love that was in there for her.

Crave Online: Is it interesting to have a discussion in a film about waiting until marriage to have sex?

Laz Alonso: It is because it’s something that in the real world, I mean outside of cinema, it may or may not come about. Once you put it on film, you have to do it in a way in which it’s not preaching, in which it’s not imposing. For us, the way that we approached it was let’s play it human. Yeah, we’re still sexually attracted to each other. Just because we’re not having sex doesn’t mean that we’re not sexually frustrated. My character even joked about how he was getting through it, all the different tactics that he used to make it interesting until the day he can finally have sex with her. There was a lot out of that speech that was cut out. [Laughs] I did a lot of research, man. Online helped a lot, but I think that we tried to do it in a fun way. We tried to talk about if we’re waiting, just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, but if you love her and that’s what she wants to do, wait.

Crave Online: When Jason stands up to his family, is it important to show that you can speak up and still be respectful?

Laz Alonso: Absolutely. It’s funny that you bring that up because I had a lot of trouble with that scene. I’m the son of a single mother and my mother and I have had instances where we’ve blown up in front of the family. I usually like to have that conversation in private. If I’m going to speak out of line or stand up to her, can we step outside or can we go to the bathroom or go someplace where whatever is said doesn’t embarrass her or she doesn’t embarrass me in front of a group of people. Salim felt the opposite in that situation. He wanted Jason to confront her in front of these people, whether they’re strangers or not, and take a stand for his woman regardless of who’s witnessing the event take place. So that was hard for me to do. It was hard for me to do that to Loretta’s character in front of these people who weren’t family members, a lot of them. Also Loretta is a lot smaller than I am so when we played that scene where her and I finally had our confrontation, it’s a lot easier to read the scene than to be in front of someone who’s coming up to your chest and not being too physically imposing, not playing it too aggressively, but letting the emotion carry the moment. It was something that after watching the film, I’m happy that it came off that way. It was more of an intense and emotional moment versus an outburst.

Crave Online: How is Breakout Kings going?

Laz Alonso: Breakout Kings is going well. So far so good. The numbers in 18-25 which is an area where demographically speaking, A&E has never really been that strong. They’ve always had an audience that skews more in their late 20s and 30s. Breakout Kings has helped bring a younger audience to A&E. People seem to really like the show. They’re having a lot of fun with it. They’re having a lot of fun with the characters. I had a week off between Jumping the Broom and Breakout Kings. After I wrapped Jumping the Broom, I pretty much came home, packed and took off to Toronto to go shoot the show. But it really gave me a whole new respect for television production. I’ve done a lot of films but this was my first series. It is a tremendous amount of work in a small, compact period of time. We’re doing seven day episodes. Each episode we were shooting in seven days so you had very little time to prepare. You just had to go in and really feel the character and live the moment. It’s something that I really, really enjoyed after coming off of this.

Crave Online: Is there a big season finale coming?

Laz Alonso: There is a very emotional season finale coming. The show did not have the budget that Prison Break had but I think what makes this series different from a lot of other procedurals is that it’s very character-driven. The characters are allowed to perform and they crack jokes and to act. It’s not just information, information, information, information. One thing that I loved about our season finale is that you really see the human side of both my character and the other characters as well. I think the vulnerability that you feel out of our characters really connects you to them. It’s what kind of makes this procedural a little different from what typically you see in the genre.

Crave Online: Looking at your path, you’ve had some pretty cool credits along the way. You got to play Snoop’s assistant on Entourage and you got to be in Leprechan: Back 2 The Hood. Do you look back fondly on those moments along the way?

Laz Alonso: It’s funny because when I got Jarhead and Avatar and all those movies, Leprechaun still to this day airs on BET. I was thinking, “Will they just let it go? I finally have a body of work that can speak much better to what I can do than just Leprechaun.” But I actually sat back and watched it probably about a month and a half ago or two. My buddies all still make fun of me about the whole Leprechaun thing and I’m proud of that movie. I’m just as proud of that work as I am of anything else that I’ve done. I feel like where I was in my career at the time, I committed to the character. [Laughs]

Crave Online: You’ve got to have fun with it.

Laz Alonso: Yeah, I made you believe. Working with Warwick Davis and all his stunt guys, to this day is probably one of the most fun moments I’ve had in my career because I had never worked with little people before. To see how they break down stuff and how they approach the work, they just became personal friends of mine. They educated me a lot on their world which you take for granted the luxuries that we have and how the world really isn’t designed for them. They have to make adjustments to our luxuries and things. I learned a lot and we became friends. For a while I’d have a lot of them come over and watch football with me. A lot of them were Redskins fans so it would be great. All of Warwick’s stunt guys would be at my house watching Redskins games. It was a lot of fun.