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Anthony Anderson   ('King's Ransom') Anthony Anderson ('King's Ransom')

'It's Still All About The Anderson!'

Born and raised in Compton, California, Anthony Anderson is the son of a career film extra and her entrepreneur husband. As a toddler, he accompanied his mother to several film sets, and by the time he was four years old, he knew acting was his destiny. While pursuing his career, Anderson continued his education, attending the High School for the Performing Arts, where he earned first place in the NAACP’s ACTSO Awards with his performance of the classic monologue from "The Great White Hope." That performance and his dedication and talent, earned him an arts scholarship to Howard University. After college, Anderson was eager to return to Los Angeles to pursue acting.

In 1996, Anderson landed his first professional job in the teen series "Hang Time." That was followed by guest-starring roles in other shows including "J.A.G." and "NYPD Blue." Producer David E. Kelley was so impressed with Anderson’s talent that he wrote a two-episode arc especially for him on the hit series "Ally McBeal."

Anderson first gained attention as one of Jim Carrey’s sons in "Me, Myself and Irene" and has subsequently appeared in such blockbuster films as "Barbershop," Kangaroo Jack," Exit Wounds," "Cradle 2 the Grave," Two Can Play That Game" and "Malibu’s Most Wanted" opposite Jamie Kennedy.

And now he’s back, but this time it’s as a leading man in the new movie “King’s Ransom” starring alongside Leila Arcieri, , Kellita Smith, Jay Mohr, and Loretta Devine. “King’s Ransom” is the story of a rich, egotistical businessman named Malcolm King (Anthony Anderson) who is about to lose everything in a divorce settlement. In an attempt to thwart his ex-wife, Malcolm tries to stage his own kidnapping, with his girlfriend and her thuggish brother as accomplices. Looks like Malcolm's not the only one trying to pull off a kidnapping, however!

Catching up with the man himself just recently, at the beautiful Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, MI, I first asked Anthony how he felt finally taking the lead in a movie? ”It feels good man, it feels good. New Line gave me the opportunity to star in my first film and it’s not often that a studio will call an actor up, tell them that they’re gonna give you this much money, and that you’re the only actor for the part!”

Was there a huge difference to you between being the leading man and being a bit-part player? ”Outside of a work schedule and the hours that I had to put it, it was no different to what I’d done before. I just had #1 next to my name on the call sheet. I’d come to work and I’d do the best that I can, never leaving anything in my dressing room or my trailer. I bring it all to the sound stage and set. As long as I know that I did the best that I could, no matter how big or how small the role was, I’m happy.”

Out of all the movie roles that you’ve undertaken, is there one that really encapsulates your best work to date? ”No, not really. I’ve not done that project yet. If you ask me which is closest to me I’d have to say the character of Tony from ‘Two Can Play That Game.’ The most memorable film that I’ve ever done is probably ‘Kangaroo Jack.’ I spent six months in Australia doing that and three of those six months I spent in the Outback where I came across six barefoot Aboriginal youths who marveled at me because they had never seen a black American person before. They’d only seen them in films and when I asked them what films that they had seen, the first five films that they named were mine!”

”So, when you have moments like that, that’s what resonates with me, you know. So, I would have to say that’s my favorite project, to date, but the one that captures me as the best actor I can be, I haven’t made that yet.”

At what point during the filming of “King’s Ransom” did it become clear to you that your career choice couldn’t have been chosen any better?! ”I can’t say that it was during the filming of ‘King’s ransom,’ but when I got the call from the studio telling me this was what they wanted to do, that they wanted to make the film and they would only make it if I was attached to it, I thought right then that that was the right move for me. It was my first opportunity thus far to be the lead in a film and they then surrounded me with a great cast. So, that took the pressure off me right there.”

Are there any behind-the-scenes secrets from “King’s Ransom” that you can reveal for us today?! ”There was really nothing, but what I will tell you right now you’ll never see! Kellita and I were in the basement, tied back-to-back on the chairs, and Jay Mohr came down dressed in nothing but some ankle socks and some tennis shoes! And he was committed to doing the scene and was committed to his character and so he did the entire scene butt-naked! He came around and faced me during the scene and I was like, ‘Hey, dog, come on now. I’m gonna work with you and I’m gonna feed you your lines, but stay out of my eye line!”

So, “Hustle & Flow” is your next movie project due out this Summer – tell us more ”Yeah, it stars Terrence Howard, myself, Taryn Manning, DJ Qualls, Ludacris and Isaac Hayes! Yeah, it’s a serious, dramatic piece. It’s an independent film that Hollywood didn’t want to make, so we took it to Sundance and we broke records with it, and now every studio wants it now! Yeah, it drops July 14th this year and I’m very excited about it.”

Another upcoming movie is “The Departed” and stars some big names … tell me more about your role in this thriller ”Yeah, we’re comin’ up on that. We haven’t started filming that yet, but that’s gonna be directed by Martin Scorsese. Yeah, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and myself. I play one of the cops, and it’s a remake of a Hong Kong film called ‘Infernal Affairs’.”

Growing up with a padlock on the fridge, a pay phone in the front room, and your mother chasing after your father with a shotgun, I’m wondering what you learnt back then that you carry through with you today? ”Wow, you’ve done your homework! You know what man, yeah, all of that’s in fun, but just responsibility. Just responsibility for your actions and for who you are … and for just being a man. I learned from my father, who’s now passed, how to be a man, but in his passing a few weeks ago I learnt that I got my strength from my mother. So, just strength and perseverance is what I learnt through all of that. Yeah, my father padlocked the refrigerator so we couldn’t eat HIS food, and yeah he put a pay phone in the front room and made me pay for my own phone calls, but it was all good. All good.”

Do you pass any of these learning’s down to your own two children? ”You know what man, it’s a combination of both … but I hit my kids, if that’s what you’re asking me,” he sarcastically smiles. ”But, my kids have it a little differently then I had. Not that that’s better or worse, they just have it differently. My children have no wants, and with that I teach them responsibility for the things that they think they need. Just because we can get it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gonna have it. You have to earn that.”

Finally, if you were trying to explain who Anthony Anderson was to someone, how would you describe yourself to make them realize?! ”You know, what you see is what you get man. For the most part, these characters that I’ve been portraying in these films so far have just been an extension of me. I’m a simple man with simple pleasures. I’m your every day brother off the block, that’s why I’m so approachable on the street because you see me and all that transcends onto the screen. It’s like yeah, that’s my homeboy, that’s my cousin, that’s my uncle, that’s my brother up there. I believe that people relate to me because I am who they are. I’m just a regular cat from Compton, man who had a dream and I’m living that dream!”

Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk

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