About The Production
The worlds of literature and film have long been fascinated with time travel and the comedic results of a man or woman being thrust out of their modem time frame and into the distant past. One of the most notable examples is Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, in which a young man in a nineteenth century New England arms factory is struck on the head and awakens to find himself in sixth century Camelot.
The Middle Ages continues to inspire artists, writers and filmmakers. Screenwriter Darryl J. Quarles credits his grade school lessons on the Arthurian legend as early inspiration for BLACK KNIGHT. "Ever since my third grade teacher read us stories about King Arthur, I've been fascinated with medieval times and the way people
lived all those centuries ago," he notes. "I thought it would be a lot of fun to write a screenplay about a modern-day African-American man who finds himself in the middle of a rebellion in 14th century England. And to watch him handle the situation, using his contemporary knowledge."
Quarles was no stranger to putting a character in some off-the-wall situations, having come up with the notion of a male detective disguising himself as a rotund Southern granny in the hit comedy "Big Momma's House." For BLACK KNIGHT, he long pondered the method by which he would transport his protagonist back in time. Again, he turned to his early fascination with the period. "Castles and moats have always been magical and mystical to me, so I decided that I could use that as the door to take my character to this new/old world," Quarles states.
Quarles' mix of contemporary humor with a medieval setting drew the attention of Martin Lawrence, who earlier had donned a fat suit to bring Quarles' "Big Momma" character to life. "The BLACK KNIGHT script really made me laugh," Lawrence remembers. "I loved its fish-out-of-water theme, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to play
Jamal. I mean, what's a bigger fish out of water than a brother from modern day going back into medieval England?"
According to director Gil Junger, who honed his skills on over 600 hours of television comedies, the BLACK KNIGHT scenario and the character of Jamal Walker were perfect fits for Lawrence's style and humor.
"What I loved about the script was that it provided great opportunities for Martin, who's a brilliant comedian, to develop and enrich the situations," says
Junger. "Martin's unique style and talents really brought out the story's theme of Jamal's impact on these fourteenth century people and their influence on him."
Central to this theme is Jamal's relationship with Sir Knolte, a once legendary knight who has fallen on hard times. Having just arrived in this strange land, Jamal is oblivious to the fact that he's way out of his element, and that Knolte could be anything but a Los Angeles street person. "When he meets
Knolte, Jamal's first thoughts are, 'How do I get this guy sober?' and 'Where's the closest AA meeting?"' Lawrence laughs. "But for all of Jamal's scheming and scamming, he's a compassionate guy who sees Knolte's in need of help. And Jamal wants to know how he can help him."
Out of this ultimate odd couple pairing that spans over 500 years, comes what Junger describes as a "love story/buddy comedy."
"Knolte and Jamal inspire each other to be the best they can be, out of respect and honor," he elaborates. "In that way, it is a kind of love story."
Junger cast Tom Wilkinson, one of Britian's most distinguished actors, as
Knolte. The contrasting methods of the classically-trained Wilkinson and Lawrence's razor-sharp comic timing and improvisational style enhanced the dynamic between their respective characters. Says producer Paul
Schiff: "One of the pleasures of working on this movie was watching Tom and Martin come to their charac
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