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On the Road: Meet the Johnson Family
The JOHNSON FAMILY VACATION is destined for mayhem from the very start – if only because it involves the Johnsons, a high-spirited modern American family of opinionated individualists who know what they want and are always ready and willing to battle one another to get it. "The Johnsons are living out the American Dream,” says Eric C. Rhone. "They're successful, loving and they mean well. And yet they still have to go through the struggles we all go through, they still have to juggle their values and their hopes for the future and their need to get along with one another. Only they do it in some pretty hysterical ways.”

At the head of the Johnson family – at least in his own mind – is Nate, whom Cedric The Entertainer describes as "a pretty conservative guy who thinks that success alone has made him a good father and a good husband – only he's about to learn there's a lot more to it.” When Nate commandeers a car trip to Missouri, it looks like it might just implode the family once and for all, but instead, at the end of the day, Nate grows closer to his son, gains new respect for his daughters and even rekindles the flames of romance with his wife. "I think a lot of the fun of this movie is watching Nate try to win his wife over and get his family back together. He goes on a real journey,” says Cedric.

For the cast and crew, working with Cedric was a lesson in the spontaneity of comedy.

"With Cedric, every word that comes out of his mouth is funny,” says producer Wendy Park. "But he never gives the feeling that he's putting on a show. He's so real. And he wasn't just the Dad in our movie – he was also the Dad figure on the set. He was always supportive, kind and an overall great guy.”

Adds Christopher Erskin: "Cedric is a guy who appeals to everyone. Whether you're a truck driver or an executive, if you're rich, poor, white or black, it doesn't matter. You identify with Cedric because the way he approaches his struggles is just so incredibly Every Man. He's a wonderful comic hero.”

Playing opposite Cedric's quintessential Dad is Vanessa Williams as an all-American Mom, Dorothy Johnson, a loving but feisty wife and mother who has moved out of the family house in order to have the freedom to go after her own dream of returning to college. As Vanessa puts it: "Nate and Dorothy aren't quite estranged but they are having a little ‘moment' in their marriage. You could say that deep down, Dorothy knows Nate has a good heart, but she also sees that he's just not paying attention to her or the kids, and that's not good enough.”

Although she was excited by the film's family-oriented spirit (she is the mother of five children herself with Los Angeles Laker Rick Fox), Vanessa was mostly drawn to JOHNSON FAMILY VACATION because the script had her on the floor with laughter. "I really thought it couldn't get much funnier and when you add in working with Cedric, it seemed like a no-brainer to take the role,” she explains. "If you've ever been stuck with a family in a car anytime in your life, you know there's going to be tension, adventures and drama along the way and this film has it all.”

Indeed, the film brought back powerful memories of Vanessa's own family escapades. "I remember going to visit my grandmother, riding in our Econoline Ford van on an 8-hour trip, and the whole way I was in the bench in the back with my brother. I remember eating cold chicken in a brown paper bag, playing animal bingo and stopping at roadside shops for rock candy. We had our rough moments, but overall, it was a real bonding experience,” she recalls.

Says Eric C. Rhone of Vanessa: "She brings integrity to the role of Dorothy. Because she's a mother of children about the same age as the Johnson kids, she had a very organic approach and a real instinctual understanding of motherhood and both the challenges and joys that go a

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