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Comedy Meets Gravitas
Originally, Lee imagined Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins with four comedians playing pivotal roles; he ended up casting five, which made for an interesting shooting experience. The actors often went off-script and tested the different ways with which they could deliver comedic lines. Often, they made them up as they went along, with Lee and editor George Bowers reviewing the dailies for the best lines and unique takes.

States Lee: “Casting this many comedians in one movie definitely made for multiple takes and a lot of holding in laughter—which is what I wanted. I know that when actors embody roles, they discover something on their own. Because they’re comedians, they’ll find new ways to say it and better ways to get the joke across.

“I certainly encouraged that,” the filmmaker continues. “In the beginning of the movie, they were such slaves to the script; I had to tell them to break out, improvise. Finally, they let it free. I don’t know if they were being deferential to me or to the script, but there are moments in the script that just call for it to be funnier, and for them to bring their own special flavor to it. I expected it, and I wanted it to happen that way. You’re never going to get everything to be great on the page.”

Agrees Margaret Avery: “Comedians don’t have to have a script. Not to take away from Malcolm, because he’s done a wonderful job of writing the story line, but when you need a cap on it they can do 17 takes and have 17 different dialogues, all spontaneous and funny.”

There were often times when the cast was on such a roll that Lee would let the camera roll and extend the take by an extra 10 minutes, before finally yelling “cut.” Shares Stuber: “Really talented comedians find what the essence is of the screenplay. They understand that the director and the writer have very specific needs regarding dialogue and what story it conveys. On the third or fourth takes, they’ll put their own little curve ball on it that doesn’t deviate from that story, but gives you a different spin. That’s real talent, because that’s hard to do.”

One particular sequence, the scene in which Reggie sneaks into the bathroom while Mo’Nique is taking a shower (all the while thinking she is RJ’s fiancée Bianca), was one of the most comical scenes the crew shot during production. Mo’Nique and Mike Epps were allowed to riff on one another nonstop.

Interestingly, because of the Good Friday holiday the previous week, the cast and crew worked on a Saturday, the sixth day in a row of shooting. Despite exhaustion kicking in, Epps and Mo’Nique unleashed their wit and threw scores of one-liners at each other. Their spontaneity was infectious to the rest of the cast and crew.

On Lee’s willingness to let the actors enhance the scene by adding their own lines, Epps comments: “Malcolm is the type of director who allows you to do one of his lines and then do yours. If yours is better, he’s going to give you yours, and that’s what you’re going to see in the movie.”

Martin Lawrence’s character is teased mercilessly throughout the film, and it gave actors such as Epps, Cedric and Duncan a number of opportunities to improvise and throw out different one-liners in order to make fun of him. Going off of the script allowed the cast to play off of one another, lending an authenticity of kinship to the film. Rather than upstage one another, each actor used his/her comedic timing, wit and experiences to add to the comic and/or dramatic effect of each scene.

For Cedric the Entertainer, this group of actors was able to well play off one another; he agreed that they were teammates. “Malc

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