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A Championship Team
With an actress of Queen Latifah's caliber to anchor their cast, the filmmakers put their minds to finding equally capable actors to fill the rest of the movie's roles. "To me as a filmmaker, it's all about ensemble casting,” says Hamri. "I want to get a group of people that will mesh together even if they never appear in the same scene together.” 

NBA star Scott McKnight, Leslie's unexpected love interest, is played by recording artist and actor Common. After a string of successful supporting roles in films including AMERICAN GANGSTER and TERMINATOR SALVATION, Common is tackling his first leading role in JUST WRIGHT. 

"We always knew that the greatest casting challenge was going to be Scott McKnight,” says Chase. "The character combines both machismo and vulnerability. He needed to be a terrific actor and credible as a basketball superstar. He has to be really good looking, athletic and all the things that come with being a basketball star.

"The stars all aligned at the right time,” Chase continues. "Common embodies everything we were looking for. He's the right age and the right physicality and the right persona. It is uncanny because that combination of strength and vulnerability comes naturally.” 

His leading lady couldn't be more enthusiastic. "Common is fantastic!” raves Latifah. "It was a big role to undertake. He was training and shooting at the same time, going from rehearsing and filming all day to basketball training. He delivered 100 percent.”

"And he was such a cool person to work with,” she continues. "I would look at him some days and say, ‘I hope you're not exhausted yet. Because you got to do it again and do it again.' It's been great to watch him stretch as an actor and do all of the things he's capable of.” 

"McKnight has a lot of heart to him and it shows in things like an interest in Joni Mitchell's music and some of the artwork that he chooses for his home.” says Common of his character.

Common relished his first leading man experience and all the opportunities that came with it. "I knew I wanted to be a part of this movie,” says Common. "It's about two of my favorite things, love and basketball.”

The role showcases a previously unseen side of the actor, who has focused primarily on roles in action films including WANTED and SMOKIN' ACES. "I had emotional scenes,” he says. "I had to be funny and charming. I went from romantic scenes to basketball scenes. One of the most fulfilling moments was hitting that three-point shot against The Heat. The pressure was on for real. It was like a real game because everybody's like, ‘Yo, you got to hit this shot.' The crowd felt it, the team felt it and behind the cameras, the producers and the director were all saying, ‘Come on, hit this shot.' That was very satisfying.” 

He sees a number of parallels, both personal and professional, between himself and his leading lady. "We both come from the inner city,” says Common. "We were both educated by our moms. Latifah rose in music and then went into TV and film. I eventually rose in music and I'm moving into TV and films. And we're both Pisces, which is cool. I always hope people will say some of the same things about me that they do about Latifah—that she's a nice person and a good person. I really respect her journey.”

Common remembers meeting his co-star for the first time in the early 1990s. "I was trying to get on as a hip-hop artist at The New Music Seminar,” he says. "We were documenting the whole experience on video tape. She didn't know who we were, but when we asked her to give us a shout-out on tape, she did. I wasn't Common at that time to her. I was just a new artist trying to get out there and she was just so cool. There's a special something about her. How many people on earth can make a jazz album, a rap album, star in this film and host the Grammys? She's got a lot of gifts

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