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BIG MOMMAS: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Production Information
When the character of Big Momma was introduced to movie audiences in 2000's "Big Momma's House,” the film became a global box-office sensation. The fun continued with a follow-up, "Big Momma's House 2.” Audiences around the world responded to star Martin Lawrence's bigger-than-life portrayal of a matriarch who lets nothing and no one – not even the most hardened criminals – get in her way.

Big Momma resonated with all audiences of all ages, no matter where they lived. "I think everybody knows a Big Momma,” says Lawrence. "She might not look like the character I play, but everyone has a sister or aunt or grandma who keeps it honest and has a really loving heart. And those are the things I love about Big Momma.” Adds producer David T. Friendly, who along with Lawrence has been an integral part of all three "Big Momma” films: "Martin obviously knows Big Momma inside and out, and makes her soulful and comforting. Big Momma goes through life with a positive attitude, trying to make things better.”

"To know Big Momma is to love her, and she has become nothing less than an icon,” sums up director John Whitesell, who also helmed "Big Momma's House 2.” "Big Momma has an opinion about everything, and will put you on your butt if need be. But beyond that, she's funny and loving.”

The success of the first two "Big Momma” films led to this third offering, but Lawrence, Friendly, Whitesell and screenwriter Matthew Fogel wanted the new film to reinvent the franchise, and not merely continue a successful formula. In doing so, they opened the film up to an audience largely untapped by "Big Momma's House” and "Big Momma's House 2”: teens. Essentially, as Friendly notes, "we're starting over and making something that is not a shadow of the first two films.” Malcolm/Big Momma now has an unexpected partner – his stepson Trent. The action is set in an equally surprising setting: an all girls' high school, and several music and dance sequences feature Lawrence, Jackson, and a talented ensemble of bright young stars.

The Malcolm-Trent dynamic is central to the series' new direction. As the film opens, Malcolm is thrilled when graduating high school student Trent is accepted to Duke University. But Trent has other ideas; he wants to pursue a career as a rapper. That conflict ultimately leads Trent to take a detour into the family business: going undercover by dressing up as a woman. Trent joining Malcolm as a Big Momma and their ensuing generational battles not only double the comedy, they add an emotional resonance because Malcolm must come to terms with Trent's desire to follow his dreams, even as Malcolm goes to extreme lengths to keep Trent safe. "I love playing Big Momma,” says Lawrence, "but it was really the energy of the script and having Brandon as my partner in the story that brought me back. Malcolm looks at Trent as a son but Trent is becoming a man and wants to do his own thing. Everyone can relate to that.”

Jackson says being cast as Trent/Charmaine was a dream come true. "Martin Lawrence is one of my idols and it was exciting to work with him,” says the young star, who had standout roles in "Tropic Thunder” and "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” "And when it came to wearing the [weighty prosthetics, as Charmaine], Martin gave me some good advice: ‘Sit down whenever you can, chill out, and have a good time.' It's my nature to run around the set and talk to everybody, so the suit made me focus on my performance.”

Trent, says Jackson, is "your average teenager who knows exactly what he wants to be; in his case, it's a successful rapper. He also sees himself as a ladies' man, but it's tough to be a ladies' man in a woman's body! So he undergoes all these dynamics of learning about women – and about himself.” Jackson adds that his biggest challenge was making sure Trent could "shine through” the formidable prosthetics that transform the character into Charmaine.

Trent's learning curve in acting like a woman is a steep one, made exponentially more difficult because he's also trying to woo one of his fellow students, Haley (Jessica Lucas), a beautiful singer and composer. As himself, the cocky and clueless Trent struck out with Haley. But as Charmaine, he's getting a unique perspective on dealing with the opposite sex – and he becomes a better man in the process. Charmaine/Trent's burgeoning relationship with Haley also benefits her. "Haley and Charmaine become close friends because Haley sees a lot of herself in Charmaine,” says Lucas. "Charmaine also helps Haley discover her funny side, which is a big thing because Haley is kind of insecure.”

Charmaine and Haley struggle with being accepted by the school's Divas, an elite clique of the school's most talented students. The queen bee of the Divas is Jasmine (Portia Doubleday), who is particularly put off by Big Momma's and Charmaine's less-than-refined qualities. Nevertheless, the Divas' talents, combined with the antics of Big Momma and Charmaine, come together to create some memorable music and dance sequences – more critical elements in reinventing the "Big Momma” series. "The kids express themselves through music and dance,” notes Whitesell.

Also freshening up the franchise are new and improved make-ups and prosthetics that halved the time it took Martin Lawrence to become Big Momma. "One of the secrets of the ‘Big Momma' movies is the tremendous amount of prep involved building the prosthetics, having the makeup tested, and doing the camera tests,” says Friendly. For BIG MOMMAS: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON, the filmmakers gave themselves the daunting task of reinventing the already complicated technology and process. Fortunately, the production was once again able to call upon the talents of Wesley Wofford, a veteran of "Big Momma's House 2,” to design and apply the prosthetic make-up. Wofford's work was complemented by Spectral Motion Inc., one of the industry's top producers of make-up effects.

Shooting took place last spring in Atlanta. The location not only restored the aspect of Big Momma's southern roots, it fortified the film's musical themes and performances. "Because of all the music in the movie, I couldn't think of a better place to shoot than Atlanta,” says Whitesell. "The culture and music of the city come out in a lot of the locations, and the large pool of actors available in the area added a lot to the production.” Most of the shoot took place at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, which doubled for the school where Malcom and Trent hide out as Big Momma and Charmaine. Other Atlanta locations included Centennial Park, Little Five Points, and Ainsley Park.

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