Wonderful actors Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine played best gal pals in the excellent film Waiting to Exhale and they are together again… as rival moms of a bride and groom in the very relatable dramedy Jumping the Broom.
For those unaware, Jumping the Broom is a term for the time-honored African-American tradition of a just-married couple literally jumping over a broom on the ground to symbolize their union since, in the old days, slaves were not allowed to legally marry. What happens when a tradition-honoring, middle class mom (Loretta Devine) clashes with a modern, upper crust matriarch (Angela Bassett)? We sat down at a posh Beverly Hills boutique hotel to ask these funny, friendly, real life pals in person.
Picture Angela Bassett in a gorgeous, dark blue, figure-hugging jersey dress and Loretta in flattering brown. Join us for this very candid and funny girl chat!
Jumping the Broom: Mother’s Day divas?
SheKnows: In the opening scene of this film, the future bride (Paula Patton) has a horrible “morning after” experience when her “date” gets on the phone with another woman. Have you ever been with a guy who did that and, if so, what did you do about it?
Angela Bassett: [Laughs] Probably just took notes and that would be the end of that… and him!
Loretta Devine: I dated pre-cell phones. When I was dating, they didn’t have all that goin’ on. [Laughter] Not this new age stuff. But that was kind of tacky.
Angela Bassett: That was very tacky.
SheKnows: Agreed! Angela, you gravitate to the strong woman roles which you play very well.
Angela Bassett: Thank you. That’s what they ask me to do. But, for this, I kind of felt “Why can’t I play Mrs. Taylor (Loretta’s role)?”
Loretta Devine: She would have been too mean [laughs].
SheKnows: But Angela was also vulnerable in her role.
Angela Bassett: I always try to bring that. That’s always a part of it. As strong as she is, there’s always some vulnerability in that but people tend to remember the strength I guess.
SheKnows: I don’t think I’ve seen you two together since Waiting to Exhale. Were you excited at being reunited for this?
Loretta Devine: Oh, it was a lot of fun. We see each other all the time anyway at everything — benefits, auditions, but we were best friends in Waiting to Exhale and this was so opposite of that. But it’s easier to do that with someone you know.
Angela Bassett: And you trust and you know you can go there and they’re right there with you.
Loretta Devine: And they’re not taking it personal [laughs].
Jumping the Broom: New movie moms
SheKnows: These women are very typical of many like them. How do you bring something new to those parts?
Angela Bassett: I just think I, inherently, exude some strength but I think I do consciously try to bring the humanity or the vulnerability of the character to bear and there were places here when she’s trying to explain to her daughter what she meant to her. There’s vulnerability there and then afterwards with her husband.
SheKnows: That was a wonderful man and wife scene and without dialogue.
Angela Bassett: That scene was originally scripted. When we shot it, Salim (Akil, director) and I just thought, “I don’t particularly like the lines because it was just so melodramatic and when he said, ‘I want to do this scene without the lines. Just take the lines out,'” I was just, “Ahh, that actually frees me up.”
Loretta Devine: That was so Robert De Niro [laughter].
SheKnows: Loretta, we were talking to Paula Patton and Laz (Alonso) who play the bride and groom, and he was saying you were a very method actor on set (staying in character even when the cameras weren’t rolling).
Loretta Devine: I don’t know what Laz is talking about. I must have been teasing him on set one day. I can’t imagine. I don’t think I’m a method actor. That’s not me at all.
Angela Bassett: No. You were over there working on your one woman show, writing poetry, getting your music together.
Loretta Devine: That’s right.
SheKnows: He did say you were like a mom to him.
Loretta Devine: Oh, I think so. He was thinking of my age probably but he did say that I reminded him of his mom and that his mom would approve of everything I was doing so that was very important to him.
SheKnows: Over the years is there a moment from a wedding that sticks with you?
Loretta Devine: I’ve sung at a lot of weddings and I sung, at one girl’s wedding, Bridge Over Troubled Water and that has always stuck with me because that’s a funeral song but that’s the song she requested. Why would you sing Bridge Over Troubled Water at a wedding? So, that’s a memory for me. Oh also, at Sheryl Lee Ralph’s wedding, I was one of the bridesmaids and one of the bridesmaids fainted and Sheryl Lee looked back like, “Are you gonna get up?” [Laughter].
Angela Bassett: At Blair Underwood’s wedding, one of the guests fell in the pool. We got him out in his suit and he was just soaked and the expression on his face, the shock and embarrassment [was something]. We were way out at some estate. It was very fairytale-ish because Blair is half cowboy too so he came in on horses and she was in a big carriage. It was one of those fancy modern houses with a pool inside. That was “Oooo, it’s time to go. Horses braying, people falling. I’m getting nervous.” [More laughter].
SheKnows: Hilarious! Do either one of you think you are an overprotective mom like Loretta’s character in Broom?
Angela Bassett: I think I am. I say that I like to let them experiment when they’re crawling and tasting and grabbing. I say that this is all really a science experiment to them. So, as long as they don’t hurt themselves. At nine months they kept trying [indicates sticking a finger] in my coffee every morning. Finally I just said [offers the coffee cup], “Hot! Hot!” The next morning my daughter didn’t do it but he was, “Let me try one. Waaaa.” Then, he didn’t do it. He’s gonna take it to the edge. I might be able to just tell her about it. But, he’s got to try.
Loretta Devine: Well, I’m a stepmom so most of the protecting I do is Glenn (Marshall) and he and his daughter are just alike in personality so I’m usually protecting them from each other [laughs].
SheKnows: The characters are on the page, written a certain way, but what do you do to mold them?
Angela Bassett: You just see it and read it through the prism of your own experiences and maybe how you want to see her a little bit. A lot of it you look at the screen and you’re like, “Ooo, ooo, did I do that?” You’re not conscious of what you’re doing or how it’s coming out. You can’t be that exacting about it because then it’s really technical and you sense the technique but not the passion or the feeling so I always rely on my actors, on who is across from me.
Loretta Devine: And I love to do it so much that when they say, “Action,” I’m like, “Okay!” It’s such a great feeling to be creating this thing and it’s fun. You never know what’s gonna happen because each take is so different from the one before. You have to be ever present and aware of what’s happening around you.
Angela Bassett: And malleable because each take is going to be different. So you’re not like, “It’s always this.”
Loretta Devine: And it looks easy but it’s such hard work.
Jumping the Broom’s beauty
SheKnows: You were on a beautiful location and outdoors by the water a lot. Were there any challenges with that?
Loretta Devine: Ooo child, those mosquitoes were tearing us up. We were like [she swats herself]. We had every kind of bug spray.
Angela Bassett: And the scene where I’m with Paula and we’re walking out and I’m saying, “Are you pregnant? You can tell me.” That day there was a fog horn and it was like “Baaaaaaa” [she makes a loud fog horn sound]. “If you’re pregnant, you can tell me.” “Baaaaaaa” [laughs]. Every time I’d say something “Baaaaa” and I’m sure they had to take that out. I tried not to jump. It’s always something.
SheKnows: Was the cast like a family on location?
Angela Bassett: It was.
Loretta Devine: Yes. There was a little place outside of Lunenburg (Nova Scotia standing in for Martha’s Vineyard), I call it Looneyberg where we’d all go. We went to a couple of movies and we would go shopping. Everybody’d go get their manicures and pedicures there and we’d all pile into one car because, sometimes, that was all that was available. Or we were passing around the cars. They were very nice to us.
Angela Bassett: Some of the guys did have cars though. “Can I have your car?” “Take it.” The town was only about 2,500 people so they were very happy to see us. They’re like, “Ooooo, wish you all could stay.” Twenty-five black people in town. But it was nice.
Devine & Bassett balance film & TV
SheKnows: You both have done TV and film. Is television harder because it’s so quick and you don’t have as much time to work with a character?
Angela Bassett: I just recently did a pilot for a television show and we were still doing 16-hour days. Maybe it was the attitude on set but you felt like you could ask for another take or whatever. On that we had two and sometimes three cameras going to try to catch everybody and get it and move on. That was pretty exacting too. When I work with Tyler (Perry) on a movie, maybe I get two or three takes and I felt like, “Oh, I hope we got it.” After they are ready to move on you can say, “Just give me one more. Let’s just play.” Sometimes you get magic and sometimes you’re like, “That was kind of spastic.” “Let’s move on.” “Thanks anyway.” [Laughter].
SheKnows: What was it like working with Salim Akil as a director?
Angela Bassett: Oh fabulous. Wonderful, wondrous. Very collaborative, very open, just easy. Nothing bothered him whatsoever — fog horns going, mosquitoes making big eggs in the middle of my forehead. I got bit twice.
Loretta Devine: He would take it until he got what he wanted. He was good at that. The scene where she (Paula Patton) runs to the car to stop me from leaving, I couldn’t believe how many times that baby had to run to that car and in heels and that gown but he’d stop and spray for mosquitoes because her back was out, then go back again. It was amazing. It was like that on almost all of the takes until he got what he wanted but I’m doing a sitcom now and those hours are different from episodics. On those you go 16 or 17 hours like I do on Grey’s Anatomy, but a sitcom, the thing that’s hard about that is they keep changing the script.
Angela Bassett: All the way up to the moment.
Loretta Devine: You’ve got the network and the writers all the way up until the moment they shoot and you can’t get the character in you as strongly because everything keeps shifting.
Angela Bassett: You can hardly memorize the lines. “I had to memorize this, and now that? Which one is it?”
SheKnows: What do you think that women of all colors and economic status will take from the movie?
Loretta Devine: I think it’s going to make women proud to be mothers. And, if they are in families with secrets, they may think about sharing some things. Because some of those things that happen in the film have got to happen for some people. But it’s such a beautiful movie. I think it’s gonna take people away. I think you really go to this place with this beautiful water and sky and you just want to get to this wedding.
Angela Bassett: I think it’s classy and surprising and it’s witty and charming and it’s accessible. It’s about family.