Nicole Ari Parker comes home with Martin Lawrence

Jun 16, 2008 at 3:00 p.m. ET

Having Martin Lawrence and Cedric the Entertainer on a comedy set, it would be difficult to get through one take without the cast breaking into laughter. For actress Nicole Ari Parker, it was a priceless lesson in comic brilliance, otherwise known as "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins."

Nicole shares a moment with comedy legend Martin LawrenceParker portrays Lawrence's high school sweetheart, who is currently dating his half-brother, played by Cedric the Entertainer. Lawrence's character is a Jerry Springer like talk show host living the Hollywood dream, complete with eye candy "Survivor" winner on his arm. He heads home for a family reunion that is his parent's 50th wedding anniversary.

"Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" also possesses an even further comic depth and a cast of greats that also includes Mike Epps, Mo'Nique (who kills in this role), Michael Clarke Duncan and James Earl Jones. The filming process had the actress telling SheKnows that, yes, it took a long time to make the film, but with so much laugher, it was pure comic bliss.

Welcome home, Nicole

"I had to pinch myself, not because of the actors there," Parker said and laughed. "It was because I was laughing on the other side of people's close ups. It's hard to keep a straight face playing off of Martin Lawrence, Cedric, or Mike Epps, who is just so funny in this movie. That's what it was like the whole time."

Parker first got the acting bug as a young girl. "I'm an only child and very dramatic," Parker admitted and laughed. "I was always playing up in my room, doing ballet, I just always wanted to do it. I knew what I wanted to do at a very young age. Luckily, I had the support of my family."

"Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" was a hit in theaters, and when it arrives on DVD June 17 a new crowd will be won over while the audience that adored it can treasure the film forever. "I'm so thrilled so many people loved it," Parker said. "There are so many comedians in it, it's so hard to put a movie together when everyone's so funny, but this was a really good experience. I'm excited people want to own this movie. As an actor, you can't get better than that."

The glory of DVD outtakes

Parker mentioned the comic chaos that ensued that made it difficult to actually get scenes on film. To the delight of DVD audiences, those outtakes are front and center as a bonus feature on the DVD to share in the laugh-a-minute mayhem.

Nicole watches Joy Bryant, Martin, Mo'Nique and Cedric do their thing"People get to see that and it is just as funny, if not more funny than what's in the movie," Parker said. "It was so hard for them to edit this movie. Mike Epps kept going on these tangents, and every one was funnier than the last one."

Sometimes, Parker said, the jokes headed into unscripted areas. "Hey, we got to keep our PG rating here. It was relentless," she added and broke into laughter.

With all the comedy bravado coming from all sides, Parker found her humorous cast quite approachable.

"The thing that surprised me was that the life of a comedian is almost like Russian roulette. I know artists all put stuff out there, but comics just lay their necks out there. It's about the laugh. That's the payoff. It's not a mystery, you have to be funny," Parker said.

"You can imagine a comedian is self absorbed and almost sensitive. Your laugh is very precious to them. In fact, everyone was so generous. Everybody wanted everyone else to be funny. Mo'Nique wanted Mike to funny. Martin wanted everybody to be funny, even funnier than him. It was amazing to watch these comedians do that dance with each other."

As a never ending student of acting and all it encompasses, Parker found the "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" experience to be a higher education of hilarity. "You have to totally be yourself when you're a comedian. You have to get deep and go for it," Parker said. "They really let it all hang out."

As much as "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" is a comic gem, it is a true ensemble piece. For Parker, that is how she prefers her sets, witness her run in "Soul Food."

"I love them," Parker said. "I love working in a group, so rewarding."

Nicole and her husband

A soulful actress

Parker first came onto audience's radar on Showtime's ensemble "Soul Food." She is a married mother of SophieTei Naaki Lee who has never given up on her dream of motherhood and movie stardom. Her partner at home is husband Boris Kodjoeon, while on the screen, big and small, her acting compatriots have run the gamut. Their pedigree is not lost on the actress, even as the "rat race" nature of her business is so prevalent on the mind.

"I've done a movie with Paul Thomas Anderson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Denzel Washington. I've worked with Martin Lawrence. When it dawns on me what I've been blessed with, I am blown away by it as an actress," Parker said. "I'm a SAG member, even!"

Working with a legend on "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" was the film's highest honor for Parker. "James Earl Jones is actually very funny. He has one of those presences that he just opens his mouth and automatically think you're in trouble," Parker said and laughed. "He has his own brand of humor with all of the dignity that you'd imagine he would have. I was blown away by him. Actually, I just finished doing Broadway with him on "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." He is remarkable. To be up close with him was a blessing."

The actress has a new pilot in the works with Damon Wayans for ABC. Her comic skills are sharpened, ready to take on another comedian, this time from the famous Wayans clan.

"I have to be on my comic toes now," Parker said. "I think a new page is opening up in my career with comedy."

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