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For Think Like a Man Too, the sequel to the hit 2012 comedy based on comedian Steve Harvey’s bestselling book, the entire original cast was happy to sign on for another round of exploring the delicate state of male-female relationships as commitments, weddings and growing families loom ever closer.
Those already-fragile conditions are made even more volatile when transplanted to the relationship-testing environs of Las Vegas, where the group travels for the wedding of Michael (Terrence Jenkins) and Candace (Regina Hall), especially when the high-strung antics of would-be best man Cedric (Kevin Hart) threaten to derail not just the ceremony but the romantic entanglements of everyone involved.
“One of the things that I knew was that the chemistry with these guys and these girls is so great, that as long as I had the right platform we’d be fine,” returning director Tim Story (Barbershop, Fantastic Four) told a gathering of journalists. “It was just about getting the right story, the script and all that stuff together. And then we had to go into this and just shoot for the stars.”
Hart’s first no-holds-barred comedy moment occurs when he winds up in a lavish Las Vegas hotel suite, where he makes a most memorable entrance, intentionally reminiscent of an iconic ‘80s comedy – complete with tight underwear and, for a fresh touch, brightly colored argyle socks.
Kevin Hart: That was literally on the spot – it was all improv. We knew what the scene was and the one thing we knew was that we wanted to get the entrance, a la Tom Cruise in Risky Business, where I just slide into frame. Other than that, that was Tim just saying, “I’m going to just let it go – I want you to give a bunch of different stuff. Be a kid in a candy store. Have fun. This is a new environment for you – enjoy yourself like no one else is around.”
Romany Malco: Tell the truth, Kevin. What really happened is that we hired the world’s greatest choreographer. Kevin couldn’t do any of the moves, and that’s what you got.
The female cast got to indulge in its fair share of bonding in Sin City when shooting was over, but we’re not sure they’re sharing all the pertinent details of their Girls Nights Out.
Gabrielle Union: We’re not telling!
Taraji Henson: It was pretty boring. We’d just but face cream on and go over to La La’s place because she stayed at the Wynn, and we’d just eat bon bons and talk about men. That’s all we did in Vegas. [Laughs]
La La Anthony: I mean, it’s Vegas! So you just feed off the energy. It never felt like work to us – we’re all friends and we had a great time. But the problem was, when you got off work we’d say, “Where we going tonight? Where we hanging out?” But we had to make sure we got some sleep in there, because Vegas will have you on a 24-hour clock where in three days you haven’t slept.
In the film the men’s and the women’s separate escapades come crashing together on the stage of a Las Vegas strip club stage when what was starts as a lap dance morphs into a full-on club-clearing throwdown – with the guys in breakaway pants. Realistic?
Henson: I think we’ve all been in a few bar brawls.
Regina Hall: I have not. I’m a lady. The men fight for me. I just watch.
Union: Lap dances don’t usually end in violence.
Henson: Well, not that kind.
Union: It took a lot of time to shoot that and to choreograph that so that everyone is seen and everyone kind of got to live in their own bar-brawl moment.
Henson: As their characters! Because everybody responded as their character. And it took two days to shoot just that scene – it’s intricate.
Hart: I’ll be the first to say, I got a good look at my body in Think Like a Man 1, and I said “Ew.” So coming into Part 2, we all wanted to come in looking different, looking better. You always want to up the ante. Coming into Part 2, we know we’d be in Vegas, be ‘round water, being half-naked in the stripper scene, we had to be nice on a female’s eyes. So on set, we had nothing but gym material – push-up bars, ab rollers.
Terrence Jenkins: And we had Romany [Malco], and he can make workouts out of anything.
Jerry Ferrera: He’s the MacGyver of the workouts. Give him an apple and a rubber band and he’ll come up with a workout. I remember the huddle that Tim and Will brought us in to tell us what we might have to do, and we all went “How long we got? How long we got?” I think some of us went to the gym right after.
Hart: The biggest fear of an actor, especially a man, is having a shirt-off scene and watching that movie with a live audience and hearing women go “Ewww.” So we tried to cram those workouts in as fast as we could.
Hart: I’d give it Terrence. I think Terrence would’ve been the one to give it the most effort. I think Terrence would’ve given it 110.
Jenkins: I definitely would’ve had the most baby oil.
Hart: We didn’t see each other in our outfits before that day of shooting, so the reveal of us to one another was the funniest thing. We all had coats on and we go the location and it’s like, “All right, guys, let’s shoot it!” And everyone drops their robe and there’s just laughter, genuine laughter, at how ridiculous we looked.
The only thing scarier than the prospect of lifetime commitment is facing down Michael’s disapproving mom Loretta, and actress Jennifer Lewis proved just as formidable a presence off-screen as on.
Meagan Good: We got called out by our names each individually about 30 times a day.
Henson: Our names became “Bitch.”
Union: At least I got “Pretty Bitch,” so I was OK with it.
Henson: You got “Pretty Bitch”? I didn’t get “Pretty Bitch”!
Anthony: That was fun, especially seeing her and Taraji go back and forth – that was something! I would sit there and just watch: This is a movie in itself!
Henson: She has a very big personality – and some people say I do too, but I don’t see it. [Laughs] It was all in fun.
Hall: I like her little statements at the end [of each line], where she’d end everything with “Mmm-HMMM.” So, so great!
Although other films might’ve depicted a fun-filled female-bonding sequence as a throwaway montage backed by an En Vogue song, Story transformed it into a full-fledged music video set to Bell Biv DeVoe’s 1990 mega-hit “Poison,” complete with MTV- and BET-style corner-screen end credits, resulting in one of Think Like a Man Too’s most memorable scenes. (Story cut his teeth directing ‘90s music videos.)
Will Packer, executive producer: We want the audience to have fun seeing them have fun, because Tim is the one who wanted to make it a full [music] video, and I thought En Vogue felt a little typical – with this cast, knowing they could do anything so I love for them to do something counter-intuitive. And Tim said, “You know what? We’re just going to stop the movie and make it a full video moment.” And they went for it … That video had to work at that moment in the movie, and the response to it has been really, really good.
Anthony: We went into a recording studio [in Las Vegas] with this very prominent vocal coach to teach us how to sing it, and he soon learned quickly that none of us knew how to sing like that.
Union: He was trying to give us the Celine Dion version of “Poison.” Pretty much we all sounded horrible, except for Taraji.
Henson: Basically it was a mess.
Jenkins: On the page it wasn’t written like that. It just said “The ladies dance to ‘Poison’” They did a music video!
Hart: There’s still jealousy from the guys.
Think Like a Man Too opens today nationwide.