When the Bough Breaks, the new Screen Gems’ thriller that opened Sept. 9 to an estimate of 14.2 million, hits all the emotional and psychological buttons, said its co-stars.
Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall play married couple John and Laura Taylor, each with successful careers. Thus far, they have been unable to have a baby, so they hire Anna, a surrogate played by Jaz Sinclair, to carrying the child. But the couple soon discovers that Anna has other plans besides handing over the baby.
Both Chestnut and Hall recently talked about the new movie with reporters, including the MSR on a media conference call August 27.
“The one thing they couldn’t buy was a child,” said Chestnut, on why the otherwise successful couple chose the surrogate route to start a family. “I thought it was unique and had a different voice” than your typical thriller, continued Chestnut, who also is an executive producer of the film.
“The desire for what you want, your woman’s intuition, doesn’t always kick in, or what you [should] pay atten
tion to doesn’t come up with red flags,” explained Hall regarding her character’s predicament in the movie. “Sometimes life goes in directions that no one plans,” she added.
New Orleans served as the backdrop for When the Bough Breaks and it was shot in little over a month. “Doing a movie like this — we had 35 days to shoot 140-plus minutes — was like a television schedule,” noted Chestnut, who also stars in Fox’s Rosewood, for which he received a NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actor nomination.
“When you are doing a television show, you really have eight days to shoot 45 minutes. Shooting the TV show Rosewood — where I have tons of dialogue each week — I literally forget dialogue after the scene is over because it’s like cramming for a test,” he said.
He credited director Jon Casser, whom he previously worked with on 24, other television work, for how helping the actors deal with the tight film schedule. “I was familiar with his work. I really looked forward to working with him and his vision for the film,” noted the actor.
Both actors said the film’s subject matter proved challenging. “It was an emotional journey,” admitted Hall. “When you are working [on a suspense film], you are in the mode and the project definitely is the most important [thing] you are going through while you are shooting.”
You need “to be in a mental head space” with such a role, said Chestnut. “It takes an emotional toll on you.” He also was one of the movie’s executive producers: “It was my first time, and it was a great experience. To have some kind of input on the overall process beyond just being an actor is something I want to do more and more.”
The two actors are top-shelf members of “Black Hollywood.” Both have been in several popular Black-featured movies during their careers. Chestnut’s breakout role was in Boyz n the Hood (1991). He has been thrice nominated for NAACP Image Award honors for The Best Man (1999), The Game Plan (2007) and The Best Man Holiday (2013), and won a supporting actor Image Award for his work in the Showtime comedy Nurse Jackie.
Hall, who originally studied journalism in college and graduate school but chose acting instead after appearing in commercials, got her break in a soap opera in her late twenties. Her first film role was in 1999’s The Best Man.
“I really looked forward to working with her,” said Chestnut of reuniting with Hall on their latest project. They also worked together on Think Like a Man (2012). He added that he especially loves her sense of humor.
When asked are roles getting better for Black actors, Chestnut told the MSR, “I do think the opportunities in Hollywood are increasing, and it is improving because of television. We could be doing a little bit better in films but there are opportunities nonetheless.
“I like to sink into [a] character so I don’t have to think about dialogue,” he continued. “Film provides you the luxury of being able to take your time and really dig deep into the character and become that character.”
“It is always a blessing to be working,” added Hall.
Chestnut told the MSR he’d like such labels as “Black Hollywood” or racial-identify films to eventually disappear from our lexicon. “I wish [the movie] didn’t have a label of a ‘Black thriller’ or a ‘Black comedy,” he explained. “I wish people would look at films as what they are. People will come out and either see a good film or a bad film. They [either] want to see a thriller or a comedy.”
Hall said her overall goal as an actress is to always do her best with whatever material she’s working with, but always stay vigilant in “looking and picking the right parts and looking for great people” to work with.
When asked to reflect back on his role in ‘Boyz,’ Chestnut told reporters the project taught him lessons that have greatly helped him in his longevity in Hollywood. “You have to be courteous and respectful to the people you work with” in this business, he said. “No one gave me advice. I kept asking questions. I was just observing. I was just soaking it in.”
Finally, both actors expressed relief in finishing their latest film. “The intensity is part of what is driving you. It helps your performance,” said Hall. Chestnut said he looked forward to doing something “fun and light” afterwards. “It’s really draining,” he concluded.
When the Bough Breaks opened September 9. Go to www.sonypictures.com/movies/whentheboughbreaks for movie information. Check your local listings for show times.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.