In Tropic Thunder, which releases on DVD today, Brandon T. Jackson plays Alpa Chino, a rapper making a crossover to movie actor. ReelzChanel sat down recently with Jackson to discuss the action comedy, as well as the actor's upcoming movies.
ReelzChannel: The DVD is already here.
Jackson: Yeah, push them out before the bootleggers get them, you know what I'm saying. 'Cause I've been on the streets and people say. "Man, I got your movie, Tropic Thunder." I'm like, "OK, get the real one on DVD."
RC: Do you know about the extras on the DVD?
Jackson: Yeah, there's a party scene in there that's pretty cool.
RC: An extension of the party in the movie?
Jackson: Well, yeah an extension -- they had like this real quick scene where we were at the pool and stuff -- but there's one before where the cast parties after the whole explosion and everything. And you got Alpa Chino pumping his [energy drink] Booty Sweat and -- you know, it's nuts, it's really crazy -- and Jack is starting to string out on drugs, or his character is, so it's funny to see...
RC: It's important to say the character.
Jackson: The character, not Jack Black. I did not say that, Jack! But yeah, just to see everybody party, it's a pretty cool scene. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes. My audition is on there too. A lot of people say, "How did you get in the movie?" and stuff like that.
RC: It was on my list of questions.
Jackson: Yeah, it was crazy 'cause I auditioned like 13 times, and Ben Stiller was like, "You know, he's too young." I was the youngest and the blackest on set besides Robert [Downey, Jr.] so I was a fish out of water anyways. But at the same time, Ben kind of made me feel like one of them. They didn't, really. I was the rookie at the same time. It was just auditioning 13 times.
RC: Thirteen auditions?
Jackson: Thirteen auditions and being a newbie on the set, too, [with] all these amazing actors, Jay [Baruchel] and everybody and Robert. It was just definitely mind blowing and challenging at the same time. How do I say? Socialism comedy and the masters, you know what I mean? It's kind of like the grad school of comedy. But it definitely was a tough process -- auditioning, and going, and then you don't have it, you're too young, we want you.
RC: What is it like going one-on-one with Robert as that character?
Jackson: It's confusing and it's just like, "OK, you know this is cool, but at the same time I'm getting mad at this, but at the same time I know..."
RC: And you want to laugh, I'm sure.
Jackson: Well, I did. I was kind of at the level of what we were like then. See it's different now; we got an African-American president. But back then I was like, "This is racist, man. You know, I can't believe they're doing this." And I'm like, "Hold on, this is kind of funny." And then I got people calling me and my mom comes to the set -- she thinks it's Don Cheadle. I'm like...it's true.
RC: That cracks me up.
Jackson: It's true and....just to see him pull it off and have the African-Americans go, "That was good, man. It's all good." So it definitely was not offensive. But at first...and that's where the tension came out in the movie, I would get mad. I'd be in my trailer thinking, "I can't believe I'm doing this." And Ben will be like, "Use that, use that." And then we got something else from that, and that's what happened.
RC: You're in this movie a lot.
Jackson: It was one of those things where you're pretty much one of the stars of a huge movie and it's great to be thought of in that way. It definitely makes you feel, how do you say it? Makes you challenge yourself for your next project. But at the same time, I'm still in the young crowd so hopefully I can keep working with some great actors.
RC: What did you learn from each of these guys about comedy?
Jackson: Comedy. I've learned to stay focused. I can be a little ADD at times, you know what I mean. And especially my generation, we're so ADD. We got gadgets and things so just to learn to stay focused. That's what they really taught me. I was hanging out with Chris Tucker one time -- I was 16, I didn't really get what he was talking about. I was, "Chris, yo man, I need advice. How do I make it?" And he said two things to me, and I really didn't get it but now I get it. He said, "Yeah man, work hard man and be focused." And I was like, "What does that mean?" But now I see that you've got to be focused and just really work hard. That's what I learned from the veterans there. They hone in on what they do.
RC: Robert is being talked about for supporting actor nominations...
Jackson: Well, Ben Stiller always stressed the fact that we got to play everything real. You ever see comedies [where] they look for the joke? It gets to the point where you're not playing the character. And I think that's where Robert and all the actors -- we kind of all play the characters in the story, and that's where the magic came.
RC: I've got to ask about all the explosions on the set.
Jackson: Well, that was my first day on set -- first day on set, welcome, you're telling me, Ben Stiller? It was crazy. My first line was, "That was for Brooklyn, M F'er!" So I said the line when the helicopter wasn't right behind me and the shot with the explosions wasn't there. So that was my first take. Ben's like, "Cut, cut! You got to cut!" I'm like, "For what? What happened?" And he said, "The helicopter wasn't behind you when you said the line, and the explosion wasn't on point." I'm like, "Are you serious? This is my first day of work!" I'm like, "OK." So I got it wrong like three more times. And I'm like, "OK, I need to time [it] but I can't look behind me. And Ben, I don't have eyes behind my back. But hey, you're paying me $100-whatever -- you know what I mean, it was a big-budget movie -- and I'm going to find the helicopter. I'm going to listen to it or whatever." So it was definitely a tough first day. And after that, we got the hang of it. You got dust flying into your eyes. You got all these things -- [it's] just nuts, man. And it's one of those things where you're like, "How did I do that? Oh yeah, I see it works out."
RC: Were there two different Ben Stillers, as director and actor? Or was he the same guy?
Jackson: There's two different Ben Stillers. Ben Stiller as the actor is fun, and Ben Stiller the director is very intense and one to get the best shots. And it's understandable because you're the captain of this big ship and you have to keep focused.
RC: Big budget?
Jackson: Yeah, so you have to be focused. It's -- just to see him do it was inspiring. And definitely, hopefully, I can do my own stuff someday. So we'll see what happens.
RC: Was the opening of the movie always there?
Jackson: When I first read the movie I'm like, "OK, trailers -- what is this movie?" And then when you read it, and you get your agents to read it, and everybody does that in the movie theater, and people go. It's pretty cool to see how they tricked the audience into thinking it's real trailers and stuff like that.
RC: And the cameos.
Jackson: The cameos are great with Spiderman, Tobey [Maguire]. Just to have it be so star-driven -- and even at the end, Jon Voight is so random and Jennifer Love Hewitt is just a big show, you know, and it's fun to do.
RC: What was the atmosphere like on the set, compared to others?
Jackson: Loose. Uptight. It was very loose, very uptight, and I know that's an oxymoron. It was very cool -- but at the same time I got to be on my toes at all times because, even though we're shooting a comedy, we take comedy very serious. So it was one of those situations where it's like you can have fun but not too much fun. Where you're not going off and the character is not -- that's where Ben brought it together, playing the character in the story. You always drill that with everybody, the characters and the story.
RC: You're in The Day the Earth Stood Still and that's not a funny role.
Jackson: It's not. Well, it's funny because I play a target tech. I kind of got the lines in there.... Did you ever see that, like, Will Smith is funny in a serious movie? It's kind of like that situation. That's how I kind of compare it, to Independence Day. It was a serious movie but you still like the guy with the smart comments. I mean, I'm not that cool, where I can kick an alien. I wish I could. But it was a nice little target set, and I did some stuff in the Fast and Furious.
RC: The original cast is back?
Jackson: Yeah, they got Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. It was great.
RC: What is your favorite movie?
Jackson: Hello, I'm Brandon T. Jackson and my favorite movie is Tropic Thunder -- and I'm not just saying it because I'm in it. Because I think it's a great, great movie with a great cast, great actors, great story, great writers, and...yeah, that's it.