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  • - We must talk about all of my auntie's favorite movies,

  • and mine.

  • A little number called "How Stella Got Her Groove Back".

  • - Yes, that put me on. That one put me on.

  • - How did you find out about that particular role?

  • - That's a funny story.

  • - All right.

  • - Uh, I was doing "Rent" in the evenings,

  • and I had just booked a soap opera in the daytime,

  • "Guiding Light".

  • - I remember "Guiding Light".

  • - Do you?

  • - Is it still on?

  • - I don't think so, but if it's off it was one of the--

  • It started out as a radio show,

  • one of the first radio show soap operas.

  • And I think it's one of the most long,

  • one of the longest running.

  • I thought I was the shit because I like,

  • "I'm soap opera actor by day,

  • "and I'm a Broadway star by night."

  • - Killing it.

  • - I thought I was.

  • - You were.

  • - It was fun, it was fun.

  • My character was a record producer.

  • So, I was doing those two gigs,

  • and then I got a call to audition for this character.

  • And, at the time, I was just trying to get in front of

  • casting directors because the character for

  • "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" was described as tall,

  • dark, with dreads.

  • - Hm.

  • - So, I didn't think I was gonna get the part,

  • I just wanted to get in front of these movie people

  • and make some kind of an impression.

  • So, it was great in that I didn't have any pressure,

  • I didn't put any pressure on myself.

  • And it wasn't something that I thought

  • I was gonna end up getting.

  • So, a lot of times in those circumstances,

  • you go in very free,

  • and a lot of times you do you best work.

  • Gwen was in "Rent".

  • She was from the islands,

  • so she gave me a couple of tips on a Jamaican accent.

  • - What tips did she give you?

  • - I don't know, but it worked.

  • - Ah. (laughs)

  • - The little shit she told me worked, so I got called back.

  • I was living in New York and the callbacks were in L.A.

  • So, they flew me and my then girlfriend,

  • Idina, my baby mama--

  • - [Tracy] Hey, baby mama.

  • - To Disney.

  • So we did Disney by the day, in the afternoon,

  • then we went and did the screen test with Angela Bassett.

  • And back then, a screen test was,

  • they had cameras set up,

  • and you would do an actual scene

  • from the movie and film it to see how you looked on screen

  • with the star of the movie.

  • And I remember we were set up

  • to do the first scene,

  • and I couldn't remember my first line.

  • And Angela Bassett was there,

  • and she was supposed to be holding my hand,

  • and she kept on just massaging my hand as if to be like,

  • "it's okay, it's okay."

  • - Aw.

  • - And I was relaxing.

  • And then it came, and then we were cool.

  • Yeah, oh, that was a trip.

  • - I love that story.

  • - Yeah, she was rooting for me.

  • - Aw, were you nervous or anxious the first time?

  • - I didn't think I was until that moment,

  • until that very first moment,

  • and they yelled, "action", and then it hit me.

  • I was across from Angela Bassett,

  • I was close enough where I could see all of her makeup,

  • and then all of a sudden it was like it just went white.

  • But then I could feel, I remember feeling her hand,

  • and then that kind of relaxed me,

  • and then once I got started, then it was all cool.

  • - So you had a girlfriend at this point.

  • - Uh, huh, that I met in "Rent", Idina Menzel,

  • I met her in "Rent".

  • - You're shirtless a lot in this movie, "Stella".

  • - Yeah, I was the eye candy.

  • - Yeah, how did the girlfriend feel about that?

  • - She, I don't know.

  • You know what was great about her?

  • She never, at the time,

  • I mean this came out in therapy later,

  • years later after we were married,

  • but she never made me feel like we were competing,

  • or that she was jealous of what I was doing at work.

  • It seemed as if she understood.

  • This was a huge opportunity.

  • - Yeah.

  • - I mean, I remember when I booked the gig,

  • and I got in the car and I told her that I'd got it,

  • she did a great job at just making me feel like I was doing,

  • this was a job, you know what I mean?

  • - [Tracy] Yeah, yeah.

  • - I'm not saying I didn't enjoy it,

  • being the leading man and having all these

  • beautiful women around me,

  • but she never made me feel that way, ever, ever, ever.

  • I think now, she was suppressing it.

  • But at the time, I felt very comfortable.

  • - And then it's like the hits just keep coming

  • because then in 1999 there's "The Best Man".

  • I don't know if you remember that part of your career.

  • (laughter)

  • Was it the manifesting, did you just have,

  • like a really good agent who was just like, you know?

  • - You know what it was, it was like, they always have this,

  • where it's like somebody-- I was the flavor of the month.

  • So I was the new cat,

  • luckily that movie did well. - The it guy.

  • - Yep.

  • It was like, all the Black guys

  • that were to be in the white movies,

  • were the leads of the Black movies.

  • So, luckily, that was how it worked.

  • And I rode that as far as I could,

  • and then luckily I was able to continue working.

  • - Yeah. I think a reason why this movie just still,

  • like to this day, makes black people so excited,

  • is because you got to see like all of your favorite

  • Black actors finally on screen together.

  • - Uh, huh, yeah.

  • It was so cool.

  • - Usually it's just like one here and there.

  • I mean there was Terrence Howard, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long.

  • - Sanaa Lathan.

  • - Sanaa Lathan, of course, how could I forget?

  • Did you know when you were going out

  • for this role that they were gonna--

  • - Regina Hall.

  • - Everybody. (laughs)

  • - Yeah. Everybody's still working.

  • - Yeah. Did you know that they were all on board

  • for this project when you went out for the role?

  • - I was still new to the game,

  • so I was just along for the ride,

  • and I'm really enjoying myself.

  • It wasn't until later on that I started to kind of

  • pay attention to what other people

  • were saying I should feel,

  • and how I should be worried about

  • this next person coming up, and staying on top,

  • and you know, white movies and black movies,

  • and crossing over.

  • So there was a moment there

  • where it was kind of really golden,

  • and then I kind of allowed the business

  • to have an effect on me,

  • and that's when you kind of lose,

  • you know, your bearings a bit.

  • That's what I did, for me.

  • - Yeah, yeah.

  • - When I started to be overly concerned

  • about what it was to be in this business,

  • and a Black man, and Black audiences, and white audiences,

  • and interracial relationships,

  • and what that was doing to Black audiences, all that stuff.

  • Things were going much more smooth

  • when I didn't pay attention to all that

  • and I was just having fun

  • and taking the jobs that I was given.

  • - Did you ever break out and break away from that

  • and go back to not feeling pressure

  • and not worrying about those things and just having fun?

  • - That wasn't until just recently.

  • - Really?

  • - Yeah, yeah, where I forced myself.

  • Something was missing, and then I made a choice to just

  • do things differently, I think maybe four or five years ago,

  • and then I kind of found

  • a new path that was pleasing.

  • And that seemed to be working.

  • - I really wanna get into that later, I'm very intrigued,

  • but I also don't wanna lose our current thread,

  • because I have to ask you--

  • - [Taye] Okay.

  • - About a particular moment in "The Best Man".

  • A little, little, teeny, tiny birdie told me that there was

  • and improv moment between you and Nia Long.

  • - And Nia Long, yeah.

  • - Tell me about that moment, and the scene.

  • - I know I was like, in the movie, I guess I'm out drunk,

  • and I've been trying to get with the character

  • even though I have my own girlfriend.

  • And I come, I got beat up by Lance, I think.

  • And I'm coming to maybe get some from Nia.

  • And I'm late, I got a black eye, and she's upset

  • because she thinks something's gonna go down.

  • She's all looking cute,

  • and I go to her and try to say I messed up,

  • and there's this moment where she gets upset

  • and is supposed to yell at me,

  • but instead, she yells at me and completely,

  • and slaps me across the face.

  • - The taste out of one's mouth, as they would say.

  • - Ooh, in the moment, I was, you know,

  • because I have theater training,

  • and I come from the school of thought, mind, and respect,

  • anything you do in a scene, you can improvise,

  • but you let your costar know, "I might be doing this."

  • - Oh.

  • - "Are you open to trying this?"

  • Like we said with Angela Bassett, there was that, you know,

  • we'll be there for each other.

  • - [Tracy] Uh-huh.

  • - That didn't happen. (laughs)

  • - What? So you were completely caught off guard.

  • - Oh, 100%. And offended, appalled.

  • That's why I got on my theatrical high horse.

  • "How could she? Who does she think she--"

  • But now in hindsight, it completely worked,

  • and the director, Malcolm Lee kept it, he kept that take.

  • So, if you watch the movie, you watch that slap

  • and she makes the connect, and I go, "woo!",

  • and in the moment I was like,

  • "do I beat her down, do I say cut?"

  • And, I don't know what happens afterwards,

  • but that's in the movie.

  • But it worked, it worked.

  • - [Tracy] Wow.

  • - Yeah, and you know I worked with her, I love her,

  • I wouldn't do that any differently.

  • But, in the moment I couldn't, I just couldn't believe

  • that she would do such a thing.

  • - Wow, shocked and appalled.

  • - Yes, exactly those two.

  • - Wow.

  • So you got to work again with Sanaa Lathan.

  • - Yes.

  • - In 2002 in "Brown Sugar".

  • - "Brown Sugar".

  • - Was it like a high school reunion?

  • Like, "oh, hey girl".

  • Like, what was it like to work with her again?

  • - Yeah, I consider her like my work wife.

  • We know each other, we know how each other, we move,

  • we're very similar, we got a respect for the craft.

  • We considered ourselves like hippie Black people.

  • Other black people thought we were a little off,

  • but we were just Black enough

  • to still hang out with Black people.

  • (laughter)

  • But we weren't stereotypical in any way.

  • We always just had each other's back, you know?

  • I was just watching "When Henry Met Sally" with my girl,

  • and realized that "Brown Sugar"

  • was like the Black