Michael Ealy may have God-given assets that make female moviegoers swoon but he lets his faith take the lead in a new Christian-themed film Unconditional.
In a powerful story of healing and redemption, Ealy's character is inspired by the real life"Papa" Joe, a man who has dedicated his life to serving the needs of children from severely under-served communities. The "Think Like A Man" star discusses the challenges of playing an emotionally heavy role, his on-screen fear and ideal spots he'd take a woman on a date.
VIBE: Congratulations on your new film ‘Unconditional’. How did the opportunity to play Joe come about?
Michael Ealy: No magical story behind it really. My manager called me about a script and was pretty excited about it. He said I think you’re gonna like this script so I read it and instantly I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s get involved. What do we need to do?’
What attracted you most to this script?
M.E.: The fact that the message and the theme was encouraging. I do a lot of movies where it’s about gettin’ the ladies, you know, being a criminal, a lot of movies that don’t necessarily encourage people to go out and do something in their community—this is one that does.
You're known for doing various roles like in Barber Shop, Think Like A Man and Common Law. What are viewers gonna find surprising about your performance in Unconditional?
I don’t wanna tell them what they’re gonna take away but I think they’ll see a much more vulnerable side and hopefully they’ll garner some of Joe’s nobility. I’ve never played such a noble character in my opinion.
How do you prepare for such an emotionally heavy role?
The key to preparing for this role was talking to Joe and his wife and his family and getting the real information from the source. That probably made it a little more easy to prepare but at the same time daunting because those people are gonna watch you. You really need their seal of approval as a man in order to feel like you accomplished what you set out to do.
With the movie being a Christian-themed drama, were you a religious person to begin with or was it more difficult to approach it from that angle?
My grandfather is a Baptist minister. I grew up in a Baptist church. I got it easily. Faith is something that has helped me get to where I am right now. In this business that some have referred to as hell on Earth, faith has gotten me through the rough times, the hard times, even the good times. So I definitely have my own faith to stand on.
Were there any other challenges you faced while making this film?
Yeah, I have a huge phobia about singing on camera. [laughs] I had to sing on camera and everybody was like, they were like, “ooh, you can hit a note!” and I’m like I don’t sing. I can’t sing, like, I can’t saaang. I’m no Luther! That to me is singing. Being able to hit a note doesn’t mean you can sing. For like a week leading up to that scene. I was terrified. When it came out, I mean I cringed when I watched it but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was gonna be so I was glad the editors kind've cut it nicely.
Who would you say you sound like?
If I could pick any voice I would really want to have it’s Anthony Hamilton. I mean [it's] just so soulful, rich and raw. But I personally think I sound like a wannabe Jermaine Jackson. I can’t sing.
Did you have to take any vocal lessons?
No, I didn’t take any lessons. I didn’t want it to sound like I could really sing, although the real Joe can sing a little bit.
You never know you just might pursue a singing career now.
I didn’t want it to sound like I could really sing that way no one would think I was really trying. You know? 'Oh he really tried. He tried so hard. Awww that’s adorable.' [laughs]
Now a lot of our readers are female and they’re definitely huge fans of yours so what are your three favorite places to take a woman out on a date?
Not in this particular order but [I'd take her] to go see some live music, whether it’s a concert or a lounge spot with a small band. That’s always very nice. I like to do something fun like miniature golf or bowling or something like that so you can just kinda play out the competitive nature of just having some fun and not having to get so dressed up and everything like that. Let’s just go have some fun. Then a third I would say I love going to see the theatre. I love going to see the theatre whether it’s a Broadway play or a Russian ballet company. That’s the most.
UNCONDITIONAL hits theaters on September 21, 2012. Watch the trailer below.