JB Smoove

A Long Convo With... J.B. Smoove

You may know J.B. Smoove as the loudmouth mooch Leon Black on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. The dude whose family, the Blacks, moved in with Larry David after being displaced by Hurricane Edna. With his sly comebacks and sheer absurdity, the actor/comedian injects life--and some scene-stealing moments--into the already hilarious series starring the Seinfeld creator. Speaking over the phone from L.A., JB let VIBE in on what to expect this season and also talked about his chemistry with LD, getting into character, and the audacity of Leon Black. --Clover Hope

VIBE: The seventh season of Curb Your Enthusiasm premiered on Sunday. How many episodes will you be in?
J.B. Smoove: Oh, I think I'm gon' be in about five or six out of the 10. We got some good stuff coming up. We got the Seinfeld cast as you know. So everybody's participating in that. I think this might be one of the most watched seasons since the show been on. People anticipate Curb anyway, but I think Seinfeld adds a whole 'nother audience to it.

And people love your character a lot.
Yeah. [Laughs] That damn Leon's a fool, boy.

In the first episode, Larry's relationship with Loretta seems to be crumbling. Anything you can divulge about what happens between them?
You know what, I think Larry's getting that buzz for his old girl. I think Larry want his old woman back. He's trying to seek everything that he's missing. But you know Loretta's a certain kind of personality. A White dude can't handle that kind of Black woman. Vivica Fox's character is that kind of Black woman. You saw the finale last season right? She cussed Susie ass out so bad, man. It was so real-looking it didn't even feel like it was a show. It felt like, damn she just cussed her ass out!


How does Leon show up throughout the series? A lot of back and forth with Larry again?
Oh man, I tell everybody Leon is like a condom in a wallet. You need a dude like that around. One of those guys that lives day-to-day all the time 'cause he's not thinking about tomorrow. He's barely thinking about today. You need that guy to go with you to fight a ticket. You need that guy to go pick some money up that somebody owes you. You need that dude around to point you in the right direction. And it's a nice level of Leonisms this season that's gon' help navigate Larry through life.

What's your favorite Leonism? [Soundboard of Leonisms]
"I get in that ass," "I brings the ruckus," "That's how I dos it." I think that's gonna be the name of my comedy special. It's gon' be called "J.B. Smoove/Leon Black: That's How I Dos It."

Long-ball Larry, did you come up with that?
Yeah, yeah. Long-ball Larry. Larry had long balls, you know. Leon's good for that. Leon will attach a name to you in a heartbeat. Whatever fits the situation.

Are there ever any improvised jokes that are too raunchy to make the air?
Anything I said that didn't make it?

Yeah.
[Pauses] You know what, no. Hell no. It's HBO. We say whatever the hell we wanna say. You know, Larry's like one of those people who goes and buys those thousand-piece puzzles.

I used to have one of those.
You remember that shit? You buy the scenery or the picture you like and you buy a box of that shit. It's like a thousand pieces in that mug. That's the same thing that happens on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Before we edit, there's like 10 different versions of every one of those scenes and Larry takes a scene that he wants to use that makes sense in the story for the whole 10 episodes. He's that dude putting them damn puzzles together.

Do you even have to get into character when you're acting as Leon?
Hell no. I come onto the set as Leon. I step out the bed, you know, sometimes I wash my ass--sometimes Leon don't even wash his ass. Sometimes Leon just get up, he go in the fridge, he ain't wash his hands. He's handling your sandwich meat and shit, making sandwiches. Leon is trifling. You gotta get into a right frame of mind to be Leon. A lot of the other cast members know the storyline before they get to the set. Me, I wanna get to the set and find out right then and there what I gotta do. Just tell me what mood am I in? Am I getting in Larry ass? Am I being nice to Larry? So I gotta step out of J.B. Smoove's character and step into Leon sometimes.

Are you in the episode with the Seinfeld reunion?
Yeah, yeah, I'm definitely gonna be in there somewhere with the Seinfeld reunion. I don't know how he's gon' edit it but I'm definitely in there.

Did you expect to have a long run on the show?
You know what, I think... It was weird. I think [Larry] knew what he wanted to do for the season but I think as we went along we started added things. Me and him hit it off so well--as a matter of fact, my first day on the set he said that it feels as though we'd been working together forever. He said it's comfortable and we have a good time and I think last season they started adding more scenes for me and Larry to do.

What's your favorite episode?
I think my favorite episode from last season, the scene where Larry wanted me to snatch a purse from a doctor.


Do people come up to you and quote Leon all the time?
Oh, all the time. The range of people who get Leon is amazing. Anyone from skateboarders to brothers to sisters to damn businessmen, Black, White, Asian, fat, skinny--anybody you can think of, they get him. And all walks of life, from policemen who pull you over for a speeding ticket to doctors, dentists... My damn dentist didn't recognize me until I opened my goddamn mouth! I'm in there with my mouth open, he's like, "Are you Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm?" He had me all exposed. I'm telling you, there's two places where you are the most exposed: when you're sitting on the toilet, a when you in that damn chair with your mouth wide open. You know I'm right.

That's true. [Laughs] Have you gotten any criticism for your portrayal of Leon?
None yet. Coming from a real place, Leon is an everyman type of dude. Everybody knows a Leon. He comes in all flavors. Hell, I know plenty of them. I knew who Leon was before I walked into the room to audition. I think anyone who's not afraid to be real and tell it like it is opens themselves up to criticism.

You were on another series, 'Til Death. Is your character not on the show anymore?
No, I'm not going back to 'Til Death. I just did that season and that was a lot of fun. I had an overall deal. After Curb Your Enthusiasm last year, I got a Sony deal, which involved a writing deal, an Internet deal, 'Til Death, and me going into development of my own show if 'Til Death ever goes away. So right now I'm in the middle of my development with Sony.

So that's the new thing people should hopefully look out for--your solo show.
Exactly. So once this Curb Your Enthusiasm season is over, hopefully I'll have my show all done and ready to roll. We gon' shoot a pilot and roll from there but whatever it is it's gonna be that flavor, it's gon' be coming from a real place, and it's gonna be catered to my style and what I do. And I would prefer to do HBO or another cable network. I wanna get loose. What I really would love to do is a Leon spinoff. I would really love to know where the hell Leon came from. A prequel, like where the hell did Leon come from before he got in Larry house? I wanna call it Leon Black: How We Dos It.

You should pitch that.
I think a Leon spinoff would be off the chain. I think HBO would love it.

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Pharrell's New Netflix Kids' Series Focuses On Importance Of STEAM Learning

Pharrell Williams is the executive producer of a new children’s show on Netflix that focuses on educating little ones on the importance of science, technology and current events.

“I got involved with ‘Brainchild’ because there is a desperate need to raise awareness about the importance of science with our youth, we must edu-tain,” Williams told Variety about his new series. The show is hosted by Indian-American actress and comedian Sahana Srinivasan.

Brainchild will use “interactive games, experiments and skits” to teach and highlight the “core concepts and principles of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math).” It was co-created by Atomic Entertainment, and is billed as a spinoff of the Emmy-nominated show “Brain Games,” which aired on National Geographic Channel for seven seasons.

Williams and his i am OTHER production partner Mimi Valdes also discussed the idea of the show’s accessibility for teachers and students. Per Variety, “The curriculum is available without having to sign up or register for any account, and can be used at home or in the classroom to supplement existing tools.”

“It’s especially important to me to get STEAM-focused programming in front of minority communities,” Pharrell says of attempting to reach viewers. “That’s because at the core of the plight of children of color in this country is a lack of access to actionable education.”

 

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Prepare to have your minds blown 🧠⚡🌊💖💡🔬 I worked with the masterminds of Brain Games on a show that will empower kids by approaching STEM topics in a cool, new way and to provide anOTHER way into science. Thank you to our host @Sahana.j.shree, @AlieWard, Atomic Entertainment, @i_am_other and the @Netflix team. Brainchild OUT NOW on Netflix. #brainchild

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'Black Monday' Becomes A Dramedy As Its World Flips Upside Down: Episode 9 Recap

Blair was Mo’s mirror in episode “295.” In this week’s episode, he internalizes Mo’s qualities, and now the reflection wants to take over the original’s life, like a scene from Jordan Peele’s Us. Some of the most analytically rich parts of this episode revolve around all the allusions to Blair assuming Mo's role after agreeing to go along with the Georgina Play, two months after Mo informed him of the rouse.

Blair flirts with Dawn – the woman Mo still loves – while sitting in Mo's desk chair as Mo walks in and sees them. He gifts all of the Jammer Group inner circle with replicas of Mo's custom-made Rolex and calls them “Molexes” with "f**k em all" engraved on them. It’s the latter mantra that, in a surprising twist, leads to Blair potentially ending Mo as we know him.

An early criticism of Black Monday was Andrew Rannells’ inconsequential portrayal of Blair in the first few episodes. After carrying a large number of scenes in last week’s episode, this week’s showcases his shining moment. One of the funniest scenes s when Blair stops himself from saying "it's all good in the hood," after glancing at Mo, before replacing "hood" with "municipalities." That’s a very artful way to say if he wants to be Mo, he’ll have to do more than speak like him. Consequently, Blair does just that in order to get Tiffany Georgina to go along with the Georgina Play.

The Agency Of Tiffany Georgina

Casey Wilson, who plays Tiffany, needs to star in a spin-off show if for nothing else than to see her do another interpretive dance routine to a remixed version of the national anthem like she did at Tiffany’s wedding reception. We predicted in our review of episode “243” that Tiffany would have a bigger hand in the Black Monday collapse than we originally assumed, and this episode brings our prophecy to life.

Tiffany admits to Blair in the final scene of the episode that she’s a lot to handle but poignantly justifies it by stating everyone isn’t as sure of themselves as she is. It’s in that moment we realized out of all of the characters with considerable screen time, Tiffany may be the only one who never lied about herself. The comments about smart “orientals” are vacuous and her obsession with social status is asinine, but they’re also genuinely Tiffany; Everyone else adjusts their morals and personality to fit whatever gets them money.

Tiffany also reveals that when she was in sixth grade, her parents prevented her from legally emancipating herself from them by giving her a cartilage piercing and a new credit card. In episode “243,” when Blair innocuously says he’s staying late at work to do “compliance,” Tiffany instinctively knew that meant illegally shredding documents because her family is wealthy. Tiffany’s parents had their own daughter kidnapped in last week’s episode to boost the company’s value and now their daughter plans to steal that very company from them. The Black Monday writers used the Georgina family this season as a commentary on how money can make anything transactional, even love and loyalty.

Just like with Mo, the Georgina family may be undone by a monster they created.

The Dramedy

In today’s age of television, shows rarely fit perfectly in one genre. Orange Is The New Black’s second season was nominated in the drama category at the 2015 Primetime Emmy Awards, a year after its first season was nominated in the comedy category. This blurring of the artistic lines has created a new type of show that is equal parts drama and comedy: a dramedy. After the last two episodes, Black Monday has become more dramedy than comedy.

In the first half of the season, Black Monday was roughly 90% hilarious debauchery with the 10% of deep introspection reserved for the final minutes of the episode. Over time, that ratio began to even out until last week’s episode, which delivered the highest concentration of drama acting of the season. In this week’s episode, the double and triple crossings in Blair and Mo’s heated rivalry are more central to the episode than Keith’s hysterical attempts at tricking the SEC and Tiffany’s ridiculous wedding. Aside from Dawn and Mo forming a secret alliance, the episode concludes with Blair’s most intimidating piece of dialogue as he breaks down the illusionary world Mo has constructed for himself.

While episode “7042” is the most compelling episode of the entire season, so far, the move into dramedy has its drawbacks. There are still gems like Mo’s double entendre of “I’ve unearthed secrets, got winded and fired,” a play on the name of legendary funk band Earth, Wind & Fire, who released their 1987 Billboard hit “System of Survival” a month before the events in this week’s episode. But, the hijinks and absurdist humor that Black Monday is predicated on are more separated than in any other episode.

As a result of this shift into dramedy, certain jokes not only fall flat but feel out of place and tonally different than the rest of the episode. Keith referring to the ability to know who is gay as “Navi-gay-tion” would be amusing in almost any other Black Monday episode. Him delivering it at the end of this week’s episode, after a dramatic exchange between Dawn and Mo, felt cringeworthy.

Hopefully, there’ll be plenty to laugh about when everything comes crashing down in the season finale next week.

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Jordan Peele attends the 'US' premiere at Museum of Modern Art on March 19, 2019 in New York City.
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'Us' Nabs Title Of Biggest Opening Weekend For An Original Horror Film

Jordan Peele’s second major film Us dropped over the weekend (Mar. 22), and much like its predecessor Get Out, it’s a monster of a hit.

According to reports, Us’ debut was the best opening for an original horror film in history, bringing in $70.25 million during its opening weekend. Its massively successful weekend also secures its spot as the third-best horror movie debut in history, behind the remakes of It and Halloween.

“Internationally, “Us” earned $16.7 million, bringing its total worldwide tally to $86.9 million,” reports CNBC.

Us tells the story of Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o), a woman who is traumatized by an experience she had as a child. When unexpected visitors who look exactly like her and her family pay a visit to their beach house several years later, she, her husband (Winston Duke) and children have to help her combat her fears and demons.

CNBC reveals that early projections for her film were close to $50 million. However, strong ticket sales prompted analysts to change their estimates.

"The film took in $29 million between Thursday previews and Friday night showings, a strong start for a horror film that doesn’t have the benefit of a major franchise fueling ticket sales," the report continues.

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