A Short Convo With… Salli Richardson-Whitfield

Black Dynamite’s beauty dishes on her sassy role and why retro humor never gets old

VIBE: Tell me about your role in Black Dynamite. That’s your biggest thing right now, right?
Salli Richardson: Yes. Well, you know how back in the day–I hate that name “Black Exploitation” ’cause there were actually some really good films back then–but during that time there was always that one good woman in the movie who was down for the cause, speaking at the rallies. The one that wasn’t gonna go for smooth talking. That’s who Gloria is.

Sassy woman?
Yeah, you know, the sassy–she’s just someone who’s not gonna be taken in by any ol’ line.

I heard the movie’s kind of tongue-in-cheek as far as the humor.
It’s not spoofy. It’s not like White Chicks. It’s not stupid-funny. What makes it funny is that everybody is really playing it straight. It almost looks like it was shot back then. But because it’s not and everyone is playing it dead-on straight like they would’ve been back then. That’s where the comedy is. Nobody’s doing anything really over-the-top but it seems that way ’cause nobody acts like that in movies anymore. Some of the dialogue is ridiculous.

Bryon Minns, he plays this one character and it’s so Rudy Ray Moore. He’s so spot on that you realize how ridiculous it was back in the day that someone was actually talking like that and the fact that he was doing it so spot on every time… He’s my favorite character in the movie. Every time he comes on, it’s hilarious.

srwhitfield.jpgYou mentioned the look. Was it shot differently to give it that visual style of the movies of the past?
Yes, they used that same old film, so they’re able to intercut old footage in there that basically matches and looks like it was shot then. These older films, they didn’t do a lot of close-ups ’cause they didn’t have time. You did two shots you did the scene you kept moving and you see a lot of things shot like that.

What’s your favorite thing about the movie?
My favorite thing about the movie–and I think it’s something that people need to know–[is] that it’s not just a silly spoof movie. It’s a smarter movie than that. Because I’m not a real spoof kind of person. I don’t think those movies are funny but this is a really smart comedy. And not to be offended ’cause we’re not making of [blaxploitation films]. It’s more of an homage.

Did you have scenes with Michael Jae White?
Pretty much all of my scenes are with him ’cause I play… Of course, I do eventually wind up in bed with him. [Laughs] Even though I’m like no, no, no.

And Arsenio Hall is acting again.
Yeah, he’s very funny. There’s an amazing pimp scene and he’s one of the pimps. It’s good you guys get to see him around. It’s funny; I swear he looks exactly the same.

People say the same about you–that you’ve aged well.
Yeah, you know, I appreciate it. The business is about longevity and sometimes I do projects and people may not know. They’re like, ‘Oh I haven’t seen you in a while.’ I’m like always working and always in the gym trying to keep it together. After two kids, you don’t want somebody to go, Wow, she used to be cute. [Laughs] -Clover Hope