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Malcolm Jamal Warner On 'Life After' The Cosby Show

Believe it or not, it’s been nearly 20 years since The Cosby Show finished its groundbreaking, eight-year successful run on television. And Malcolm Jamal Warner has definitely been one of the more visible former Cosby Show kids as an actor and director. Most recently he turned in guest star appearances on such critically acclaimed shows as, Dexter, The Cleaner and HawthoRNe. Plus, Warner also starred in the Post-Cosby sitcoms Malcolm and Eddie and the short-lived Sherri and Listen Up. And in addition to his work behind the scenes on The Cosby Show, he also served as a director on episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Keenan and Kel.  While he and his TV siblings qualify as perfect poster adults for former child stars, the 40-year old New Jersey native admits there are still challenges to navigating a successful career after starring on one of the most iconic shows in television history. Malcolm Jamal Warner comes clean on TV One's biography series Life After, which airs throughout the month of August (check your local listings.) But he also spoke to VIBE.com about his music career, why sometimes you don’t see him on TV and of course, The Cosby Show.—Ronke Idowu Reeves

 


 

 

VIBE: You have another full professional life as musician— as bassist and leader of your jazz/funk ensemble Miles Long and you’re currently working on your third album. How did you get into music?

Malcolm Jamal Warner: I came from the [television] world of Mr. Cosby. He created an environment where people had to be ultra aware of the images of black people that were coming across the airwaves. So coming from that and going to UPN (for Malcolm and Eddie) whose marketing philosophy was pretty much the antithesis of The Cosby Show I found Malcolm and Eddie to be really stressful. And I realized that I needed a hobby. Acting had been a hobby that turned into a career, the directing was a hobby that turned into a career and music just really allowed me to find another way to express myself. I started playing bass in November 1996 and by June 1998 I was doing my first live show.


In the early 90s around the time The Cosby Show concluded, a lot of black sitcoms immediately plunged into stereotypical humor. What kind of roles were you offered when The Cosby Show ended and what kind of roles do you get offered now?

It varies. But there’s another reason why music is so important to me. I turn down more work than I get. Between the work that I turn down and work that I’m really busting my ass auditioning for I don’t necessary work as much as I would like to. But fortunately I have the financial means that allows me to be meticulous about the kinds of projects I choose.  I planned so well for my post-Cosby Show life that I don’t have to make desperate acting choices that conflict with what my values. So sometimes during long stretches of unemployment, often more than I would like, I’ve got my music. When I’m not working I’m on the road with my band. Or I’m performing in poetry houses doing spoken work. So I’ve got another passion and another outlet that allows me to be creatively fulfilled and not sitting at home pulling my hair out waiting for the right role to come along.


Which television roles have you turned down over the years?

I don’t want to get into that, but suffice to say they didn’t coincide with my sensibilities. I never wanted to look back on my career and be embarrassed about work that I chose to do. I never wanted to look at character I’ve done and cringe.  But as I get older I try not to be as judgmental about as I used to be about people taking work that perpetuates stereotypes. Because I recognize that everyone is not in a financial situation to be saying no to stuff. 


What has been the biggest transitional challenge coming out of playing Theo Huxtable and being so recognized for the role?

I’m still coming out of it (laughs.) I’m sure people still call Ron Howard Opie [from The Andy Griffith Show] and it hasn’t hurt his career at all. It goes with the territory. I think it’s difficult to really get away from it, which is why you have to have enough going on so you’re not the person with the identity crisis. But there’s a huge blessing that comes from being apart of a show like The Cosby Show that sets such a high standard of quality— it touched so many people on so many different levels. So as long you continue to expand and grow then I think the audience will grow with you.  


Because The Cosby Show is rerun so much in syndication do you still have people running up to you and calling you Theo?

“I get a lot of that, but I also get a lot of Malcolms. People usually go, ‘Hey Malcolm Jamal Warner.’ The response is more laid back [than the Cosby Show’s heyday when I had preteens and teens squealing] that was always fun. It’s still fun (laughs). For so much of my life between the ages of 12 and 18, I’d get Theos all the time. And now amongst teenagers [today] that same demographic doesn’t even know who I am. And ironically I got a lot of young people calling me Malcolm, and I thought they were calling me Malcolm because they knew my name. When actually it's because of Malcolm and Eddie.

You’re a working actor and director in television and you’re an accomplished musician. What other goals do you have for your professional career?

I’ve been in this business going on 31 years. And thirty years is a long time but I see even more longevity for myself. When I was doing Cosby and people would always ask me, 'How does it feel to be successful?’ My perspective was always being on a number one show doesn’t mean anything if I’m not still working consistently at 40 to 50 and 60 years old. So I’m 40 now, it won’t be until I’m 50 and 60, and still working that I can look back and say I’ve had a successful career. So that’s what success means to me, I’m still in the process of reaching it. I often think sometimes people get so caught up in what’s happening now. ‘I’ve got a hot show, I got a hot song, and I got a hot movie out.’ And they live it up for all it’s worth, but they’re not thinking about of the big picture. The question they should be asking is what can I parlay this into, so I don’t have to make desperate career choices twenty years from now?

For more information on Miles Long check out Malcolm Jamal Warner's website:

http://malcolm-jamalwarner.com/

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Review: 'Bad Boys For Life' Proves To Be A Promising Crowd-Pleasing Throwback

“We ride together, we die together” never really made that much sense as a slogan, did it? Regardless, the line that epitomized the appeal of Bad Boys, the uber-violent action buddy cop franchise that turned Martin Lawrence and Will Smith into movie stars back in the mid-90s. Smith and Lawrence– now fiftysomethings– are back for a third go-round with surprising and enjoyable new tricks.

In 2003, the eight years between Bad Boys seemed like an eternity. But there’s been seventeen years between Bad Boys II and Bad Boys For Life—the former hit theaters before an iPhone ever existed, just as the so-called War On Terror was hitting full swing and a wide-eyed Beyonce embarked on a nascent solo career. If the buddy cop genre was on life support in the early 2000s, the formula is almost completely post-mortem in 2020; most buddy cop flicks in more recent times have been subversive spoofs (like 2010s The Other Guys) or unfunny one-offs (like the forgettable CHiPs).

This time around, Mike Lowry (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) face the realities of middle age. Burnett is happy to waltz into retirement and into “Papa” territory, exhausted from chasing kingpins. Lowry, on the other hand, is ever more of an adrenaline junkie than in the past; addicted to the thrill and holding on to a “bulletproof” playboy image that’s getting sadder and sadder—particularly when he’s forced to admit he wrecked a promising relationship with fellow officer Rita (Paola Nunez) and every time he peppers his bravado with Millennial-speak like “Turn up” and “One Hunnid.”

Lowry’s disappointment in Burnett’s desire to leave the force turns into something harsher after a shooting forces Mike to take stock and Marcus distances himself from his old partner. Of course, this is all just a set up for the duo to reconnect in the face of tragedy—along with a gaggle of new recruits led by Rita; including a computer geek who may or may not be a killing machine, a young tough guy who hates Lowry for apparently no reason, and Vanessa Hudgens.

Bad Boys For Life has more heart than the lunkheaded Bad Boys II, directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Ballah don’t forego the departed Michael Bay’s formula for punchlines and hyperkinetic violence; there’s an opening knife sequence that’s almost gratuitously graphic, and an action set-piece on a bridge that may be the most ambitious in the series. There’s only a passing mention of Burnett’s sister (played by Gabrielle Union in the previous film) and an obligatory callback to II’s funniest moment involving his daughter, but a lot of the movie’s emotional core sits with Smith’s Mike Lowry. Smith plays his first action star with an almost meta-level of intensity.

He’s the sum of all Will Smith’s Will Smithiness in one character and gets to play with the idea of Lowry’s machismo persona. Together with the recognition that Lawrence isn’t really an action star (the film smartly turns his affinity for sitting and watching as Smith jumps headfirst into heroics into a running gag), it’s a good turn for the characters and helps elevate the second half of the movie after a somewhat rote first half.

As the film’s “big bad,” Telenovela action star Kate del Castillo isn’t given a whole lot to do, nor is Jacob Scipio as Armas, as her son and steely hitman, who is on the hunt for Lowry. Reliably familiar support from Theresa Randle as Burnett’s long-suffering wife and Joe Pantoliano as the perpetually-flustered police captain Conrad Howard reminds everyone that this is a Bad Boys flick, and the actors clearly relish jumping back into their long-standing roles.

But these films always work best when Smith and Lawrence get to quip lines back-and-forth while dodging bullets, and the easy partnership between the two remains intact, even when the film lags under its own clichés or the sentiment borders on silly. There’s a twist that feels especially contrived and so many self-referential moments where Marcus and Mike seem to almost know that they’re in a movie about Marcus and Mike (who say “Bad boys for life” as a wedding toast, really?), but there’s a breeziness to the proceedings that feels more in line with the easy fun of the 1995 original—as opposed to the frenetically hyperactive feel of its sequel.

Anyone who is excited to see Bad Boys For Life wants to go into it for what these movies have always managed to give their fans; just enough comedy sprinkled with just enough to story to justify eye-popping action sequences and RoboCop-levels of bloodshed. The buddy cop genre was always predictable, but the best of it—classics like Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop and, yes, the first Bad Boys film—has always been a fun night at the movies.

In that regard, Bad Boys For Life doesn’t disappoint. It’s coasting on the easygoing partnership of Smith and Lawrence, as it always has. 25 years ago, they were two of the biggest stars on television, making a somewhat unlikely leap to action stardom in a movie initially written for then-Saturday Night Live comedians Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz that was being directed by a guy most people had never heard of. We may be a vastly different audience today than we were in the 1990s or 2000s, but there’s some fun in watching how different Mike and Marcus are too.

Franchises like Rush Hour and Lethal Weapon seem like big blockbuster brands of yesteryear, as a whole generation of moviegoers have grown up with vast comic book spectacles or rapid-chase car flicks overpopulated with musclebound tough guys. As such, Bad Boys For Life stands as a sort of throwback in popcorn entertainment; that reliable action-comedy that coasts on the chemistry and charisma of its leads—more so than otherworldly special effects or universe-building.

The constant mentions of “One last time” statements remind the audience that this could be the final go-round for Mike and Marcus. Big box office returns can reroute retirements, but if this is indeed the grand finale for Bad Boys, there are worse ways to go out. In a world where Lethal Weapon 4 and Rush Hour 3 exist (with talk of another in the Chris Tucker/Jackie Chan series coming down the pike), Bad Boys For Life should be praised for what it does manage to do so well. It’s fun, violent escapism that doesn’t ask too much of anyone. And sometimes that’s really all we need these movies to be.

Bad Boys For Life opens in theaters Friday, January 17.

Director(s): Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Jacob Scipio, Alexander Ludwig, Kate del Castillo, Joe Pantoliano, Charles Melton, Paola Núñez, Nicky Jam, DJ Khaled.

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Tyler Perry's 'A Fall From Grace' Cast Talks The Film's Lessons In Life And Love

Love can truly be an emotional rollercoaster. When it's high, it feels beautifully warm. But when it's low, it can become really cold and dark. The enactment of the latter can be seen in Tyler Perry's upcoming Netflix film, A Fall From Grace.

While feeling disheartened after discovering her ex-husband's affair, new divorcee Grace Waters played by Crystal Fox (The Haves and Have Nots) finds herself alone and lonely. With encouragement from her best friend Sarah Miller (Phylicia Rashad), she goes out to an event where she meets what she thought to be the love of her life which she soon finds to be her biggest nightmare.

Perry plays an obnoxious defense lawyer (Rory) with no intention of doing much defending and instead adamantly insists that his prodigy Jasmine (Bresha Webb) push for a plea deal. But after meeting Waters, Jasmine isn’t so sure about her guilty admission and suspects foul play. When curiosity meets persistence, the film takes you on a journey of unveiling plot twists that will have you on the edge of your seat guessing hard about how the story will end.

VIBE chatted with the actors behind these characters to talk about love and relationships and the importance of being aware.

"Keep your heart open but keep your eyes open, too; Watch out for red flags," said the film's writer, director, and producer. "Keep your heart open. Love yourself before you look for somebody else to love you, and remember that grace is over you and in you," added leading lady Fox.

When asked what they hope viewers walk away with after watching the crime drama film, Webb pointed out: "I feel like as well as being on the edge of your seat and [while] you're watching it and you're being lost in the drama, also leave with a knowledge of knowing what this movie encompasses together."

Legendary actress Rashad concluded, "I think it's always great for me as an artist when an audience can walk away feeling satisfied, yes? But also reflective of what they've experienced and continue to reflect on the experience."

Ultimately, this movie is a must-see and what is said to be Tyler Perry's best work. A Fall From Grace hits streaming platforms Friday, January 17 on Netflix.

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Issa Rae And Kumail Nanjiani Are 'Lovebirds' Turned Investigators In Upcoming Film

Issa Rae’s 2020 is shaping up to be a blockbuster year. The California native will star in a new film out this April where every twist and turn is full of action.

On Thursday (Jan. 16), the trailer for her latest movie The Lovebirds, co-starring Kumail Nanjiani (Hot Tub Time Machine 2), pits the budding couple at the center of a murder they didn’t commit. When they decide what to do about the dead person, two bystanders phone the police and give them Rae and Nanjiani’s description. The pair then set out on a hunt for the real suspect(s) as they dodge law enforcement’s grasp.

Once the trailer was released, a few Twitter users expressed their excitement and happiness that they're receiving more film and television content featuring Rae.

WHAT I completely missed that Aaron Abrams co-wrote The Lovebirds, #fannibalfamily we've got what looks like a super fun movie to see.

— Alana Bloom's Wardrobe (@EthicsAesthetic) January 16, 2020

Lovebirds gonna be the funniest/ best movie 2020 @IssaRae 😂😂😂 that trailer had me fucking dying dawg

— Slickk (@_Slickk22) January 16, 2020

@IssaRae has two movies coming out this year and i definitely plan on watching them both ; The Lovebirds & The Photograph. They both look great & Insecure coming back on... hopefully we getting 1 hr episodes sis? pic.twitter.com/Y7phXN0O0Q

— 🐉 (@JohnyLovely_) January 16, 2020

I've seen two trailers with @IssaRae in romantic movies with a POC male lead and I'm so happy about it.

It's The Lovebirds and The Photograph.

— Kristen Squire (@kristensquire) January 16, 2020

Season 4 & new movies 😭😭😭😭 @IssaRae just ... thank you. #lovebirds #ThePhotographMovie

— Daryle-Kennedy (@itsdaryle) January 16, 2020

Presented by Paramount Pictures and MRC Film, The Lovebirds debut in theaters April 3. Watch the trailer above.

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