Katt Williams, who is known for his Money Mike character in Friday After Next, is reteaming with Ice Cube in the comedy First Sunday, in which he plays a choir director. ComingSoon.net talked to the actor/comedian about his stand up, working with Cube and his new role.
ComingSoon.net: Your material isn’t about the profanity, but is it difficult to adapt your comic style to material that’s a little more family friendly?
Katt Williams: No. When I was doing stand up I had a family then. Things go based upon your category. So that’s stand up. Vulgar things pop into my head because that’s the form for that. The reason it’s important that I have some sort of an acting career is so I can do other things. Otherwise I would only be duplicating what I do in stand up. So yeah, this is currently a departure but you know my kids are from 18 months to 11 so it’s important to do some piece of a body of work that they could actually go to the red carpet for.
CS: Can you tell us about your character and his look?
Williams: He’s a choir director. So a choir director in African American churches is an important and thankless occupation. They are some of the most colorful characters in church. I tried to do just as much as I could do comically for it and yet not make it as stereotypical as it could have been.
CS: Did you pick out your wardrobe?
Williams: Well, however many fans I have and thank all 36 of them, they’re fans of certain things about me and one of those things is a dress marriage. So my dress has to match whatever I’m doing. So I did make sure that I was comfortable with what he had on. You don’t usurp wardrobe’s job but you want to make it where you buy the character first because that’s the first part of elementary acting which is where I’m at.
CS: How much are you improvising?
Williams: The crazy thing is that I’m only comfortable doing a departure from script if it’s comedic. If I can add something that makes it funny rather than take away from the writing then I’m doing a good job. I haven’t had a lot of experience doing the dramatic breakdown so I probably won’t stray from the script. I’m just trying to make my emotions.
CS: What kind of atmosphere does Cube connect?
Williams: It’s an atmosphere of fear. For me that’s what it is. It’s, I hear him calling right now. I don’t know. Cube is probably the most professional, one of the most professional persons I’ve ever met. He runs a tight yet not constricting set. It’s organized, it’s by the books as far as fundamentally sound. There’s no extra BS. Good attitude and work. I’ve been blessed, my second time working with Cube. He’s been very consistent. And our director is proving himself to be very actor friendly. So it’s a good situation.
CS: How does it feel to shoot in a church?
Williams: Well, at first it was a little difficult. Not as much as it could be because lots of movies have shot in churches, and done far worse, being killed in churches. After the fourth day I think I really came to grips with the fact and said okay, we’re filming. And even if this is particularly God’s house, right here, he wouldn’t stay while we shot a movie here. He would go somewhere. So after the fourth day I was good.
CS: What was it about this role that appealed to you?
Williams: Well I’m a father first. So I was attracted to the fact that they were allowing me to do something as close to good wholesome fare that I was apt to do for a while. And the check made it possible to do some other things. I felt good. The kids were happy. The check was nice. It was Cube again, it was Matt Alvarez, it was David Talbert, which once you get past Tyler Perry, you pretty much only have David Talbert. So it was a good opportunity for me to align myself with whatever side I wanted to be on at that particular time. And given the “House of Payne” reviews, I think I picked well. And after that there was no thought process at all.
CS: Who’s been throwing out the most random improvs?
Williams: You have to clarify that.
CS: Who’s been the most outrageous?
Williams: Nobody. Nobody’s been outrageous. Everybody wants to do it right. That’s what I think I’m learning. When you’re on a really good movie, everybody’s in a control moment. Nobody’s trying to be the wild pistol on the set. Nobody’s trying to milk laughs from the crew. We’re trying to make sure we nail our parts so that we’re not the weak link. That kind of atmosphere helps out I think. So nobody’s been wild at all. And if somebody has been, it’s probably been me.
CS: Do you have a method to form your characters?
Williams: I haven’t done enough characters to have worked it out. I think I have a formula. But we all think we have a formula ’til it goes awry. This one I knew I had just because I had the amount of time that I needed to understand the guy and have him be a real guy to me in my head. It’s much easier if you’re doing an impersonation of somebody that actually exists and you can watch ’em. That’s much easier than trying to create a character. As long as I do that there we go. We just figured it out together. As long as I can figure out the character, then I can do my job. Otherwise I would have to turn the film down.
CS: Are you gonna do a song?
Williams: Well, sonically, the movie entertainment business won’t let you put out just any kind of singing so I don’t really qualify. So I think they’re gonna voiceover all of my singing. If it’s supposed to be funny and people are supposed to laugh at it, they hired the right guy. I’ll put it that way. ‘Cause I don’t know what they’re gonna use. I’m assuming if they’re gonna use my voice it’s gonna be terrible and you’re gonna laugh.
CS: Talk about the director’s theatrical background, not music videos. That’s got to be kind of nice.
Williams: Yeah, it’s a whole different take that he has on the directing part because of his background. He is very aware of how the scene should feel which is a little different than what you generally get from a director. Generally you get placing and you’re coming in this way. But he’s an audience manipulator. To put it as clear as I can, he wants to get a certain emotion out of each separate scene so that’s been fun as an actor to watch.
CS: Difficult to maintain stage energy or is it different?
Williams: That’s a good compound question. Well you know the same pacing has to exist. It’s just that in stand up it’s all about the flow and the ebb of where you’re going and whether you sustain that or break it down. With acting it’s the same thing for me. But it’s very difficult to be in this character where you’re crying and then they go cut and you go off Saturday and Sunday to DC and Chicago and fly back here and ok I’m crying again. But I guess that’s why they pay you as well as they do. So I am rapidly getting into mine.
Williams: Not to my knowledge. But I wasn’t in on the decision making process when the first movie was done. “Friday” or “Friday after Next.” That’s part of a franchise. They don’t hold those meetings open to a layman such as myself. I have no idea what they may do. I’m working on quite a few things. We have a DreamWorks deal, so we’re, Eddie Murphy and I are writing our next two projects. We’ve been hard at work at that for DreamWorks. And then we have a DreamWorks deal and “Pimp Chronicles 2” and that’s going theatrical. So there’s enough stuff going around to keep me busy.
CS: Are you involved in the Brett Ratner movie at all?
Williams: I’d love to hope so. What have you heard?
CS: I heard your name was in the mix?
Williams: Doesn’t get any better than that. That’s how the chain of command goes. Once everybody else knows, I generally find out. I hope so. Having kids has taught me not to be desperate. I don’t even want a part that I don’t get. ‘Cause it must be some other guy’s part. How stupid am I gonna feel if I get this guy’s part and he was supposed to get and I’m a loser in the end anyway. If that’s what you heard, I hope that’s exactly what happens.
CS: You’ve had opportunity to come in and offer supporting comedy. Are you eager for starring roles?
Williams: Nooo. That’s all in the pipeline, in the calendar year that’s coming but you know I’m not in a hurry for that part either because the truth of the matter is I’ve been doing fine as a supporting person. Why do I have a problem supporting? If my job is to make things funnier from a supporting role then I just need to be the king of supporting roles. I don’t find or think there’s any bad connotation with supporting, anything condescending or disrespectful.
CS: Can you lay down the scene?
Williams: Ricky’s like totally immersed in the directing in the choir. He tied everything that happens in his life, everything equates to the choir. If there’s a sale on cabbage at the grocery store that only affects him because the choir is having a meeting and he might have to make something for the pot luck and cabbage isn’t such a bad idea. Everything equates to his duties to the choir director. As far as he’s concerned that is his calling, what he was put here to do. He very rarely loses control. He’s emotional and moody and what have you but he’s very centered. So this is the point where we get to see him reveal to people how vested he is in the church and directing the choir and the fact that that’s really all he has. So he gets a chance to voice that in this breakdown.
CS: Are you a hostage?
Williams: I am. I am a hostage.
First Sunday opens in theaters on January 11, 2008.
First Sunday: The Set Visit”