It was the role of Junior in the film Roll Bounce that first brought Brandon T Jackson to the attention of audiences. But it was playing Alpa Chino in Tropic Thunder, who was so disgusted with Australia actor, Kirk Lazarus’ (Robert Downey Jr) portrayal of a black man that shot him to leading role status.
Now Brandon is starring alongside of Martin Lawrence in Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son. Jackson portrays Trent, a teenage rapper and step-son of FBI Agent Malcolm Turner (Lawrence). When he witnesses a murder, father and son must go undercover as females, respectively Big Momma and Charmaine, at an all-girls performing arts school to protect Trent from the killers, and to find evidence that will solve the crime.
Martin told me that you first met him at a party.
Yeah we did. ‘Wazzup? We’ve gotta work together.’ It was a blessing, man to be able to work with a dope comedian like him. Come on now, this is Martin Lawrence.
When you first put on the dress, wig and make-up, what did you think?
I was like ‘Whoa! She’s pretty!’ It was a good time. I’m happy I got to create this character. As an actor, it’s amazing to get to create different characters. Like Johnny Depp is a character actor and everything you see him in is different.
How long did it take you to get used to the fact that you would have to sit in the make-up chair every morning for hours?
It wasn’t cool at all. I didn’t know that it took that long and they constantly had to tell me to chill out and sit down.
When you were a teen, did you have a Big Momma in your life to give you advice?
Yeah, my grandmother. Everyone has a Big Momma, but she wasn’t big. My grandma is actually very skinny. But she gave great advice. My grandma is kind of a rock star.
What did you pick up from Martin that maybe you used for Charmaine?
With Martin, I watched how he kind of embodied the character. He embodied it fully but then would go in and out when it was time to show the guy. The funny thing about Big Momma is when Martin comes out and shows that he’s a guy.
There are a lot of elements that make it hilarious. Like the switch back and forth when you can see that he’s a guy under there hollering at the girls, then goes back to being a full character. That was cool.
What advice did Martin give you and did you take it?
Yes, I did take it. He was telling me to chill out. He said, ‘Do the work and be professional. Stay calm before the camera rolls. This takes a lot of energy out of you and you don’t realize it until after the fact that you’re so tired.’ I got off this movie and I was burned out. ‘Why am I so tired?’ Martin was trying to make that point. ‘Do your work and go sit down.’
Do you really want to see Mickey Mouse outside of Disneyland just walking around like, ‘Yeah, dude’? That’s crazy. That’s how I looked at it when he said that!
In Percy Jackson and the Olympians you were half-horse and half-man. Now you’re playing a man playing a woman – what’s with that?
(he laughs) It’s all characters, man. The cool thing about it was I got to play a Demigod and a Satyr in one movie and got to play a girl and a rapper [in this], and in another film a rapper who was in the middle of a war with actors [Tropic Thunder]. I’ve had a blessed career.
Did you ad lib in this?
Yeah, but the script was really good. There were a couple of things that Martin and I would slide in there.
What actress would you just die if you got to work with her?
Honestly, I’ve got so many. Betty White is dope. I really want to do a comedy with Meryl Streep. That would be such an odd couple. Is Halle Berry my generation? Natalie Portman is dope. I’d love to work with her. Portia [Doubleday, who plays Jasmine in the film] is hilarious.
By playing a woman, did you learn anything about them?
It was more a respect. I can’t believe that you guys have got to put on so much in the morning. What time do ya’ll wake up? Man, I put on a t-shirt and jeans and that’s it. I’ve learned that it takes a lot to be a woman.
Will you be a better boyfriend after this?
Yeah, but I don’t have time to date these days.
Because you are so focused on your career?
I guess so. What I find is I can’t use the same tricks I use in the movies. You can’t do that in real life!