Coming Full Circle With
Michael Ealy

by Pamela Price
location courtesy of The Beverly Hilton

Just over two years ago I was assigned my first big cover story. That alone was intimidating enough. But then, I had to interview the striking and talented blue-eyed Michael Ealy, who was starring in Screen Gems’ highly anticipated comedy, “Think Like A Man.” Thankfully, I regained my composure as the actor sat down in front of me with a smile on his face. Although Michael was not a household name, he was a busy actor in Hollywood, sometimes working on two projects at once. With the contrasting roles he has played in projects from “Barbershop” to “Sleeper Cell,” “Seven Pounds” and “The Good Wife,” he has managed to not be typecast. Having the ability to tackle drama and comedy, both on television and in film, it has been quite interesting to follow the evolution of his career. Since we first met, Michael starred in the USA series “Common Law,” the film “Last Vegas,” and in the successful and hilarious remake of “About Last Night” alongside his three time co-star Kevin Hart. In J.J. Abrams’ FOX series “Almost Human,” Michael owned his role of the robot detective, Dorian. Unfortunately, for reasons known only to network executives, the series was not renewed after its first season. Now back to the silver screen, he has reunited with his cast mates for the romantic comedy sequel “Think Like A Man Too.” Coming full circle, I met with Michael at The Beverly Hilton to discuss the film and his future endeavors.

You’re back two years later with the “Think Like A Man” sequel. Your character, Dominic is not really a dreamer, anymore. He’s facing the reality of his relationship now. How was it stepping into his shoes again?

Dominic was actually probably one of the easier characters that I got the opportunity to step back into and play. It’s one of those things where when you work with good people, they always are there to kind of help you out. Taraji P. Henson is incredible as an actress, so it was so easy to just jump back into that relationship, especially because they’re doing well. They ended on a good note and started on a good note.

And the chemistry was there again. Was it like a reunion getting the entire cast back together?

Yeah, I mean anytime I get a chance to work with these guys, it’s going to be fun. And we just developed such a bond on the first film that it’s not something that you can take away from us.

The first film had great success. Did you know that there was going to be a sequel immediately after?

The first time I really heard about a sequel was shortly before we opened. And it was just kind of like — if we do well, you know, there’s a possibility. And we opened really, really well. I saw not only did we open well, but there was somewhat of a movement that night. I’ll never forget that night. There was a big movement, actually, that entire weekend. I remember we were all going to the theaters and people were just coming out in droves to see this movie. There were lines around the block. With social media, you can see the pictures of people in line. It was a powerful feeling, and I knew then that we would make a second one. I mean, after the first one, I had both men and women come up to me and say, “You know, I’m Dominic. I really love what you did, because I’m a lot like Dominic.’ And that’s the best compliment you can kind of give. Comments like, ‘I saw it four times, I love the movie, I’m a lot like Dominic’ are great. That’s what I wanted you to take from it, if I wanted anything. I want you to see yourself up there on the screen, whether it’s me or whether it’s Jerry’s character or Kevin’s character. I want you to see yourself.

Do you see a part three in the future. Perhaps a Think Like a Man “with babies?”

I guess that would be the next step in the evolution. I don’t think we need to go there. I think it would be interesting to see these couples again, before we do the family thing. The family stuff happens; you can see that in Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups. I think we should probably just keep it about the couples if we do another one.

I’m sure there were many bloopers and improvised moments during shooting. Is there one in particular that stands out or a running joke that carried on from the first movie to the second one?

Well, Romany(Malco) became ‘Dos Equis’ in this one. Romany is the most interesting man in the world. We learned so much more about him in the second movie than we did with the first. And the more that we kept shooting, the more stories that he told and the more that we learned about him, It just became like -- when did you do all of this stuff, you know what I mean? How old are you, really? Because it just kind of kept going. He definitely had his Zeke (Romany’s character) days. Everybody does.

The entire movie takes place in Vegas. How was your experience shooting there?

Harder than you think. You tell people you’re shooting in a movie in Vegas, and they’re just like okay! Okay! They think you’re going to be out partying all of the time when you’re not working. And you know, Vegas is a tough place to be when people know who you are. You have no anonymity there and ultimately going from your room to your suite can be like “Mission Impossible” sometimes because people will catch you walking through the lobby, and they want a picture. Or they just follow you. I had to duck and dive sometimes. And Caesar’s is a very big hotel. I had to go through the shopping center and lose a couple of people in order to get back to my room. One time I had to go out of the casino at one entrance and walk outside in the heat to another entrance so I could get back to my room. It probably wasn’t a good idea to have us stay in the hotel. It would’ve been a little better to stay off the strip.

You’ve played so many different roles now. What is the one you really get recognized for?

Lately it’s been Dorian from “Almost Human.”

It was a great show and a unique twist on the buddy cop concept. How was the “Almost Human” journey for you?

Short lived. It breaks my heart. It wasn’t man versus machine, you know. It was man and machine. And we had a futuristic view that was hopeful. We had an outlook on the future that was hopeful, as opposed to apocalyptic. We had the idea that man and machine could get along and work together and develop a strong enough bond that it’s almost human. That was exceptional to me.

Obviously you had challenges in playing somebody who is robot/man.

There were a lot of challenges in putting that character together. That was so much fun, because prior to that I had done two romantic comedies between “Think Like a Man” and “About Last Night.” So to be able to jump into something where it’s not about falling in love was actually quite nice, and to play a machine who doesn’t quite get the concept of love was fascinating to me.

You’ve gone from “Barbershop” to “Sleeper Cell” to romantic comedies, is there a character or a certain personality that you have not tackled yet and would like to?

Evil personified.

We haven’t seen you doing something like that.

Yeah. I’d like to try and redefine villain. Some of the greatest ones that I’ve ever seen were played by some of the most charismatic actors, such as Christopher Walken. Actors of that caliber. Their ability to play the villain is immeasurable.

What about behind the scenes? Do you have a desire to produce, direct?

You know, I’m hoping to be able to start producing, actually. I’m hopefully producing my next project. And then directing is definitely something I want to do, but I really want to study the art of direction first before I tackle it. I don’t just want to assume that I can do it because I’m in the business. I think directing is an art form. Being able to tell a story is not something every director can do, and so I respect directing in a way in which it’s like I really kind of want to learn it from the ground up.

Are there any specific directors that you are influenced by or will be influenced by?

Absolutely. It’s interesting because you know the directors that I would like to meet, I have met or have worked with. They almost sometimes seem unattainable, you know?

You’re talking like, Martin Scorsese? Steven Spielberg?

Yeah… But also, Paul Thomas Anderson. I think he knows how to tell a story. After watching “Her,” I really like Spike Jonze. And David O. Russell. What he’s been able to do with Silver Linings Playbook, “Three Kings” and now with “American Hustle” — even “The Fighter” — I mean this guy tells a story. He really does. He really is impressive.

So you like human stories, really.

Always. Always. And I’d like to do something sci-fi with Ridley Scott. Because he’s sick with it (laughs). When it comes to the sci-fi, he’s pretty sick with it.

You’re working all the time, I would imagine when you’re not on set it’s time for family.

For me it’s just about having a little one now. It’s a dream come true, and I just want to watch him grow. I want to watch him go from walking, to running, to jumping, to talking, to speaking all of the languages he’s learning right now. To be able to learn them with him, and share my life with him.

He’s young but has he seen you on screen?
Yeah, it’s funny (laughs). My wife thought it would be funny to show him the Halo video. And his reaction was pretty priceless. I don’t know if he knows that’s daddy or if he just thinks, ‘I know that guy.’ But it brightened my spirit at work when she sent me the video.

It is quite clear that Michael Ealy is in a good place at this point in his career. Although he could not reveal his next project, he has room to grow in whatever he may choose to do.