Brandon T. Jackson plays Alpa Chino in the blockbuster comedy Tropic Thunder. Yes, the name is a joke, and Jackson dove right in to the role with fellow comedians Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Danny R. McBride. But what people will be probably talking about the most is Robert Downey Jr.'s character Kirk Lazarus who remains in black face throughout the film. I had a chance to talk to Jackson about the role, what it was like on the set and also as the film's most prominent black actor, what he thought of Downey's performance. And just so you know, the T. stands for Timothy.
What did you bring to the role Alpa Chino that wasn't in the script?
I brought pretty much the whole energy in the beginning, where you see all the Booty Sweat (Alpa's energy drink, which I foolishly thought was spelled Bootie Sweat). I took the rapper over the top and so ridiculous, but then developed him in the jungle where he's in the situation with Robert being a black face and he's just fed up.
With the fictitious Booty Sweat, what are you actually drinking?
You know what, it changed so many times. Now it's Red Bull, first it was green tea, then they tried Kool-Aid in there, it was crazy, they kept switching it.
Doing all of these interviews today, what's the worst question you've gotten?
Can I ask you one more question? That's been the worst.
What was the most asked question?
How was it working with Robert Downey Jr.?
I have to imagine, as a black person in this film, you've been getting the question about Robert Downey Jr. in black face more than anyone else, what's your standard response?
My standard is, well, the one I can give you is, he stayed in character the whole time. It didn't bother me, but it was weird. We'll be on set and Ben will yell cut and [Robert] will be like, "Yea, I'm gonna go get some barbecued chicken or some Kool-Aid in my trailer."
Yeah, it was funny, but he was trying to do that to egg me on so I would get mad at him. It was hilarious, but at the time I was pissed off.
Was he doing that just with you? Would he not stay in character when talking to Ben Stiller?
That's the tricky thing, that's what I would think. Is he doing this just for me or is he doing it for the thing. Every time I saw him he was in character, when I saw Iron Man it was weird to see him white.
What was Ben Stiller like as a director?
He was nice man, but you got to bring the funny or he will definitely cut you out if you're not funny. He has to cause he's such a funny guy. It helps you step your game up.
How did you feel working with these other big names?
I was on a different style then them, I had to get on their style. Mine was more about the punchline and playing around, but I had to realize the situation we were in. Once I got on the same page I think it was really good.
Any hazing or teasing on the set?
Yup. Things I can't really even understand to this day. Just pushing you harder, egging you on, like doing little things. Making you feel like you got to push harder. I figured it out later, [at the time] I thought they were just being assholes.
If you could only work with one cast member again from this film, who would it be?
Um, gosh, that's tough man, Jay Baruchel.
What was your method to development the character of Alpa Chino?
Watching a lot of music videos, watching the energy of rappers. Thinking of a rapper not being able to understand the deepness of a war movie to that level. You saw three different sides of him, talking about Bootie Sweat, him kind of crazy with the guns, and then trying to come down to Earth and you know ... what happens at the end (there's a twist with his character I'm not allowed to talk about).
I was checking your past credits on imdb.com and you were in the documentary Bowling for Columbine?
Randomly, yeah they had come to my school, I don't even know if it's still in there. I was like 15, I guess one of my friends put that on imdb. Imdb is so inaccurate, they don't have my age right, I'm not in Burning Sands.
How old are you?
If you could remake one film, and you're in the starring role, what would that film be?
Beverly Hills Cop.
Did you hear they might be making a part four?
Yup, I might be in it. Chris Tucker and Eddie Murphy are my biggest [role models].
I actually got a couple of offers today, but I'm chasing this one movie. I'm just trying to make sure we can make the best work, especially after Tropic Thunder.
Quick Questions with Brandon T. Jackson
Breakfast this morning? Eggs
Favorite recent movie? Dark Knight
Last album you bought? Bruce Springsteen
Favorite sports team? Detroit Pistons
Last vacation you took? Hawaii
Superpower? Speed read
Favorite Drink? Bootie Sweat
Favorite fruit? Grapes
Favorite place in the world? Barbados
What's in your pockets? Intense cologne and a check
Favorite charity? Learn through Laughter