Receiving 'The Call'; Morris Chestnut's Rise to Stardom

Receiving 'The Call'; Morris Chestnut's Rise to Stardom

Morris Chestnut may be most known for his film debut role as Ricky, the aspiring football star whose life whose life was tragically cut short in 1991’s Boyz n the Hood, but he’s been acting practically nonstop ever since, appearing in hits including The Best Man and Think Like a Man. Shakefire recently sat down with him to discuss his most recent film, The Call, and his rise to stardom.

In the psychological thriller The Call, Chestnut stars opposite Halle Berry and plays police officer Paul Phillips. Chestnut is romantically linked to Berry’s character, 911 operator Jordan Turner, but the romance is quickly extinguished when a young girl is kidnapped by a crazed serial killer from Jordan’s past. With Jordan working from the call center and officer Phillips in the field, the two must work together to find the girl before it’s too late.

In preparation for his role, Chestnut worked closely with LA county police officers. “I went on a ride along with police officers, which was interesting because when you’re in LA doing a ride along in certain parts of town it can be kind of sketchy, kinda interesting,” says Chestnut. “I’ll never forget. We would start in the day and we would go until the night.” Not only did he learn valuable information for his role, but he also learned that only the fronts of police cars are bulletproof.

“One time I worked with David Otunga, who plays my partner in the movie, and he’s a big dude; he’s a wrestler, so the back was kind of cramped. I said, ‘Listen man, you go ahead and take the front this time. I’ll get the back.’ So I got in the back, and I was sitting there talking to the officer. I said, ‘Yeah, so when we’re driving around and it’s starting to get dark and I know people have guns, so you guys bulletproof these cars, right?’ She said, ‘Oh yeah, we definitely bulletproof the cars. Only the front, though.’ So I’m like, ‘Dave, next time you got to get the back, bro. I got shotgun.’”

Joking aside, Chestnut has always been grateful for the opportunities he’s had and the recognition he’s received, especially when it comes to his debut role of Ricky. He still gets called by that name from fans on almost a daily basis, but it doesn’t bother him.

“It was the start of my career so how can I be mad at something like that that started my career,” he says with a smile. “I’m appreciative of it. I know people who’ve done movies a year ago that nobody talks about, so to do a movie 20 years ago that people still talk about and still have an impact, I’m just fortunate to be a part of it.”

His grounded attitude on the Hollywood scene can be attributed to his parents and close friends, he tells us.

“What happens is, a lot of times people come to Hollywood and they start working in the industry and all of a sudden their close friends start being in the industry and their whole life is the industry. It’s very difficult when you do that because pretty much everyone in the industry is going to have their ups and downs, so what happens is on the way up everybody’s around, and on the way down everybody goes. It makes it really tough to deal with. Two of my closest friends I’ve been friends with since the second grade. So when I have my ups, they’re like ‘Fool you ain’t nobody,’ and when I have my downs they have my back.”

The Call marks the first time Chestnut and Berry have appeared in a film together. The beginning of the film portrays the two in a loving relationship, but the focus soon shifts away when the kidnapping occurs. It’s the forming of that relationship earlier on in the film that proved to be one of the more difficult aspects of filming for Chestnut.

“I believe we only had two scenes actually physically together,” explains Chestnut. “She’s a 911 operator and I’m a cop, and basically we would communicate through walkie-talkie and phone and all that type of stuff. So it was really difficult to have that chemistry, but thankfully it worked out.”

When they weren’t physically with each other, Chestnut revealed that he was talking to a man reading her lines on the other side of the phone 90% of the time. It was just another element that contributed to the difficulty of making their on screen relationship appear real. It was, in essence, what attracted him to the role in the first place.

“I thought one of the interesting things was maintaining that relationship while she’s in the call center and I’m in the field,” says Chestnut. “That was very challenging. It was just fun being in this type of movie and being around interesting people like that.”

As for what the future holds for Chestnut, he’s currently working on the highly anticipated sequel to The Best Man. Shooting begins at the end of March with a November release date. “I think by reading the script, I think it’s going to be better than the first one,” he explains. “This one is going to take you through a lot. People are going to have their ups and people are going to have their downs in this movie.”

He also stars in the upcoming Kick-Ass 2 playing another police officer role as Sergeant Marcus Williams, although we imagine it will be more tongue-in-cheek when compared to The Call. Beyond that, the road is wide open for Chestnut. He’s not one to just sit back and wait for roles to magically appear, though.

“I never made my life the industry. The industry’s always been a part of my life.”

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
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