Sanaa Lathan and Michael Ealy Talk 'The Perfect Guy'

Sanaa Lathan and Michael Ealy Talk 'The Perfect Guy'

Shakefire had the opportunity to sit down with Sanaa Lathan and Michael Ealy, stars of the upcoming romantic thriller The Perfect Guy, to discuss their characters and their experience working together in such intense scenes.


Shakefire (SF): Tell us a little bit about your characters.

Sanaa Lathan (SL): My character’s name is Leah Vaughn. She’s a local lobbyist in Los Angeles. She’s successful and is just getting out of a relationship where he didn’t want to go to the next step and she was ready to have a family and take the next step. She meets this guy who is seemingly perfect, and they have great chemistry. And then it turns out he’s not so perfect. Then the movie kinda takes off from there.


Michael Ealy (ME): I play Carter Duncan, and Carter is I guess you could call him an IT guy. He literally meets Leah kinda on a whim actually. It wasn’t like a plan to meet her when they first meet.


SL: I think he saw her at that coffee shop. That’s my story.


ME: Yeah, but he just happened to see her at the coffee shop. At that point she became his obsession. You know what I mean?


SL: So you think you that you saw me before we had that exchange that day?


ME: No, I think that was the first time. That’s the way I play it. I saw you at the coffee shop and went from there.


SL: Because I think later on Leah was like, “I think I saw him before that time.” It would just add an extra layer. Oh, so you were at that bar and that wasn’t a coincidence.


ME: No. That was a move. So to me, Carter is just an IT guy and when he meets Leah; the thing that’s interesting is he genuinely enjoys spending time with her, courting her, and all of that. Ultimately what you realize that is about is more about power than romance.


SF: How do you tow the line between romance and thriller.This is two very different genres the film is trying to mesh together.
ME: That is a really good question, and we strongly dealt with that in development of the script. The original script felt like a romantic comedy for half the movie. Not even a romantic film. A romantic comedy. And then it turned into this thriller. We gotta somehow meld the two together and make it more a romantic thriller.


SL: Erotic thriller.


ME: Yeah, erotic thriller. And I say romantic because it’s PG-13. It we had been able to do R it would have been erotic.


SL: I wanted an R.


ME: She wanted to show the breast area.


SL: No I didn’t! That’s not what I mean by R. I meant I just wanted it...you never see black people do that kinda tasteful, I’m not saying I want it just for the raunchiness, but I like that tasteful kinda edgy rawness. We haven’t really seen that a lot. I thought that because the script was so solid it would have been great.


ME: She wanted NC-17.


SL: No!


ME: She wanted NC-17 with Morris [Chestnut] and rated R with me. No, but that was the thing we worked on in terms of trying to make sure the movie, while it had its romantic elements we still maintained the theme of the genre which is suspense, intensity, and just the thrill ride of a good thriller.


SL: I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago, and I literally, I kid you not, screamed out loud. I know what’s going to happen, and I got lost into it. That, to me, was really great.



SF: Sanaa, your character in the trailer says something to the effect of sometimes I jump into things a little too quickly. Is there any signs she might have missed in the beginning about Michael’s character or did he come completely out of the blue?
SL: I think she was just so hypnotized by those blue eyes. He was smooth, had all the right moves, and said all the right things.


ME: It’s the car.


SL: That car. What is it, a muscle car?


ME: A Charger. That’s actually one of the things that we’re hoping people walk away from and talk about. What did she not see prior to this happening? The goal is to have every woman see the movie and be like, “Okay, I would have fallen in love with him too” and then be like, “But wait a minute, why would I overlook what she overlooked?” It’s there. It’s definitely there.


SF: You talk about how you created these different ideas of situations that weren’t in the script but just went with it? How did you create your characters and this expanded backstory you give them?
SL: I think that you have to do that. For me, whenever I work I always have to fill in as much of their history as possible, because even if it’s just here it will show in the scenes. The audience will feel that history even if it’s never explained. We had a lot of time, like how I just said were you there before. We had a lot of time kinda discussing that kind of stuff. That’s part of the fun of it, too. It’s like filling in a painting. It’s great when you have the bones, and the bones are the script that you can draw from. I use things from my own life. I use things from other people’s lives. I use my imagination. And also you use what you feel during the rehearsals with the other person. That’s the most important thing because that’s what’s happening right in front of the camera.


ME: We had some really good rehearsal sessions, which you don’t see much on movies any more. But we actually had a couple of good rehearsal sessions where we were able to explore what’s underneath all of these words and make sure that we were actually breathing these characters into life. It really was a much more creative process for us as actors because we’re executive producers and we were able to have input prior to shooting. Nine time out of ten, as an actor for hire you get the script, there’s no rehearsal time, there’s really no development of the script because they’ve already developed it. It’s just like, “Here you go. Now make it hot.” By being executive producers we got to be more creatively involved in the process and thusly it was much more of a creative experience for us.


SF: I imaging that goes hand in hand with having good chemistry with each other. We can tell just from this interview. I’m sure we could lump Morris in there too, but he’s not here.
ME: Morris and I did not have good chemistry, haha. No, I think chemistry is important, but I don’t think chemistry is as hard to come by as people say.


SL: Yes it is. I disagree.


ME: I think you have actors who are two things. 1. They’re good. 2. They actually care about the project to let go of all the personal stuff and just be engaged in the project. Then your chemistry will be there.


SL: Not true. That is not true. I believe you can aim at chemistry and I believe that if you’re good actors and you’re committed to the story of the characters that you can actually create chemistry if you don’t have it. But then there is that natural thing that something you feel even if you like a person, just as a friend. I have a new girl friend who I met last year and we just have amazing chemistry and we love to be around each other. And that is literally chemical.


ME: And so what about our chemistry?


SL: I think that we have that.


ME: I personally think that our chemistry came from the rehearsals.


SL: Well it did.


ME: Cause when I first met Sanaa…


SL: Nobody likes me when they first meet me because I have kinda a poker face. I’m actually the nicest person you’ll know. People think that I’m stuck up. I’ve been getting this ever since junior high school. I’m not! Out of all my actress friends I’m probably the nicest one, but I come off the bitchiest whatever it is about my face when I don’t know you. Right, is that true?


ME: I never got that feeling. I think it was just when we first met to talk about the movie it was just kinda nerve wracking.


SF: Were there any scenes in particular that were intense to film?
ME: Numerous scenes. That’s the beauty of the film. There’s a lot of intensity, especially after the switch goes off, if you will. I guess my character has somewhat of a looming presence even when he’s not around. She gets to a point where she just doesn’t know where he is and if he’s watching. He’ll either show up or she’ll get a note. You know what I mean? It can get a little scary. I think we were able to keep the intensity of those scenes and the integrity of those scenes by just being present and being in the moment. That’s something she’s really good at.


SF: After shooting those scenes was it easy to decompress or did you have to step away for a little bit?
SL: I had to step away from him because he was in a whole other headspace. It was great and exciting for me to see. It was trippy to be around him in those moments.


SF: What was the process like for you in playing these two extremes in this ultimate nice guy and then this dark and sinister guy?
ME: For me, playing the romantic side of Carter was interesting because a lot of people are used to seeing me play romantic roles. For me it was like he’s got to be charming, he’s got to be romantic, but at the say time I want to make sure there’s some underlying factors there that you can kinda see just beneath the surface and keep it subtle. Then obviously once you see his true nature, sort to speak, that was even more fun to be honest with you. He’s not like a monster.


SL: What are you talking about? This is an actor talking. You know actors are never supposed to judge their characters.


ME: He’s not a monster.


SL: Yes he is.


ME: He’s not a monster. He believes what he’s doing is best for both of them. He really believes that she should know better. That she should understand that with him she’s fine. And that’s hard for her to grasp.


SL: Ha! He’s like slipping into character right now!


SF: I’m only under your bed because I love you girl!
ME: He definitely thinks he’s doing the right thing for her. That’s another scary thing; if someone is thinking for you. If someone feels the need to think for you? That would be terrifying if someone felt like, “You know you like this? Why are you with this iPhone? You should be Samsung. I’m gonna get you a Samsung.” Worry about that guy!



SF: Is there a perfect guy in your opinion, Sanaa?
SL: I actually answered this on my Twitter chat.


ME: Yep. Initials ME!


SL: Sense of humor, ambitious, passionate, communicator, loves to have fun, confident, and makes me feel safe. That’s good, right?


SF: Speaking of social media, your Instragram name is so interesting. It’s easydoesitdoitealy. Where did that come from?
SL: It’s so annoying! It’s so annoying to tag him.


ME: It’s a sign of how seriously I took it when I first signed on Instagram. People are like, “Dude, why is it so complicated?” To me it’s not that complicated. It’s a nickname that a friend of mine has for me. I think when I signed on to Instagram I didn’t realize how relevant Instagram was going to be. I saw other people with not their name but like a name. I was like, “Okay, what’s wrong with mine?” Now I realize it’s a little long. But that’s why. I had spoken to a friend of mine the day I decided to join Instagram. So it was like, “What’s your Instagram name?” I was like, “What’s something no one to know? themichaelealy, @michaelealy, anybody can figure one of those out. easydoesitdoitealy; that’s a little bit of work. You really want to follow me at that point.


The Perfect Guy releases in theaters on September 11, 2015.