After memorable performances in such films as DéjàVu, Precious and Just Wright, Paula Patton finally gets her turn as a big screen bride with a secret-filled family in the wedding movie Jumping The Broom, which also stars Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Laz Alonso. The 35-year old mom and wife of R&B crooner Robin Thicke spoke to BET.com about movies, filmmaking and breaking the casting glass ceiling in Tinsletown.
What’s great about Jumping The Broom is that it’s wonderfully universal and also is one of the better black films made in the last few years. Do you agree with that assessment?
Absolutely. It pays little attention to race. It’s about class and family. The only person that touches on race is Julie Bowen’s character, which is quite funny. She speaks for people who are like, ‘Huh? I don’t understand.’ Movies work best when we can connect to any person on a human level and that’s what this film does. We all have the crazy uncle, aunt and cousin. When we were making this movie there was a young white guy who was working as a PA and he was like, "This is my story, I just got married and this is my life." He didn’t marry a Black woman. And I always felt if this movie was done well it was something that Black people could be proud of and our director Salim Akil made a movie that I’m proud to be in.
Next up you’ll be starring opposite Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. What was that like?
After being pregnant, being able to do my own stunts and being this role—which is a badass character and fierce woman —was such an empowering thing. I felt like I was dreaming the whole time I made that movie. I couldn’t believe my good luck.
So tell us more about your role. Are you a love interest for Tom Cruise in the movie?
I have to be a bit zipped lipped about my character. I can’t really say much. Honestly, the great thing is that Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Tom and I all had a blast playing in this together. We all got along, laughed all the time and had to do some crazy things in this movie. And I’d be giving away too much if I told you what they were. I’ve been sworn to secrecy, they’re gonna take my child away! [Laughs]
You’re getting great roles in film and television as are a lot of your peers. So would you still say there still a lack of roles for Black actresses in Hollywood?
The truth is it’s gotten so much better. Thanks to Halle Berry and Jennifer Lopez and all the women that forged the way prior to them. They all opened doors for myself and other young actresses. I think the frustrating part is when you see the big blockbuster movies in Hollywood being made and there’s sometimes many leading roles that could be played by minorities but aren’t. I’ve been blessed [working with] people like Jerry Bruckheimer who helped to cast me opposite Denzel [Washington] in DéjàVu. And that J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird [director of Mission Impossible] and Tom Cruise saw that I would be right for MI. I’m thankful for those opportunities. It’s those kinds of men and women that help improve the amount of roles there are for black women, Black men and all minorities. We do still have a ways to go to get it right and that’s okay. We’ll just keep on crashing down walls and doors.
You almost wanted to be a behind the camera creating roles and you even went to the University of Southern California to be a filmmaker.
First off let me say, I’ve wanted to be an actress since I was a little girl. [But when I got older] a guy took me to see Do The Right Thing when it opened. I was mesmerized by it. This whole new idea of becoming a filmmaker entered my mind. And I remember thinking there were not nearly enough roles for Black actresses. I thought, "Well, I’ll create them." So I graduated from USC film school and I got lucky enough to work with this company that made documentary-type television. And I worked my way up to producer on Medical Diaries for the Discovery Health Channel.
Now that your son Julian is a year old, what’s the secret to being a successful working actress mom?
It’s called lots of coffee and no sleep. I just take everyday as it comes because it gets a bit overwhelming to think long term, the future and the next eighteen years and beyond. In the end my son comes first. That’s what I think, that’s what I know and everything else will fall in line.
Jumping The Broom arrives in theaters Friday, May 6th.
(Photo: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)