The 12' x 9': A Stage Play star on how Cedric the Entertainer kept him laughing and why Jay-Z and Kanye are kings.
Sean Patrick Thomas got his big major break in Hollywood a decade ago as the star of big-screen dance drama Save the Last Dance, and since that time the 40-year old actor has pingponged between film (Barbershop, Barbershop 2), television (The District, Reaper, Army Wives) and theater. Thomas is currently starring in the play, 12' x 9': A Stage Play, which will soon be enjoying a theater run in the North Hollywood area of Los Angeles in November. In addition, Thomas will have a guest role on two episodes of Reed Between the Lines. You can catch the first episode directly after the Soul Train Music Awards on Sunday November 27 at 9pm/8c.
Thomas talked to BET.com about his new play, looked back on some of his biggest film roles and riffed on why Jay-Z and Kanye West are the best throwbacks to the glory days of hip hop.
Tell us about the premise of your new play and the character you portray.
It’s called 12' x9': A Stage Play, and it’s written by a really good friend of mine named Fred Thomas. At its core, it's about religion and it’s also [a] commentary on the penal system. Basically, the play is about three guys who have to share the same small cell. One of them is a hard-core long-term prisoner, another is a psychotic thug and the last is a born-again Christian who has been accused of stealing from his church and a few other places — and that’s the character I’m playing. These three different men all clash in this tiny cell and things explode from there.
Save The Last Dance was the film that put your career on the map. What are your recollections of working on that movie?
I remember thinking going into it, "I have no idea how I’m going get this done or how I’m going pull this off." I’m certainly no dancer. So it was just a situation of having trust and faith that things would work out. I learned the lesson at that time to just show up day one, do your best minute to minute, day to day and things will come together, and that’s what happened. It was also my first time in a lead role in a major studio film, so I proved to myself and the business that I could do it. And because of it I’ll always have something to hang my hat on — it started everything off for me.
And how was it working on Barbershop? It seems like that must have been a fun set to be apart of.
It was a lot of fun. I got to basically work with people I’d seen do other things, like Cedric the Entertainer and Ice Cube, and I was surprised to find myself in the same room as them. It was nice to bump up around people like that and see how they work as compared to how I work. And I had never had a chance to do a comedy before then. I had a blast with everybody and I have fond memories of those movies.
Of all the members of the all-star Barbershop cast, who do you think you learned the most from?
In the first movie, Cedric taught me to keep trying new things, to keep grinding. Because every take he would say something or do something different. And you could tell in between takes he would try to think of something else to catch us off-guard. I learned from Cedric to stay on my toes, be witty and try different things because he was always really unbelievably funny.
What’s in your iPod?
I love Notorious B.I.G. I love the Jay-Z and Kanye West album, Watch the Throne. It’s one of the few hip hop albums that I’ve heard recently that sounds like real hip hop and not the stuff that passes for hip hop nowadays. It's got the grit and the texture that I grew up with and am accustomed to. It reminds me of the stuff that I used to like back in the day.
As the father of two young children, other than the obvious, how do you think parenthood has changed your life?
I’ve learned that I could get by on a lot less sleep. Also, sometimes you can get really serious in this business, but the kids keep you silly. I think that’s the biggest thing about me now, I’m very silly all the time.
12' x9' A Stage Play runs from November 5 thru November 20 at the Missing Piece Theater in Burbank, California. For more information, visit: www.plays411.com/12x9
(Photo: Warner Bros.)