Jurnee Smollett-Bell and the cast of the new movie Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) are having a ball promoting their new film, in theaters February 7, and BET flew to London to chat with them all!
In this latest DC Comics-inspired film saga, we see notorious "bad girl" Harley Quinn (played by Bombshell star Margot Robbie) mending a broken heart after her unexpected breakup with longtime bad-guy beau, The Joker. As Harley struggles to fight off a slew of villains seeking revenge against her for past atrocities, she meets a handful of women who ultimately form a girl gang to do some good and save an innocent girl's life.
This more vulnerable and emotional Harley Quinn is one that fans of the cult classic character are not so used to witnessing, but the film's director Cathy Yan offers, "I think that's what makes her so interesting, that she can be so big and larger than life, but I think what this movie explores is her human side in a way too. She's pretty vulnerable, she's alone in the beginning of the movie, and I think she kind of gains some confidence in herself and she meets some friends along the way, and so I really like that. We were trying to figure out and understand the human underneath her."
Robbie first appeared as Quinn 2016’s Suicide Squad. For Birds Of Prey, she now serves as a producer and had this to say about her reprisal of the popular Harley Quinn.
“I wanted to see what Harley would be like without someone to take care of her. And it’s always been a part of my own life to have a group of girlfriends that do everything together. We’re a very mixed bag of personalities,” she says with a smile, “but everyone loves each other despite being pretty different. That’s what drew me to developing a story for Harley with the Birds of Prey, to find a group that’s unique, but who complement each other, especially in their fighting styles. Together, they make up all the pieces of the puzzle.”
Although the film explores the softer side of this villainess, Harley and her newly formed kick-ass lady crew offer fans a heaping dose of action and stunts that this genre of movie is known for, and Yan says she loved bringing this aspect of the film to life.
"I love that element, and I really wanted to make sure that they were really doing it and that it wasn't relying on awesome weapons or too many superhero powers," Yan says of the movie's high-energy fight sequences.
“And that meant that all of our actors had to train heavily for months and months to get it right. Most of the stunts they do themselves, and I really like that practical hand-to-hand combat. I think it's really fun to see onscreen and I think it's rooted in that sort of power."
On the heels of Valentine's Day, BET caught up with the Birds of Prey, cast including Smollett-Bell (Black Canary), Rosie Perez (Renee Montoya), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (The Huntress), Chris Messina (Victor Zsasz) and 13-year-old newcomer, Ella Jay Basco about forming their very own friend gangs, being crazy in love, the perfect food to fix a broken heart, and the best love lesson they've learned over the years.
BET: There's a great scene in this film between Det. Renee Montoya (Perez) and Black Canary (Smollett-Bell) where they talk about love lessons. What love lesson from a parent or other important person in your childhood sticks with you to this day?
Jurnee Smollett-Bell: Hmmm. That's a really good question! I think for sure my mother was big on loving yourself and self-care, and you cannot learn to love anyone if you don't know how to love yourself, so that means truly being unapologetic for who you are and not allowing the world to try and stifle yourself and make you assimilate in one way or another. That's always something in the back of my head and sometimes I'm in it, and sometimes I struggle with it, for sure.
Rosie Perez: I have two examples. You know, my aunt raised me, and you know, one day I asked her, you know, ‘Why are you so depressed?’ And she goes, I don't know, but I'm so depressed, but you know what? Tomorrow is another day. I've always held on to that, and then my father, one day he was crying, and somebody tried to make a comment about it, and he says, for a man or woman to be able to cry is a sign of strength—that their heart is strong. I never forgot that. I looked at him and I said really? And he goes, yeah, if the tears are not embedded with self-pity, that's just the heart pumping. That's a wonderful thing for me, and I always remember that.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: Learning to have compassion for yourself is extremely important. Empathy for yourself and your mistakes is important, because that's the only way you're going to be able to empathize with somebody else when they're not perfect and don't always do the right thing. You still love them anyway.
BET: With this movie, we get to experience Harley Quinn without the Joker, but this movie offers some great flashbacks on some of the crazy things Harley did for Joker in the name of love. What's the craziest thing you've ever done or anyone's ever done for you in the name of love?
Perez: My husband bought me five different spatulas [laughter].
Smollett-Bell: That's amazing! [laughter] I'm trying to think. Crazy. Crazy. What is crazy? I mean, the first thing that comes to mind honestly is my mother. She nursed me until I was five years old.
Winstead: That's an act of love!
Smollett-Bell: That's definitely an act of love! And the reason why is because when I was two she tried to wean me and I went on a hunger strike. Hello! I'm born the day before Gandhi, so I was like listen, you are not gonna wean me, I'm gonna take all the nursing I want! I'm protesting. That was the first thing that came in my mind head—I'm sure they're plenty of other things.
Winstead: I don't know about crazy. I've had some good gifts. I was on set once and I got sent a hundred roses. Very special.
BET: What color?
Winstead: Red. Red roses. A classic.
Perez: Were they long stem?
Winstead: Yeah. It was like a very over the top gesture that made me feel very special.
Margot Robbie: Well, Mistah J [Jared Leto], on the first Suicide Squad movie, sent me many, many gifts. He was in character the whole film, so he sent me many gifts. I got a live snake in a box one time, I got a live rat in box. I got given many things that I won't mention right now, but yeah... romantic in his way!
Chris Messina: Once a woman that I was dating gave me a Powerpoint [laughter]. She made me a Powerpoint ....
Robbie: Of all the things she liked about you?
Messina: Yes! yes... that was nice.
Robbie: That's a bit nerdy, but I like it.
Messina: Yeah, but it was also beautiful [laughter].
BET: If you were to form your very own girl or guy gang, kinda like the one that comes together amongst the women in this movie, to beat up bad guys and protect those you love, what would you name it and who would you enlist to join it?
Robbie: I have said this already, but I'm gonna say it again—J.K. Rowling, Michelle Obama...
BET: What would you name it?
Robbie: Oh, name it? Ummm...
Messina: What was the name you came up with before? The rhubarb?
Robbie: Oh! The Rhubarb! The Purple Nurple...[laughter]
Messina: Girl gang?
BET: No, for you, guy gang.
Messina: Jeez! God... It's a lot a guys I'd put in that gang. I'd put my brother in that gang, I'd put my father in that gang.
Robbie: This is called a family, Chris [laughter].
Messina: I'd put a lot of people...
BET: And just call it 'The Gang.'
Messina: The Gang! I like that.
Basco: The Gang, like The Suicide Squad...
Robbie: I have a girl [gang]. I mean, my school group of girlfriends, we've been friends since we were like four years old. There's 16 of us at this point, and we've been called The Heckers ever since school. So that's the name of our girl gang.
Basco: That's so cool!
Messina: That's cool!
Robbie: Yeah, these are the girls that go egg a guy if they break up with you.
Basco: Ah, nice!
Messina: I don't want to mess with them!
Basco: I don't either!
BET: This movie makes you want to kick some bad-guy ass, and have an egg sandwich. What's your favorite "get over a broken heart" meal?
Robbie: I don't know about heartbroken, but if I'm hung over, Thai food. That's my go-to.
Basco: I'm Korean-Filipino, so I'm gonna go with Asian food. Like, the rice... oh my God. I'm drooling thinking about it. But yeah, the rice, ramen and all that good stuff...delicious!
Robbie: I'm so hungry at this point...
PHOTO CREDIT: Claudette Barius/ & © DC Comics