Born in Silver Spring, Md. on Aug. 3, 1973, Michael Ealy majored in English at the University of Maryland before heading to New York City where he performed in several stage productions, including the off-Broadway hits Joe Fearless and Whoa Jack. After finding his breakout screen role as Ricky Nash in Barbershop and Barbershop 2, Michael rapidly rose through the ranks as one of Hollywood’s emerging young actors. Here, he talks about playing Dominic in his latest picture, Think Like a Man, Steve Harvey’s battle-of-the-sexes comedy which is currently #1 at the box office .

KW: Great, thanks. What interested you in Think Like a Man?
ME: Honestly, it was the first romantic comedy that I liked. I’d kind of avoided them for awhile because I never felt that any of them were really smart enough. But when I read this script, I genuinely fell in love with the characters, especially my own. So, I just wanted to be a part of it.

Harriet Pakula Teweles asks: How flattering or unflattering to the image of the black male are the “types” that the actors are asked to portray in this film?
ME: That’s another great thing about this picture. Yes, the cast is predominantly African-American, but color is never really an issue in the film. It’s rarely brought up since, at the end of the day, these guys are going through universal relationship issues that anybody can relate to. So, while the characters like “The non-committer,” “The Player,” and “The Dreamer” might be recognizable as common stereotypes, color isn’t involved.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: Did you do any preparation for your role as a food service worker by spending time in restaurants?
ME: The irony is that I spent five years as a waiter at a restaurant in New York City at the beginning of my acting career. So, I had a little bit of experience in food service. Fortunately, I didn’t actually have to prepare anything on camera in the movie, which saved me from having to take any cooking classes. But I always appreciate a good chef.

KW: How did your parents feel about your becoming a struggling actor after they helped you through college? Did they ever pressure you to abandon acting for a more practical profession?
ME: No. my parents, God bless ‘em, were very supportive of me and my decision to pursue acting. Their dream for me and my sister was that we graduate from college. And as soon as I fulfilled that, they were extremely supportive of what I wanted to do next. I will always be grateful to them for that, because I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help and encouragement.

KW: How hard was it working with an ensemble cast with so many big stars? Was it hard to get a little elbow room to do your thing?
ME: No, it felt a lot like my first movie, Barbershop, which was also an ensemble film, and which was also directed by Tim Story. So, it was sort of like a ten-year reunion.

Tell me a little about your new TV series, Common Law. Since it’s a cop series revolving around black and white partners, it sounds a little like Psych, which is also on the USA Network?
ME: It’s nothing like Psych. It’s an action comedy about two detectives who are really good at what they do. But they have different approaches to the work and to life in general, and that creates conflict and bickering and fights, sometimes. What happens is that their captain decides to send them to couples’ counseling in order to keep them together, because they always get their man. They basically just need a little help in getting along. What makes it funny is that the characters end up having a lot of the same issues as the married couples they’re in therapy with.

The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
ME: One of my heroes is Mr. Sidney Poitier. In his autobiography, “The Measure of a Man,” he talks about the difference between being a great person and being a great actor. I’m happiest when I’m acting, and I’ve dedicated my life to it. Still, as much as I love acting, at the end of the day, I want to be remembered as a great person, first, and as a great actor, second. I believe that acting is a talent while being a great person encompasses so much more: being a good father, a good husband and the ability to show compassion for others. There’s nothing more rewarding than making a difference doing charity work or being able to be there for a friend.

KW: Thanks again for the interview, Michael. It’s been an honor. Good luck with Think Like a Man and with Common Law.
ME: Thank you, Kam. This was special. Your questions were phenomenal. A lot of people clearly don’t do the same amount of preparation as you. So, I really appreciate it.

Kam Williams

Special to the AFRO