BEVERLY HILLS — You can always count on Affion Crockett to bring some big laughs to whatever role he’s playing, be it a thugged out gangsta (“Haunted House” and “Soul Men”) or the tightly wound TSA agent he portrays in the new, romantic comedy, “Baggage Claim” which opens nationwide Sept. 27.
In addition to Crockett, “Baggage Claim” features an amazing, ensemble cast that includes: Paula Patton, Derek Luke, Jenifer Lewis, Boris Kodjoe, Jill Scott, La La Anthony, Christina Milian, Taye Diggs, Djimon Hounsou, Lauren London, Tia Mowry and Rickey Smiley among others. In the film, Patton plays a flight attendant who is on a 30-day mission to find a man worthy of marrying.
During a recent interview at the Four Seasons Hotel, Crockett said that working with a star-studded cast and the film’s director David E. Talbert were the primary reasons he wanted to be part of the movie.
“I’ve known David (Talbert) for a long time and am a fan of his work and he’s a fan of mine,” said Crockett sporting a crisp, blue denim shirt, Khaki pants and a pair of red, leather tennis shoes. “David called me on the weekend, Saturday in fact, and said ‘hey man, I have a great character that I know you will blow out of the water.” I told him I was interested especially since my only weekend plans were to go to Marshalls and buy some socks. I figured I could make the Marshalls thing wait at least until Sunday. I had also read the film years before and liked it. So I was like, yeah, I get in where I fit in. I mean some projects you don’t need to think too much about. This was one of them.”
Crockett added, when Talbert told him he could cut loose with Cedric, his TSA character, it completely sealed the deal.
“Most all of us had cameos, said Crockett. “La La Anthony, Lauren London and Ricky Smiley, but I really wanted to maximize mine. Otherwise I would just look like an extra in the film. When I got the green light, I went for it.”
For Crockett, the timing for getting the role couldn’t have been better. He said he was able to draw from a recent TSA experience he witnessed while at Miami International Airport.
“I was actually coming back from celebrating my birthday and visiting my parents in Trinidad,” he said. “And I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There’s something about TSA agents. I tell you, the TSA agents there in Customs are on speed. The line at the Miami airport was at least 45 minutes long to get through. There was a dude explaining that his flight was leaving in 30 minutes. He asked the agent if there was any way to get past the line. She told him no, wait in line. You’re going to miss that flight. I hope you didn’t have important plans. She really said that. Loud too. That for me was Cedric in a nutshell. When David (Talbert) said he wanted me to imagine my worst airport nightmare for the role, I said ‘oh, I got you.’ That line about I have no life so I am going to ruin yours is completely ad-libbed. David thought the “take your pockets out of your pockets was funny too.”
And being funny comes naturally for Crockett who hails from North Carolina, but grew up in Germany as an “Army brat kid.” “Both my mother and father were performers and I caught the entertainment bug from them,” said Crockett who has been telling jokes, singing, dancing and doing impersonations of people at talent shows ever since he was 10-years old. “As far as comedy per se, there are a lot of people in my family who are funny. My uncle Jason is like the funniest guy in the family hands down. I was just the one who absorbed a little bit of his stuff and stuff I saw on TV and made it work into something.”
He said shows like HBO’s Def Comedy Jam — “back in the day” — inspired him to take to take his talents to another level. “It got me to thinking that I could combine my stage presence with some of the voices I do because I was always quietly funny,” said Crockett. “That’s how I really started honing my stand-up career. I went to Los Angeles and started putting that stuff into characters and acting.
It’s Crockett’s versatility and humor that’s made him a pretty hot commodity in Hollywood these days. The comedian is best known for his online sketch/parody videos which are a huge hit on YouTube. He was also the break out star on MTV’s “Wild’n Out” and “Short Circuitz” with Nick Cannon and he starred on HBO’s hit comedy, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Crockett’s resume also includes movies and TV shows such as: “This Means War,” “Never Back Down, Fox’s “In the Flow with Affion Crockett,” which was executive by Jamie Foxx, “Sketchy,” “Dance Flick,” and “School Dance.”
Next spring, Crockett will reprise his role as Ray-Ray with Marlon Wayans in “A Haunted House 2.” The comedian has also been tapped to star in Kevin Hart’s and Josh Gad’s upcoming comedy, “The Wedding Ringer” where he’ll play a groomsman for hire.
“I’m definitely keeping busy and having some fun,” said Crockett who just finished writing and producing a new comedy with Russell Simmons titled, “Black Tiger Returns.” It’s the perfect movie for me. It’s comedy with kung-fu and has a solid ensemble cast. It’s the whole nine yards.”
Still, as much as Crockett loves comedy, he says he would enjoy stretching out a bit and try his hand at some dramatic roles.
“Down the line, I’d like to do a biopic of someone who is a historical or influential figure,” he said. “I would love to play someone like Gregory Hines. You know, kind of do the same thing that Jamie Foxx did with Ray Charles and Will Smith did with Muhammad Ali. I’m already a character guy anyway. People know me for doing impressions, but I want to bring that same energy and transform as an actor like those guys did.”
By LANA K. WILSON-COMBS
EDITOR’S NOTE: Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a syndicated movie and entertainment writer. Her Web site is www.N2Entertainment.net. You can tune in to KFBK 1530 AM and 92.5 FM every Friday at 6:40 p.m. to hear Lana’s movie reviews on the Kitty O’Neal Show.