Mark Brown
Director Mark Brown coaching Vivica Fox
courtesy Sony Pictures
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"Two Can Play That Game"
With Director Mark Brown
Thursday, Sept. 6, 2001; 2:30 p.m. EDT

Director Mark Brown was online to talk about his new romantic comedy, "Two Can Play That Game," starring Vivica A. Fox as a street-savvy professional in a power struggle to win back her philandering boyfriend (Morris Chestnut).

"Two Can Play That Game" is a comedic battle of the sexes and sets the rules of playing the dating game. Shanté Smith (Vivica A. Fox) and her girlfriends Diedre, Karen and Tracye (Mo'Nique, Wendy Raquel Robinson and Tamala Jones) battle with "man trouble." When Shanté's boyfriend Keith (Morris Chestnut) is caught red-handed with her arch-rival Conny (Gabrielle Union), she institutes her "Ten Day Plan". Using sexy to domestic tactics, Shanté is determined to win back her boyfriend. However, just as the women devise the strategies to the game of love, the male characters also have their "game in play."

"Two Can Play That Game," a Sony Picture production, opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, Sept. 7, 2001.

Writing a screenplay from a female and male perspective, Brown launched his first feature ("Two Can Play That Game") out of C4 Pictures. In addition to developing C4, an African-American production company through which he can write, direct and produce, Brown currently is involved in two upcoming feature projects -- "Barber Shop," a comedy in pre-production at MGM with director Tim Story and Warner Bros. "Juwanna Mann," a comedy about a cross-dressing pro basketball player, starring Miguel Nuñez, Jr. and Vivica A. Fox. Brown has modeled and has appeared on "Martin" and "The Young & The Restless." He also wrote "How to be a Player," an Island Pictures production. Born in Birmingham, England and raised in Washington, D.C., Brown moved to Los Angeles in the early 90s with the intent of going to medical school.

Below is the transcript.

Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Bethesda, Md.: I saw the previews and the screening of your movie. I was wondering how you came to write your script and from a female perspective. Also, don't you think that you are portraying the stereotype that all women play games, especially to keep her man?

Mark Brown: I combined my ex-girlfriend with my sister and pretty much used their voice in their relationships and by observing the relationships that I was in.

As far as the stereotypes, my parents have been married for 50 years and I see visual game playing. In every relationship, especially in the early stages of the relationship, there is a power struggle or game playing. I think that this [movie] is an example of relationships in general, not just about women. I think women and men play games to show that they have control and who "wears the pants".

Washington, D.C.: I saw a pre-screening offered by WKYS last night and thought the movie really showed the way that women and men play the dating game. I was surprised though that there wasn't a lot of skin shown (esp. with Vivica Fox). Did you purposely not want to show any nudity in the film?

Mark Brown: Absolutely. I think that you can tell an effective story without a lot of nudity and cursing. There was an effort to stay away from that. My parents are Seventh Day Adventists and are really strict and I wanted them to see this movie.

I would say this is a date and relationship movie. If you are in a relationship, you can leave with something from the movie.

Washington, D.C.: What was it like working with Vivica Fox and Morris Chestnut? Did you choose the cast?

Mark Brown: Yes, I did choose the cast. When I was writing the script, I actually had Vivica in mind. It is always a great experience when you work with seasoned actors. It was a real joy and wonderful experience.

Alexandria, Va.: In the bio it mentions that you initially went out to L.A. for medical school. How did you get started in filming?

Mark Brown: I started modeling and then went out there to start acting and the natural progression was to write - writing, you can control your vision. From writing, I went to directing -directing, you can see the vision from beginning to end.

Mark Brown: I took some film classes at AFI and other directing coaches around town. I also put up the money and shot a couple of short films. Did the actors also add onto your script? In filming, did the production follow according to what you dreamed or wanted it to be?

Mark Brown: Yes. I made sure the actors had delivered the lines as scripted but there were several occasions where I encouraged the improvisations and input of the actors. Mo'Nique and Anthony Anderson did more than the other cast members in improvising a comedic scene. In much of the direction of pre-production, Vivica Fox was very instrumental and in the semantics of Shante.

Mark Brown: I was very pleased with the production value and the performances. This is pretty much what I envisioned.

Washington, D.C.: What inspired you to create this movie?

Mark Brown: I got tired of the movies like "How to Be a Player" and "Booty Call" and I thought that the African American audience was a little more sophisticated than those movies. I wanted to show a true cross section of African Americans in a movie that addressed universal themes or universal issues not only being restricted to an African American audience.

Washington, D.C.: How did you come about selecting Vivica and Morris to play the main characters? Were they your first choices?

Mark Brown: Yes, Vivica I had in mind when I wrote the script -- she had the professional air and could flip to a more hip street version. She has the right dynamic. Many African Americans have an office persona and a different persona at home. Vivica could be professional and then hang out with her girlfriends, which I wanted to portray.

I wanted to get someone who was strong and vulnerable and Morris is a fabulous actor and I think he delivered a wonderful performance. Women lllooovvee Morris!
I was so glad that we got Mo'Nique to play the character. There was division where some wanted Tyra Banks to play her role. Wendy Robinson and Pamela Jones were wonderful also.
Anthony Anderson is one ball of fun. He's very funny.

Arlington, Va.: I see that you casted Vivica A. Fox in this film and your upcoming project. What do you like most about this star's acting style?

Mark Brown: I think that she keeps her acting strictly from a real standpoint. There are no pretenses and she has the raw and purest form of acting. Her acting is visible and she draws you in. She has a broad range. She is a different person in "Independence Day" and in "Booty Call." I wanted someone who could play both [personas]. Can you tell us more about C4 productions? Also, were you an integral part in the soundtrack of the movie?

Mark Brown: C4 is a production house that puts together quality films, not just African American but universal films. Ron Howard's company is an example of what I want C4 to be. There is also a record side attached to it. We have two songs from C4 records in the movie but not on the soundtrack. The title soundtrack to "Two Can Play that Game" is sung by KJ. KJ, she is a 18 year-old Anglo-singer who can really sing! She is coming out with an album through C4 in the end of the year.

Greenbelt, Md.: I thought the movie had a great flow, great interaction with the audience and the script was all too real. How did you come up with the idea and why did you write it as Fox talking to the audience and going back to her role?

Mark Brown: Traditionally urban audiences shout at the screen and I wanted that. I wanted the movie to be an experience and the audience part of Shante's journey and invest to what she is. I am a huge fan of John Hughes and "The Breakfast" and "Ferris Bueller" - these films break the fourth wall.

The universal themes that Shante and Keith addressed were universal relationship issues. Keith calls Shante 6 times in a day trying to figure out where she is. It's part of the whole relationship process. I don't know a woman who doesn't feel that she needs to do some tactical maneuvering to keep her man. From a writing perspective, I don't try to write from an idealistic standpoint but from a real standpoint -- from someone that you know or seen through parts of yourself.

Washington, D.C.: Do you fear any negative backlash from the black community about your portrayal of relationships in the film?

Mark Brown: Not in this film. Definitely in "How to Be a Player," but in this film because the characters were so familiar to folks, there was nothing but positive [response]. I am careful in [not] portraying negative images onscreen and all responsible filmmakers have to be.

Washington, D.C.: I read an article/interview with Mo'Nique in the May issue of Sister to Sister magazine. She spoke about this movie, however she referred to it as "How to Make Your Man Behave." What prompted the name change?

Mark Brown: We were concerned that we didn't want to isolate the men from the audience. So "Two Can Play that Game" was less abrasive to men. I actually liked the first title better.

Somewhere, USA: What other films are you working on and who have you most enjoyed working with?

Mark Brown: I'm working on an action comedy in the latter part of the year. That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

© Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company