Eddie Murphy on Having a Conversation
ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with You People star and iconic comedian Eddie Murphy about the Netflix movie, which is now streaming. Murphy discussed the film’s approach to racial tensions and how less can sometimes be more with comedy.
“A new couple and their families find themselves examining modern love and family dynamics amidst clashing cultures, societal expectations, and generational differences in this comedy from Kenya Barris,” reads the movie’s logline.
Tyler Treese: In You People, there are these religious and cultural differences at play that are at the root of the story. This makes not just for a hilarious movie, but there’s also a very touching message underneath it all. So what about this story really spoke to you?
Eddie Murphy: Yeah, that there’s this dialogue — this race conversation — happening in the subtext. Most romantic comedies don’t have anything like this. They’re just, you know, two people get together. It’s charming. It’s cute. It’s not this racial tension, awkward conversations … that’s not usually happening. That’s what attracted me to this. It was the closest you could get to doing a modern version of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner — back in 1967, that was real edgy stuff … interracial relationship.
And this is the closest you can get to that. And we actually go further! In that movie, you never even see Sidney Poitier kiss the girl. They cut to a rearview mirror or something, but they never see them kiss. But this movie is … this racial conversation is happening and it couldn’t be more perfectly timed. Racial tension right now in the country is at a fever pitch, you know? And to have this romantic comedy with this racial stuff is just … I just thought it was hip, and that’s what made me want to do it.
There’s that great awkward lunch scene with Jonah asking for your daughter’s hand in marriage. I thought it was so hilarious because for a lot of the scene, you don’t even have to interject. You’re doing so much with a simple facial expression, just a single look. So can you discuss your approach to comedy and how less is sometimes more?
Well, less is sometimes more with this character I’m playing in this movie. He’s like that. I usually play extroverts on screen. This guy’s an introverted dude, but that’s how he’s written. The scene plays the way it plays because that’s how it’s written. So that all has to go to Kenya [ Barris] and Jonah [Hill]. Kenya, the director … when there’s a moment on screen, that’s the director. When the movie works, that’s the director. It’s the director that makes the movie.
Jonah gives this great speech to you at the wedding rehearsal. What stood out most about working with him as a scene partner?
That he’s just a really good actor and super versatile and super smart. Like I said, he wrote this thing and most actors aren’t good on their feet, coming in with improvised stuff. They know their stuff, but they can’t just go all over the place. Jonah can go anywhere. He can start improvising. If you start improvising and taking this scene in another place, he’ll go right with you and take it to another level, you know? He’s such a great improviser.