Jenkins (Lawrence) has felt like a loser all of his life. From the day he won the obstacle course race against his cousin (Cedric) but lost a date with his childhood sweetheart, to the constant feeling that he is inadequate in the eyes of his father (James Earl Jones), Jenkins has struggled to prove himself to the world.
And until he returns to his parents’ house after many years for their 50th anniversary, he does feel like a winner. He’s the host of a successful talk show and is engaged to the beautiful and sexy winner of “Survivor” (Joy Bryant).
Upon his return, where he’s enveloped by family and feasts his eyes on his old sweetheart (Nicole Ari Parker), Jenkins, or R.J., as he now likes to be called, learns that he’s pushed himself too far from his roots.
One of the most entertaining characters in Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins is Jenkins’ sister, Betty, played by Mo’Nique. While some may call her crazy, Mo’Nique begs to differ.
“I don’t think Betty Jenkins was at all psychotic,” she assures. “She was very real. You all have that one aunt in the family that you love dearly but you’re nervous when she comes over because you know she’s going to tell it with no regrets or no apology. That’s who Betty Jenkins is. There have been times when I’ve been Betty Jenkins.”
In fact, Mo’Nique feels that she has been extremely blessed to secure parts in her movie career that have seemed written just for her.
“Most times they just change my name,” she says. “In Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, they changed my name to Betty. I’m a jump off queen from time to time at the family reunion.”
Another exciting aspect of the film is the apparent chemistry between the comedic actors. Powered by friendly competition, they push each other to funnier heights.
“Me and Mo’Nique are comedians first,” explains Mike Epps. “What we do for a living is go on the road and crack jokes. That helps us to be able to ad-lib in movies. Very seldom do you run into directors who really understand how to use a stand-up comedian in a movie. Malcolm was pretty cool at understanding us on that. He knew when to let us riff and when to let us stay on the page.”
Watching the actors answer question at the film’s press junket, you can just imagine how much fun this gut-busting bunch had on set while still managing to get the job done.
“First, we’re all professional,” Mo’Nique starts. “We knew that Malcolm Lee was being looked at carefully. He’s a young black director. We didn’t want to allow our play to interfere with his work. We know when to play and when it was going to start costing money. “And we probably cost Universal money,” she says, chuckling.
“It takes a great director to know how to steer that,” she continues. “It’s hard for comedians to rehearse. It’s hard for me to practice. Again, Malcolm Lee was brilliant with that. He didn’t force that issue. Every time we do it it’s going to be different. It got to be funny to us. We got to be true to us. Malcolm Lee knew I can’t rehearse these people too much because this is already their world.”
When asked if he thought of himself as the leader of the flick, Martin Lawrence was quick to take the compliment – and dish one out.
“Chicago Bulls had Jordan,” he relays. “Lakers gotta have Kobe. Miami gotta have Shaq. I couldn’t did it without my teammates. We all support each other, help each other. We’re one big cast.”
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins releases in theaters Feb. 8.