When the Bough Breaks tells the story of John and Laura Taylor (Morris Chestnut and Regina Hall), a couple who want to have a baby. Desperate after going through various options, they find a surrogate mother, Anna (Jaz Sinclair). However, things don’t go according to plan, and Anna develops a dangerous fixation with John as her pregnancy moves along. John and Laura are caught in a deadly game and have to fight to regain control of their lives before it’s too late.
Chestnut has appeared in a number of solid box office hits during his career, most recently The Best Man Holiday in 2013. When the Bough Breaks is a fascinating vehicle for him, as he is also an executive producer in addition to starring. Screen Rant visited the set of the film back in March 2015, where we got a chance to interview him about his dual role and what about the project appealed to him.
We’ve heard little bits about the plot, but how would you describe your character?
Morris Chestnut: Well, he’s a loving husband who gets caught in a situation where he has to make some decisions. He’s an alpha male, so he does what he feels is best, which turns out probably not to be the best decision.
You’re wearing a little bit of a different hat this time. Not only in the acting but you’re also the executive producer. What made this project optimal for it to be your first one out as EP on it?
Morris Chestnut: I’ve EP’d before but I was really excited about this one because I read the script. I just loved the script. The scale of this movie is bigger than any other movie I’ve EP’d before, most the other projects. I loved the script and the scale.
What did you fall in love with about the script?
Morris Chestnut: Just the story. A character who is extremely conflicted and he has to make a lot of decisions. He makes some right decisions but the wrong decision make him look like this *laughter*. He’s just a very conflicted character.
Is this as physically challenging as it was any of your other films?
Morris Chestnut: Nah, I’ve had some physically challenging roles. This one wasn’t physically challenging at all.
But the mental, was it mentally challenging?
Morris Chestnut: It was mentally challenging because there’s so many different dynamics. In a lot of things I’m reacting to a lot of things. I’m reacting to a lot people around me. Sometimes not necessarily saying anything but I just have to be thinking it. SO yeah, definitely mentally challenging.
How’s it working with a new young actress like Jaz Sinclair?
Morris Chestnut: Jaz is great. One thing I love about Jazmine, she kind reminds me of when I was starting out, just being on the set and kinda being amazed by everything. Just the innocence and just the learning and the newness of everything. I love watching her. She’s a great actress. Much greater than I was.
She said had the most fun beating you up.
Morris Chestnut: Yeah she did. She took it to me a couple times. She’s pretty good too. She’s a strong girl. She might could take me.
Does it make any difference to you, because the director and Regina said, the characters could play both ways that it wasn’t really race specific? Did that make any difference to you, like the story that character wasn’t necessarily a black character with this, her husband?
Morris Chestnut: Well, that was actually the difference when I read the script. I could tell it wasn’t written for black actors. As a matter a fact, they tried to do the movie two years ago and they offered the lead role to…
Morris Chestnut: Wow, I’m staying away from that one. No comment *laughter*. No, they offered the role to, I think it was, Jon Hamm, or somebody like that. So when I read it that was one of the things that really appealed to me.
You’ve worked with Regina before, what makes this different and special?
Morris Chestnut: The last movie that we worked together on, I don’t believe we talked in a scene. When I think about it, matter of fact, both of the movies we worked together on, I didn’t really talk to her character. Now we’re doing a lot of talking, a lot of touching….a lot of kissing. That’s the difference.
How weird is that? You’ve known somebody for a long time, as you’ve mentioned, you haven’t been on scene on camera but now you’re working together, now it’s like, OK?
Morris Chestnut: It’s not that weird because even though our characters didn’t talk we were still talking off camera. So we were still in the same environment having conversations. And then just when they say “Get ready to go” and act, then we just get into our own little places. So it wasn’t that weird.
A lot of the stories, the way we’ve heard it, a lot of sounds like a struggle between two mothers over this baby. Does that sort of leave you as the man on the outside looking in, or where does that place you?
Morris Chestnut: No, it leaves me right at the center of the triangle because I’m somewhat responsible for their challenge, one wanting it, both of them wanted, but I’m kinda like right in the center of it. So I’m definitely not on the outside looking in. As you can see. *laughter*
Is there any bit of you in this character?
Morris Chestnut: Yeah, you know what? I think there’s a bit of me in every character. Basically it just depends on what happens with the character. Yeah, there’s a bit of me in every character, it just depends on what’s happening in the character’s life, that’s how you bring out what’s repressed.
Regina mentioned that her character went through some levels of frustration, with in vitro, not having these houses – did your character manifest some of that frustration about wanting to start to a family?
Morris Chestnut: Right, I’m a father of two. It took me back to the time when I wanted – I still want kids – when I didn’t have kids and I wanted kids, and what I envision when I had kids. So it took me back to that time.
How about New Orleans? Everyone’s talked about Louisiana being a character in this film. How do you think it played out, since it was originally set in California, How was the transition to Louisiana and what does it bring out?
Morris Chestnut: I’m actually glad that it’s here instead of California because California is like the Mecca of the film industry. Everyone’s seen California. I like being here. Different aspects. You have the lake house. You have a huge, almost plantation-style house, so I like the different elements of the city and what the city has to offer and putting it on the screen.
What’s happened in the last few years, that you’ve been doing a lot more work, and obviously this is a leading role, what’s changed from before?
Morris Chestnut: I sold my soul. *laughter* I think it’s just growth, and development, timing. I’ve been fortunate to be around for a long time. Allowed me to get better as an actor. Allowed me to play better roles. Just luck…God…fans…not necessarily in that order.
As Executive Producer, what was it like joining Nurse Jackie at the end, then moving to this film role.
Morris Chestnut: I love Nurse Jackie. As a matter of fact, actually, working on that set that was one of the best sets I’ve ever been on. I came in like Season 5 and they have been doing the show for 5 years. Everything was so streamlined. Everybody was great to work with. That’s actually one of the best sets I’ve ever been on in twenty-something years.
Have you had a chance to visit New Orleans? Have you been here before, have you gone to different places?
Morris Chestnut: I’ve been here before. Very limited time. Since I’ve been here this time, I haven’t really checked out too much. I’ve been working quite a bit. Been eating a lot of food, a lot of different restaurants. Just in traveling to different locations.
What is the ultimate role for you? What would like to see yourself do?
Morris Chestnut: That’s a good question. I’ve done a lot of different things. I would say, it’s really hard for me to say what the ultimate role would be. You look at a film if it comes to you. If someone had said to me ten years ago “Yo, we have this role of this pimp who wants to be a rapper, he lives in Memphis”, I’d be like, “Really?” But then when you read it and you see it, you say “That’s a great role.” Ultimately what I want to do, I want to go back and do some more action movies.
For many years you were rumored the Black Panther, and they’ve announced Chad Boseman, of course. How did you feel about that selection and do you still maybe see yourself in some of that Avenger or DC Comics type of roles?
Morris Chestnut: You know, to be honest, I don’t really know where the rumors started. They just started. Because I saw a number of people rumored for the role and there was never any discussion, never any conversations. I think Chadwick Boseman is a great actor. I saw Get on Up and he killed that role. So, I think he’s going to do a great job.
I have a question.
Morris Chestnut: Do you? *laughter*
A lot of black actors and actresses are getting a chance to expand their horizons on network television, sitcoms and stuff. What are your thoughts on that?
Morris Chestnut: I think it’s a great time because of…you know, because of the success of different types of shows. Obviously Empire right now being on network and having that type of success. There were shows like Being Mary Jane was at the top of the rating when it came out. Power did well in the ratings, as well as the Shonda Rhymes show so, as well as the Tyler Perry show, they’re always at the top of the ratings so….
When the Bough Breaks opens in U.S. theaters September 9, 2016.