What Men Want is a new comedy starring Taraji P. Henson as a sports agent who develops the power to hear men's thoughts. Produced by Will Packer (Girl's Trip) and directed by Adam Shankman (Hairspray), the film sees Henson's character, Ali, use her new found ability to her advantage, gaining the upper-hand on several of the men in her life.
When Screen Rant visited the Atlanta set of What Men Want earlier this year, we observed a scene in which Josh Brener's Brandon, Ali's assistant and Pete Davidson's Danny, another agent at the agency, talk about their fantasy football leagues while both thinking about something much, much different. Having already gained her mind-reading power, Ali hears everything and it's more than she ever wanted to know. The scene showcases how the comedy in What Men Want is found in the contrast between character's spoken words and their inner thoughts - and in the case of this scene, just how unexpected those inner thoughts can be.
Related: Max Greenfield Interview: What Men Want Set Visit
In speaking with Josh Brener on set, he shared what it's like working so closely with both Taraji P. Henson and Pete Davidson, as well as how cool he finds the gender-flipped, mind-reading concept of What Men Want.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about your character?
This is Josh Brener, coming at you live from the set of What Men Want. I play the role of Brandon in this film, that is Ali's assistant, a role that's played by Taraji P. Henson. You guys may be familiar with some of her work. She's the best person on the planet.
How is it working with Pete [Davidson]?
Why do you ask? Was he just in here? Pete Davidson has a mind that cannot be explained fully using what we know of physics and biology with modern science. He's a brilliant, weird person. He has so much positive energy and youth, he has just so much youth. I've never seen such youth condensed into such a tall skinny package. I'm in love with him is what I'm saying.
Do you work primarily with Taraji in the film? Is that who most of your scenes are with?
I am very lucky to spend a great deal of time with Taraji in this movie and not only is she a delightful, funny, hilarious person, she is also very kind and patient with me because I am bad at acting. And she's been gracious and lovely and I've already learned a tremendous amount from her. And I was such a fan, I mean, Hidden Figures. I feel like it’s--that movie is, honestly, like that is one of my favorite movies.
In the morning I see Taraji and I just think of the movie. I'm a science nerd and I feel like that movie is so special and important and, like, kids should be forced to watch that movie and learn about math and science and that it’s for everybody. If a child learns math and science they can do anything. Anyway, that’s the end of my diatribe.
Well, What Men Want is already been discussed as being somewhat important. It's a comedy but it's also a comment on society. Did you get that impression while working on it?
I'll just say that yesterday they were filming sort of Taraji's big, powerful moment, scene towards the end of the movie, and it gave me chills to see her stand up in a room full of dudes and be like, ‘I don't need your approval. I don't need to do it.’ And then - spoiler, massive spoiler - Max stands up and goes, ‘I'm with her.’ And I just thought that was a really cool, powerful moment and I thought that it feels good to be a part of something where - especially in this atmosphere - where we're saying, ‘Wow, they're people. They’re also people. Cool.’
Are you excited to do your voice overs?
It's super fun to get to do the inner monologue stuff, and we're actually doing a lot of the V.O. just on set, both before and after the scenes. But I’m also excited to just get in the ADR booth, like, six months from now and be like, ‘What's funny now?’ Because we have the gift of being able to write stuff in closer to the release of the movie, which, I think, will be a lot of fun just to pull stuff from the headlines.
How much ad-libbing are you guys able to do?
We're probably doing a little too much ad-libbing. Adam, I think, would appreciate it if we would move things along, but especially with Pete around. Peter is, like, a creative genius and is coming up with stuff all the time. But Taraji's throwing stuff in, and everybody, and Jason Jones is so freaking funny and quick, so that's been a really fun element of it, for sure.
Were you surprised by anything that you recognize, particular about gender relationships and about stereotypes of the sports industry, as you've been filming?
Oh man, I think it's, like, really refreshing to actually talk about female athletes, to have them front and center for once. We had Lisa Leslie here, which was super cool, and people like Gabby Douglas, and, like, y’know, sports icons that just by virtue of our very myopic, single-minded society that we don't talk about as much as we should. So I think it's really, really cool and unique and special to have those people front and center in this movie
Is that one of the things that drew you to this movie?
Mostly just the huge paycheck. No, I think it's really cool to be a part of something that is female-driven and telling female stories, and if you look back at the original, turning gender stuff on its head in a very, very obvious, palpable way. I think it's important and it's time and so, definitely, that.
I have a very small paycheck, for the record. Sarcasm is so hard when you're writing it on paper, but sarcasm about the paycheck.
Do you get frustrated during scenes and how do you deal with that?
You mean because Taraji’s so difficult? I don't know. This is really nice, like Adam runs a really laid-back, easy-going environment and it's very supportive and it's very fun. So it's tough to get too frustrated or down when everyone's super cool. There are sets where that is not the case, but luckily, this is peaches and roses and pancakes.
You mentioned working with Taraji and her helping you out, how has that happened?
Taraji's just such a pro. It's stupid to say that because obviously Taraj is such a pro, but like, there's just something that comes with the experience of being at the top of the game for so long that there are just things that she does intuitively that I'm like, ‘Oh s--t.’ Y’know? And just to get to watch her and watch her sort of see things I'm doing and go like, ‘Yeah, maybe.’ It just makes a huge difference to be with someone that’s that experienced.
She is like Lebron James, and you are like, J.R. Smith.
I'm like the waterboy. She's LeBron James and I wipe up the sweat under the free throw line.
- What Men Want (2019) release date: Feb 08, 2019