SIMPLY JESSICA: Jay Lavender talks about writing Kevin Hart’s ‘The Wedding Ringer’

Jay Lavender went to a wedding in Vicksburg, Mississippi, when he was a child. The July wedding left an impression.

“It was an August wedding” Lavender said. “We stayed in a hotel in Vicksburg. The pool was hotter than a hot bath. I remember thinking this water is really hot to my skin.”

It’s a memory that Lavender shares with me through laughter.

Lavender can now look back on this wedding memory with pride as he has now co-written a movie about weddings with Jeremy Garelick, a producer, writer, director best known for writing the movie “The Break-Up,” which he co-wrote with Lavender and Vince Vaughn.

“The Wedding Ringer” stars Kevin Hart and Josh Gad.

Lavender is quick to point out that Los Angeles is all make believe.

“As long as you remember that L.A. is make believe then you have a chance out there,” Lavender said. “Los Angeles has no bugs and no humidity. It is not like the South at all, which is very different. The Alabama and Mississippi corridor are places that time has forgotten.”

He explains the simplicity of the South.

“The South sees the world in black and white,” he added. “But the world is not black and white. It has many shades of gray in it.”

The Chicago native admits that women have a different experience with weddings than men do. Garelick and Lavender kept that in mind as the two of them wrote the screenplay.

How did a script about weddings come to the mind of the little boy that was scarred in a pool of hot water at a southern wedding that he attended as a child?

“I laughed when Jeremy pitched me the idea,” Lavender said. “I was 26 years old when he pitched it to me. I was at the age where I was experiencing a lot of weddings. It had a smart clever slant to it.”

He admits that he has not known in his real life a groom that needed to hire someone to pose as his best man.


“That is the movie buy in,” Lavender said. “You are asking the audience to buy into this idea that is in every movie. In ‘The Wedding Ringer,’ you are asking: what if there were a professional best man?”

It was Garelick who had the real-life best-man experience.

“Jeremy had a friend who needed a best man,” Lavender said. “This caused him to have this what if. I imagined a guy that wanted to pull a wedding so the bride-to-be could see them in the best light. I think that weddings have become a business with a lot of different pressures about how the wedding looks.

“We make fun of certain elements of the wedding with the goal to tell a story about friendship and that you should marry someone for the right reason.”

“The Wedding Ringer” appeals to women and men.

“It is told from a guy perspective,” Lavender said. “I think women enjoy seeing things from a guy’s perspective. The audience goes along with Doug because they don’t want her to marry for the wrong reasons.

“People marry for a business decision and for pro-creation. Doug was lonely and wanted someone to pay attention to him.”

Lavender began writing the movie when he was 26 years old.

It took 14 years, 10 paid drafts over the years and countless non-paid drafts for “The Wedding Ringer” to become a movie in the theaters. Lavender sees it as a surreal experience.

The story took its own direction for the two screenwriters.

“In order to root for our character and to understand why he would go to these lengths of marrying someone he shouldn’t marry, we had to leave him single at the end of the movie,” Lavender added. “It became the story of someone needing to find a true friend and discovering friendship and learning more about himself.”

Lavender likes for his writing to take the audience on a fun ride that leaves them learning something or adding value in their life. He does not want to create mindless entertainment.

“I like to jump genres,” Lavender said. “If something grabs me, then it consumes me at that time. My best work is ahead of me.”

Lavender is currently developing a pilot with Ryan Seacrest for ABC with comedian Gabriel Iglesias.

Be yourself! I’m Simply Jessica JcAden. You can reach me at

NAJEE’S NOTES: Chadwick Boseman plays another real-life hero in ‘Marshall’

“Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman plays a real-life superhero, NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall, in the film titled “Marshall.”

Also joining Boseman in this star-studded cast is Emmy Award-winner Sterling K. Brown. Together, both of these actors set the screen on fire with performances that are sure to gather both a serious look at being nominated for an Academy Award once Hollywood awards season starts.

“Marshall” takes an early look at Judge Marshall’s career as a civil rights attorney for the NAACP. The courtroom drama thriller is based on Connecticut v. Joseph Spell. The NAACP sends Marshall to defend a terrified black chauffeur (played by Brown} who stands accused of the rape and attempted murder of his white employer.

I had the honor of attending the Hollywood premiere of “Marshall” this week. It was attended by members of the Marshall family, several celebrities and Mayor Eric Garcetti was present to give the opening remarks.

As the head of what is now the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Marshall spent a quarter century crisscrossing the country trying cases and establishing a network of civil rights lawyers. His cases took him to segregated communities where no hotels or restaurants would serve blacks, where lynch mobs often operated with impunity, and where white judges and law enforcement officials were part of the problem, not the solution.

Marshall’s extraordinary courage and determination helped change the landscape of American race relations. He argued cases challenging discrimination in schools, housing, voting, public transportation and police conduct.

The less well-known part of his life is the basis for the movie, which shows not only his drive for justice, but also his exceptional personal qualities of compassion and humor. Marshall later went on to serve on the highest court in the land, writing landmark decisions on issues of civil rights, civil liberties, criminal justice and the death penalty.

Director, writer and producer Reggie Hudlin, the founder of Hudlin Entertainment best known for “Django Unchained” (2012), “House Party” (1990) and “Boomerang” (1992); Is responsible for bringing “Marshall” to the big screen.

Hudlin is low key and quiet but is a Hollywood superstar whose bio spans over two decades of stellar achievements that includes being the former president of entertainment for BET, co-producing the 88th Academy Awards ceremony in 2016 as well as producing the last six NAACP Image Awards programs.

He currently serves on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors.

In my opinion, Hudlin gets an A plus for his work as a producer and director of “Marshall.” It also stars Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Dan Stevens and James Cromwell. I plan on seeing it again, the movie was that great.

Over the years I have heard many complaints from my fellow activists that Hollywood too often depicts African-Americans negatively as gang members, crooks or low-life individuals. But not this time.

“Marshall” is the true-life story of an African-American legal icon. It is one movie the whole family will enjoy when it is released Oct. 13 by Open Road Films.

Jazz at Drew, an all-day outdoor concert featuring some of the most prolific names in jazz and R&B, is back. Jazz at Drew’s emphasis on showcasing home-grown talent with international appeal has been the distinguishing factor that separates the event from larger jazz festivals in Southern California.

More than any other event, it displays L.A. jazz in a range of styles while being surrounded by a colorful marketplace and health pavilion.

This year’s concert will include performances by: Earth, Wind & Fire, Sheila E., West Coast Get Down featuring Kamasi Washington, Miles Mosley, Cameron Graves, Ronald Bruner and more, DW3, Eloise Laws, and the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center Band on the campus of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

Now in its second year of operation after a long hiatus, the reemergence of Jazz at Drew signals the return of one of L.A.’s best-kept secrets as an established entity within the local community and the Los Angeles jazz scene.

Jazz at Drew’s mission is two-fold: to support student initiatives at Charles Drew University and to provide the South Los Angeles community with excellent entertainment as a part of its commitment to equip the area with the resources it needs to be a successful and thriving community.

Proceeds from the Jazz at Drew fundraiser go towards enriching the Charles Drew University experience for students by funding university scholarships, student services, campus facilities and pipeline programs.

I’m attending this fundraiser concert and encourage everyone to support Charles R. Drew University and its mission of serving underserved and under-resourced communities. The Jazz at Drew concert is Oct. 7.

For more information, contact: Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, 1731 E. 120th St., Los Angeles, 90059, (323) 357- 3669 or

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