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 jess.gosnell@gmail.com.

BILL VAUGHAN’S TASTY CLIPS: ‘Girls Trip’ makes big splash in opening week

Looks like everyone associated with the hit film “Girls Trip” is making out big time. The crowd-pleasing movie starring Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall and breakout comic actress Tiffany Haddish grossed $31.3 million in its opening weekend with a sequel surely on the horizon.

Meanwhile, its director Malcolm D. Lee and his Blackmaled Productions were rewarded with a first-look production deal with Universal Pictures. The cousin of legendary director Spike Lee has directed five of his nine films to date with Universal beginning with his directorial debut, the critically acclaimed audience favorite “The Best Man.”

Among his upcoming feature projects covered in the agreement are “Night School,” starring Kevin Hart, as well as “The Best Man Wedding,” which he will write and direct.

“Girls Trip” producer Will Packer is also reaping the benefits with a pact to form a company with Discovery Communications and Universal Pictures. Will Packer Media will be separate from Will Packer Productions with the upstart giving Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network first look at pilots.

The new company has also acquired Narrative, a creative and technology agency co-founded by Russell Simmons.

Among Packer’s announced upcoming projects are the aforementioned “Night School;” “Ride Along 3,” with Hart and Ice Cube; “Jacob’s Ladder,” featuring Michael Ealy, Jesse Williams and Nicole Beharie; “Breaking In,” starring Gabrielle Union; and a TV series based on his “Think Like a Man” films.

Q’s NEW JUKE JOINT: Grammy-winning producer and composer Quincy Jones continues to make moves like the mogul he is. The music industry is abuzz with the announcement of the formation of Qwest TV, billed as the world’s first subscription video-on-demand platform dedicated to jazz and jazz-inspired music forms.

Scheduled to debut this fall, the network will make available to subscribers a selection of content including concerts, documentaries, interviews and archival footage on mobile devices and computers for a monthly fee starting at $7.49. Pre-launch subscriptions will be available starting Sept. 6 via Kickstarter.

“The dream of Qwest TV is to let jazz and music lovers everywhere experience these incredibly rich and diverse musical traditions in a whole new way,” said Jones, winner of 27 Grammys and an Emmy. “Over the course of my 70-year career in music, I have witnessed firsthand the power of jazz — and all of its offspring from the blues and R&B to pop, rock and hip-hop — to tear down walls and bring the world together.”

Qwest TV has secured international rights to more than 400 titles and plans to acquire an additional 600 titles within its first three years.

ALL ABOARD: The first “Ship-Hop” cruise will set sail next Jan. 11-15, from Miami to Key West and Cozumel, with many of the all stars from the “I Love the 90s Tour.” Salt-N-Pepa with Spinderella, Naughty By Nature, Blackstreet, Coolio, Color Me Badd, Kid ‘N Play, Sisqó, Tone Loc, Biz Markie, Vanilla Ice, Rob Base, Young MC, All-4-One, DJ Kool and C+C Music Factory are among the icons taking to the stage and mingling with passengers. Book your cabin now at www.shiphop.com .

CLIPPETTES: Due to a family emergency for one of the members of Tears for Fears, the group has pulled out of its concerts set for July 28 and 29 at Staples Center. Daryl Hall and John Oates were sharing the bill with Tears for Fears

Poncho Sanchez & His Latin Jazz Band will headline a concert and picnic benefitting Musicians at Play Foundation and MEND Poverty at Ford Theatre

“Chronology,” the debut album from 24-year-old Jamaican music phenom Chronixx, has been released in advance of his appearances this fall on the Lauryn Hill/Nas tour

Ernie Andrews, T.C Carson, Barbara Morrison and a 9oth birthday tribute to trumpetist Clora Bryant (the only female jazz band member in the classic “Anna Lucasta”) are among the many features of the 22nd annual Central Avenue Jazz Festival (July 29-30) from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. between King Bouelvard and Vernon Avenue

Miki Howard, DW3 and others are taking to the stage of Taste of Inglewood on July 30 at Edward Vincent Park. Later that evening, the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival will present its seventh annual Culver City program at the Veterans Memorial Building; and Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey perform at Anaheim’s Honda Center

Taraji P. Henson has been named host of the 2017 “Black Girls Rock” ceremony honoring Roberta Flack, “black-ish” co-star Yara Shahidi and more. It will air on BET Aug. 20

Ro Brooks (“The Haves and the Have Nots”) is in the cast of the highly anticipated Middle East sci-fi/drama series “Medinah,” which had its world premiere at Comic Con

“Trouble in Mind,” a scathingly funny backstage drama about interracial politics by pioneering African American playwright Alice Childress, begins a run this weekend through Sept. 30 at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga.

TC ON TV: July 28 – “The Incredible Jessica James” (Netflix): Jessica Williams (“The Daily Show”) stars as a young, aspiring playwright in New York City who is struggling to get over a recent breakup. Chris O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids”), Lakeith Stanfield (“Atlanta”) and Noël Wells (“Master of None”) co-star. “All Access” (Showtime): Mayweather vs. McGregor. “Room 104” (HBO): Melonie Diaz (“Fruitvale Station”) stars as a challenged babysitter in the premiere of this new anthology series produced by The Duplass Brothers. “The Tonight Show” (NBC): Desus & Mero, Penn & Teller

July 30 – “Unsung” (TV1): The Dramatics

July 31 – “Late Nite Chef Fight” (FYI): Laila Ali hosts this culinary battle of top Las Vegas chefs taken out of their kitchens and plopped into food trucks.

Aug. 2 – “Queen Sugar” (OWN): This second season summer finale has arrived way too soon.

Aug. 3 – “Nuts + Bolts” (Viceland): Follows musician, designer, record and TV producer Tyler, the Creator as he seeks to find out how some of his favorite things are made then endeavors to re-make those things tailored to Tyler’s own creative vision.

TASTY QUIP: “No, I did not f*** my way to the top. First of all, I’m not at the top so that would have been a very poor f*** if that were the case.” – ISSA RAE on “The Breakfast Club”

 

As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment newspaper columns on the West Coast, serving nearly one million weekly readers. To reach Bill Vaughan, send email to tastyclips@yahoo.com or via Twitter @tastyclips.

 

BILL VAUGHAN’S TASTY CLIPS: Erica Ash adds to her credits

When asked what she can’t do, the striking Erica Ash had a quick response.

“That would be nothing,” she said confidently, prompting the laughs she normally generates on two hit comedy series, “Survivor’s Remorse” and as Kevin Hart’s ex-wife on “Real Husbands of Hollywood.” “I find the YouTube clips; I will figure it out. OK? Gimme a language, an accent, a craft, I am on it.”

There must have been something in the water at Georgia’s DeKalb School for the Performing Arts. Ash got the acting bug there along with rising stars like RonReaco Lee, Dorian Missick and Omar Dorsey of “Queen Sugar.”

“Omar and I actually went to the prom together,” she dropped in a bombshell. “If you ask me for the picture or try to get it and print it, I’ll sue!”

Now, the former model, singer and dancer is tackling a dramedy in Toronto writer/director Stella Meghie’s poignant feature debut “Jean of the Joneses” premiering Oct. 23 on TV One. The film, which follows a close-knit Jamaican family in Brooklyn stridently dealing with issues of life and death, co-stars Taylour Paige, a surprisingly restrained Sherri Shepherd, Gloria Reuben, Michelle Hurst and romantic find Mamoudou Athie, who played Grandmaster Flash in “The Get Down.”

“I love the fact that [Meghie] just sort of came for a very unique angle,” Ash said. “It’s very atypical and an interesting story that really draws you in. She said that some of the characters were based on people she knows in her family or in her lifetime. I would love to see this turn into a television show.”

Ash just had a writers meeting for “Survivor’s Remorse” to pitch where she would like to see the popular M-Chuck go for their fourth season.

“Several of my ideas for my character have worked into the show like the church scene,” she said.

“I’m the daughter of two preachers so it was kind of important to me to have the conversation about homosexuality in the church,” Ash said. “Domestic violence was something that I recommended that they brought up in a very unique way by making it between my brother and I versus the typical scenario that you’ll find between partners.  Every year there’s something that I get to contribute and then they’ll just morph it into something brilliant and politically incorrect and use it.”

Up next for the versatile beauty is the romantic movie “A Little Something for Your Birthday,” starring Sharon Stone and Tony Goldwyn.

Down the road she would love to play Bessie Coleman.

“When you think of the world of aviation you think older white male,” Ash said, “but she was actually the first female aviator, even before Amelia Earhart. She’s never ever gotten her proper due

“There are so many figures in black history that just silently do wonderful things. They’re unsung. I think if we really sat down and made a list of all the people we could do biopics for in the African-American community, who have affected us in ways we don’t even really know about, we could have TV for the next decade.”

CLIPPETTES: The fourth annual We Can Survive benefit for breast cancer will be held on Oct. 22 at the Hollywood Bowl with Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande, Pitbull, Meaghan Trainor and others. Also that evening, R Kelly brings The Buffet Tour with a full band and dancers to the Microsoft Theater

Rock n’ Roll legend Chuck Berry celebrated his 90th birthday with the announcement that his first new album in 38 years titled “Chuck” will be released in 2017

Don B. Welch’s hit gospel stage play “Yes, God is Real” starring Jackee Harry, Ledisi and Ernest L. Thomas is back on Oct. 23 at the Wilshire Ebell

Netflix was able to poach Chris Rock from HBO for $40 million in return for two new comedy specials, the first to air in 2017

The Paley Center for Media’s Hollywood Tribute to Hispanic Achievements in Television is set for Oct. 24 at the Beverly Wilshire hotel with Lucie Arnaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Hector Elizondo, Andy García, Eva Longoria, Jorge Ramos, Gina Rodriguez, Jimmy Smits and Wilmer Valderrama slated

Fox has moved up the opening of the NASA mathematician women biopic “Hidden Figures” starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae to Christmas Day in select markets to qualify for the Oscars.

TC ON TV: Oct. 21 – “Great Performances” (PBS): “Hamilton’s America” explores the making of the Broadway phenomenon and the history behind it. “State Plate” (INSP): Taylor Hicks (Season 5 winner of “American Idol”) hosts this new travel food series.  “What Happened…Ms. Sykes” (Epix): Filmed in May 2016 at the Ace Hotel, Wanda Sykes focuses on her life, family, race and politics in a special that will have you rolling on the floor!

Oct. 22 – “Uncle Grandpa” (Cartoon): Baseballers David Price, Adam Jones, Chris Archer, Jose Altuve and Noah Syndergaard guest on this World Series-themed episode. “Ayesha’s Homemade” (Food): Cooking host and wife of Steph Curry gets her own show. “Death of a Vegas Showgirl” (Lifetime): Roselyn Sánchez (“Devious Maids”) is the executive producer and star of this true crime story.  “Austin City Limits” (PBS): Florence + The Machine, Andra Day; “Prince: Purple Reign” (REELZ): With exclusive interviews from psychologists, music critics, fans and an account from the Carver County Sheriff.

Oct. 23 – “The Walking Dead” (AMC): As the show returns for its seventh season following the no-brainer news the top-rated series has been renewed, we’ll learn which regular will get the death swing from new baddie Morgan’s bat.

Oct. 24 – “Justice by Any Means” (TV One) New episodes begin for the “True Crime Monday” show hosted by Malik Yoba.

Oct. 25 – “Atlanta” (FX): Juneteenth celebrations get skewered.

Oct. 26 – “Ellen” (SYN): Snoop Dogg, Martha Stewart, Donald Glover

Oct. 27 – “TD Jakes” (SYN): Oprah Winfrey

ROLL CALL: Tupac Shakur, Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan, Chic, Joe Tex, Bad Brains, Kraftwerk, and Journey are among the nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017. The public can vote along with industry insiders at RollingStone.com.

TASTY QUIP: “I’m gonna take a little time away from the anthem until it starts feeling like it’s for me.  We need a new song, one that really speaks for all of us, or bring some new life to the one that we have.” – ANTHONY HAMILTON to Billboard

As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment newspaper columns on the West Coast, serving nearly one million weekly readers. To reach Bill Vaughan, send email to tastyclips@yahoo.com or via Twitter @tastyclips.