A MOUNT VERNON TODAY EXCLUSIVE.
Mount Vernon native and favorite son Jerry Brooks is known to the rest of the world as J.B. Smoove. The actor, writer and stand-up comedian is a scene-stealer as Leon on the HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm. The entertainer, who now lives in Los Angeles, returned to New York recently for a film project and gave an exclusive interview to Mount Vernon Today.
Tell us about the movie you’re shooting in New York right now.
It’s called The Sitter and it stars Jonah Hill and Sam Rockwell. And we’re having a ball. I’m working with David Gordon Green, who also directed Pineapple Express. He’s a really cool director because he’s very loose and free and likes to improv a lot and be in the moment, which is always fun for me because I’m used to working in that style. It’s always a plus to be in a film where the director allows you to do what you do. This is my first time playing a bad guy, I play one of the villains. It’s kind of like a Home Alone or Adventures in Babysitting thing. It comes out next year. I have another movie coming out February 25, Hall Pass with Owen Wilson.
You said you like that looser improv style. How did you develop that ability to go off-the-cuff?
I think it’s something that’s always been in me. In my stand-up, I’ve always been loose. If there’s a curtain onstage, I’ll use that in my act. If there’s a door, I’ll use the door. I always like to use everything at my disposal, which makes each show a little different and a little more fun. I’m so used to being in the moment that it became a part of my nature and part of my acting. Not that I’m rewriting the script, but I use my improv skills to make the scene better.
Were you funny back when you were at Mount Vernon High School?
I’m the same guy I was in high school. I have the same friends. Everyone who I know always says, “I’m glad you stuck with it, you were always funny.” Its not just being funny, it’s also being a good person and a nice guy, that always works.
What advice would you give kids in Mount Vernon reading this about pursuing their dreams?
Pursuing your dreams involves you accepting where you want to go. Don’t allow anybody else to talk you out of things or discourage you from doing whatever you want to do. You can hold on to your dream and never pursue it or you can start pursuing it. If you can see it, or if you can envision it...it can happen.
How about dealing with setbacks?
When you’re learning, sometimes you make mistakes that help you be successful. It can be, realizing, “Oh, I did this wrong” or “I wasn’t affiliated with the right people.” Those things make you better. You have to draw from your success and your failures. That molds you and gives you a thick skin. If your skin is thick, you can deal with anything. Some guys will make it quick. I started with guys that became successes quickly. I’m satisfied with doing things in increments, a little at a time. I’m just happy the lights are staying on, my daughter is healthy and ready to go to college. All those things are important to me. If I’d made it already when I was younger, I don’t think I’d appreciate it as much. Being that I had gradual success, I appreciate it more. I like doing things in increments because I meet more genuine people, I’m going through the process at a slow pace: I’m playing chess, I can appreciate the moves.
For more on J.B. Smoove, check out his official site at: www.stillsmoove.com