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By Stephanie Frederic, Sentinel Entertainment Editor
Growing up in West Los Angeles, Paula Patton lived across the street from the 20th Century Fox lot. So perhaps, it was just destiny that a few decades later, giant-sized posters of her would hang outside that very studio and the Disney Pictures lot at the same time, during the same month.
You see these are fantastic times for the rising Hollywood starlet who many say strongly resembles Oscar-winner Halle Berry. (She heard that a million times and still considers it a compliment). With two major studio films coming out with weeks of each other, called “Swing Vote” with mega-star Kevin Costner on Friday, August 1 and “Mirrors” - a hard-core horror flick with Keifer Sutherland, August 15. Patton is, quite frankly, so excited she can't contain the excitement bubbling up on the inside.
“It’s a blessing and I thank God everyday, “ says the stunning beauty trying to hold back tears. “I'm blessed.” Yes, she's obviously done a lot right. Within her short Hollywood career, Patton, 32, has worked with heavyweights like Denzel Washington (Déjà vu), Will Smith (Hitch), Terrence Howard and Andre' 3000 (Idlewild), and now Sutherland (Mirrors) and Costner (Swing Vote). In case you didn't know, her husband is R&B crooner Robin Thicke. The so-called blue-eyed soul singer who wrote his hit song “Lost Without U,” just for her.
“I went to acting school and you study and study, but nothing is like getting in the ring and working with these masters,” says Patton. “Denzel, Kevin, Andre 3000, Keifer and George Lopez - you learn so much by osmosis just by being in their presence. I just tried to keep my mouth shut and my eyes open and take in as much as I can.”
Patton attended Hamilton Magnet Arts High School in Los Angeles, then UC Berkeley and USC Film School and although it seems like her career has taken off now she makes it all too clear she suffered quite a bit before getting her first break. . “I got to live a lot of life before, I've worked at the coffee shop, I’ve gotten people's coffee working as an assistant [for Howie Mandel] and I've done a lot of those struggle type gigs,” she says. “I think because I struggled in my own life to make it, I really appreciate where I am right now.”
Where she is right now, is standing shoulder to shoulder with Oscar winner Kevin Costner. In her movie opening tomorrow, “Swing Vote” - Patton plays a small town television news reporter (Kate Madison) who breaks the biggest story of the year. She finds the one swing voter in her hometown that the world is looking for. He's Bud Johnson, a loser type, (Costner) whose single vote could determine the presidential race.
While all the national media is descending on this small town, it's Patton who scores the big story and scores even bigger points with Bud's bright young 12 year old daughter Molly. (Madeline Carroll)
“Molly is the truth of the film, she stands for innocence and hope, and all the things we lost as adults before we felt the pain of life and the need to make money to survive,” says Patton. In reality, she says, “She's phenomenal. I call her a little Jodie Foster.”
The gregarious Patton is thrilled to be apart of the political comedy which she says really brings home the fact that “every vote counts.” Patton says she patterned herself after many of the newscasters you know from television, Katie Couric, Dianne Sawyer, Robin Roberts, and Meredith Viera and Paula Zahn. “I watched a ton of news so I could get that cadence of the way newscaster's speak,” Patton said.
She also got the chance to shadow an Albuquerque, New Mexico reporter who showed her the ropes in covering news in a small town. Perhaps a fallback career I ask, “Well, it's possible, but I really like the one I have now,” she says, flashing every one of her bright white teeth.
Paula's boss in the film, and also the TV executive, is comedian George Lopez and when you put these two in a room together - anything is possible. They were laughing and joking through most of the promotional tour.
“I had so much fun working with George. We got to riff off of one another and do a lot of improv and he's so funny, “ she says. “Those were some of my favorite scenes and it allowed me to flex some of my comedic genes.”
One of the many things she and Lopez have in common: the two are over-the-moon in their support of Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama so much so I teasingly called her the new Obama girl. “Call me what you want, but I want that man to win,” she says. “I'm very excited. I feel so inspired and hopeful because of him.”
“Never did I think I'd see a Black man become President and I'm so glad I was wrong because he's going to be our next President.”
And neither did Patton think she would become one of Hollywood's most sought after leading ladies. In fact, “Swing Vote” director Joshua Michael Stern was so impressed with her acting in Déjà Vu, he really had her hired already. “She played it (the role) very organically and real. I spoke with her on the phone - and though I'd never hired anyone off of a phone call. I just knew it. She's got something and she's fresh,” he says.
A fresh face in a political comedy with some major talent including Costner, Kelsey Grammer (Republican President), Dennis Hopper (Democratic hopeful), Nathan Lane, (Democratic campaign manager), Stanley Tucci (GOP campaign manager) and George Lopez (TV boss).
Some real life TV politicos and newscasters also make cameos in the film. CNN's Campbell Brown, Bill Maher, Chris Matthews, Matt Frei, James Carville, Tucker Carlson and PBS's Aaron Brown.
“It's a political junkie's dream,” adds Stern who was impressed what these non-actors pulled off their roles in the film.
But if the camera loved anyone in this one - it's gorgeous Paula Patton.
This Hamilton High standout is on her way to the big leagues and she's already batting 1000.