Anthony Anderson seems determined to be heard. The loud-talking actor’s booming voice announces his arrival long before he appears inside our assigned room at the Four Season’s hotel for this interview. Moments later, the gregarious star enters the room and shouts, “Heeeeyyyyyy baby, let’s do this. Let’s get this party started.”
The Compton native who attended LA’s High School for the Performing Arts, has every right to be high on life and excited about what’s ahead for him. “Transformers,” the twentieth movie of his young career, hit theatres this week with much fanfare and many predict it will be the biggest movie of the summer.
Earlier this year, the 36-year old funnyman appeared in Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-winning film, “The Departed.” Last year, it was the critically acclaimed “Hustle and Flow” and before that blockbusters like, “Scary Movie 3,” “Barbershop,” and Jim Carrey’s, “Me, Myself and Irene” - not bad for a guy who got his start in films only eight years ago with Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence in the hit comedy, “Life.”
It’s been a whirlwind,” said Anderson. “I’m one of the fortunate ones who continue to work with some of the best people in the industry, sometimes I have to just pinch myself and just stand back and smell the roses.”
His Hollywood career really got its roots back at LA’s High School for the Performing Arts where Anderson won first place in the NAACP’s Act-So awards with his performance of a monologue from, “The Great White Hope.” That performance, along with his dedication and talent, earned him an arts scholarship to Howard University.
In 1996, Anderson landed his first professional job starring in the teen series, “Hang Time.” He quickly landed guest-starring roles on other shows, including “J.A.G” and ‘NYPD Blue.” Producer David E. Kelley was so impressed with Anderson’s talent that he wrote a two-episode arc especially for him on the hit series “Ally McBeal.” And from there, Anderson has almost written his own ticket. “Transformers” director Michael Bay says Anthony Anderson was a “must-have” in this film.
In “Transformers,” the film based on the 80’s toy craze, Anderson (Glen Whitmann) succeeds where many have failed. He mixes comedy with drama playing a genius computer hacker working out of a cramped home in what looks like the ‘hood. When the feds raid his place for busting into the government’s high level computer system, Anderson delivers some of the best lines in the film. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but two things to think of when you see him on screen: the dance dance Revolution and guilty doughnuts.
As for combining comedy and drama, Anderson says, ‘It’s about just being in the moment and bringing the character to life. It’s not that sit back and think about how I’m supposed to do it. I fly by the seat of my pants and live and act in that moment.” However he does it, it works and Hollywood loves Anthony Anderson.
Co-starring with Anderson in “Transformers,” a film about war re-erupting between two robotic clans, are some up and coming actors including Shia LaBeouf (Sam Witwicky) Josh Duhamel (Capt. Lennox) , Megan Fox (Mikaela Banes), Rachael Taylor (Maggie Madsen) and vets like Bernie Mac (crooked car dealer) and Tyrese Gibsons (Sgt Epps). Interestingly, Anderson and co-star Gibson grew up not far from each other, Anderson in Compton and Gibson in Watts.
“I was born in Nickerson Gardens and raised in Compton and Tyrese was born in the projects not far away,” explains Anderson. “We sit and reflect on where we came from and what we are doing now.” Quite frankly, both men are in awe of their own success in Hollywood. “On set, we talked about how amazing this is and how we want to give kids from our community some hope that they can do this too.”
Like many of the film’s stars, Anderson has some sentimental reasons for wanting to lockdown the role co-starring with those updated and cool looking “Transformers” - the Autobots and the evil Decepticons. The Hasbro toy craze from 20 years ago was the hot new thing when Anderson was a kid.
“I grew up playing with Transformers and Optimus Prime (the leader of the Autobots) and all these guys. This is pop culture iconis to the 10th degree,” an excited Anderson tells us. “Twenty-five years later to play with these same toys with my son and not only play with him, but take him to a movie and watch me in it - you gotta understand why I had to be a part of this.”
As for longtime Transformers fans a little miffed at the changes to their favorite toy, Anderson says “get over it.” The more modern looking Autobots will not wreck anyone’s childhood as one angry fan wrote to a website. “Everybody has their opinion and you have to respect it. All I know is we have a great film that is going though the roof and it’s gonna knock people’s socks off.
What will knock your socks off are the special effects. The giant robots look real. You sympathize with them as in one scene they try to hide behind and around Sam’s house and out of eye sight from his goofy yet hilarious parents. The CGI and live action are taken to another level and are seamless. Truly, this is the best yet and even stars like Anthony Anderson realize how big of a deal it really is to be apart of the franchise.
While awaiting those big box office numbers, Compton’s own homeboy, a three-time NAACP Image Award nominee, isn’t letting grass grow under his feet. He is currently at work on several projects including, “Steppin’: The Movie,” Fox TV’s “K-Ville,” and will soon begin production on “The Trunk” with Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou.
You can see why Anderson is hyped about his future in Hollywood. When asked if he’d return for a sequel, the affable actor screams, “Hell YEAH! Where do I sign?” I’m sure studio execs and anyone within a 100-mile radius heard Anderson and got the message.