There is an Asian restaurant a little north of me I’ve been visiting for 10 or 15 years. You know, a daily variety of hot plates; Kung Pau, broccoli and beef, teriyaki chicken, etc. I’ve watched the owners kids grow up; they now serve me. I stopped into for a late lunch and the son, after taking my order surprised me with, “You were in LIKE MIKE!” I was kinda surprised, for several reasons.
I’ve lived in my home for 23 years now and many of my vendors recognize me from my work and from my patronage. Tho the restaurant has signed photos from Cuba Gooding and Sofia Vergara, I don’t remember ever being recognized there. And also, because tho I AM in the film, not really. All of my scenes were cut pretty much as soon as I appeared on screen. Yet at the very end, because my contract called for “star billing”, there is a full screen closeup of me with the caption, “Starring Tucker Smallwood”. I often joke that viewers probably then look at each and ask, “Who the fuck was Tucker Smallwood in that movie?!!”
As he dished out my food I began to share the story of that experience; it’s generally good for a laugh. They’d not wanted to pay my quote, which was then $2500 daily, said they’d only need me for a couple days but would pay me $1250 daily and guarantee me three days. I said OK. I reported for my first day, met everyone; Lil (then) Bow Wow, Morris Chestnut and the director. This was a cute fantasy about magical tennis shoes and an orphan. I hung out with the NBA stars for a few hours and then was released, having done nothing. The production then went on the road; to Dallas and NY and New Orleans, Philly…
Point is they were gone for about a month. No worries, I was on the payroll. Ka-ching – $1250 every dingdong day. Eventually they returned to LA and I was called back. Now, I played the estranged father of Morris Chestnut, the star of the team. Bow Wow’s character, an orphan was stunned to learn that Morris had a living father with whom he had no relationship, no contact and began to conspire to reunite us. Appreciating how many black children grow up fatherless in America, I wanted our scenes to reflect that reality so he and I did a few improvs and tweaked the dialogue and our interaction. Our work was very good; our scenes were very real.
At the screening, I was kinda shocked to see scene after scene of us begin…and then just suddenly end, on to the next. Then I laughed out loud at my final screen credit. Tho I was disappointed, I appreciated the judgement of the editor and director. This was a lighthearted childrens fantasy; our scenes were too heavy and too real to belong in it.
We shared a laugh and I took my curry and teriyaki chicken back home. Who knows, maybe next visit, they’ll ask for a photo.