After saying goodbye to “Criminal Minds” earlier this year, actor Shemar Moore is stepping into a new role, funding and producing his first feature film, “The Bounce Back.” Moore stars alongside Nadine Velazquez and Bill Bellamy in this warm, romantic comedy about love, intimacy, and second chances. Moore recently chatted with me about his new role as a producer, what inspired him to step behind the scene, the current state of independent filmmaking and what’s next for him.
Aramide Tinubu: Hi Shemar how are you?
Shemar Moore: Hi sweetheart, thanks for taking the time.
AT: For sure, I loved “The Bounce Back,” I thought it was really warm, it felt like a romance novel to me.
SM: You had me at “I love it.” It’s so nice to hear that it’s being well received. It’s a good time. I always say that it’s a fun-filled good movie.
AT: It is! It definitely felt like you could cozy up and watch it either by yourself or with your loved one. It was a special treat. What was it about this film that inspired you to put your money where your mouth is and get on board as an executive producer?
SM: Well, I knew about the script about ten years ago.
AT: Oh wow, so it’s been a long-time coming.
SM: Yes, but, the timing of where I was ten years ago, I was still getting my feet wet and getting my standing with getting “Criminal Minds” off the ground. I did “Criminal Minds” since day one so ten years ago wasn’t the right time. But then, life went on, and I knew a few years ago that a transition was coming and I was going to want to take the next step in my career. So, I just began looking for projects out there that I could be a part of. I’d never produced before, but I thought to myself that it seemed like just attention to detail, and I felt like I could have a knack for it. It’s just understanding content, understanding stories, knowing how to put people and pieces together, and how to tell a story. To be honest, before the executive producer hat got put on, I actually ran the script around town seeing which studios and distribution companies were interested.
AT: Really, what was that like?
SM: I would either get no response, or I would get a lukewarm response where they would like the idea, but they wanted to find the “right time” to make the movie. So it just seemed to be this slow, stalled process, so I just kind of sat with myself and I talked to some people that I trust, and I was like, “OK, what other avenues can I consider?” That’s when the Kickstarter and the Indiegogo thing came up. It was just my way of putting feelers out there to see if there was any demand or interest in it. My loyal fan base, I love them to death, I call them my homies and baby girls, they really stepped up to the plate and through Kickstarter and Indiegogo in just over a month we raised $630,000.
SM: Yes, it was like a really nice pat on my back and a hug from my fans. It wasn’t so much that I needed them to give me money because I could have just gone to a bank and asked for a loan. But, by them interacting and stepping up to the plate like that, it showed Hollywood, that if you have an idea, and you have the passion and the determination and the drive to get it done you can. Hollywood is going to see that there is room for content that they may not even be considering. So, this has really just been my baby, a labor of love and I can honestly say I did it with the help of my fans.
AT: For sure!
SM: It’s a cute script, I mean, this movie isn’t going to win any awards I don’t think, but I already feel like it’s a win in itself. When we first started talking you said that you loved it and it was something that you could just sit with you loved one and feel good about it, and that’s what I wanted to do. It’s also a chance for me because there are many sides to me. People have seen me on “The Young and the Restless,” you’ve seen me do a couple of movies, you’ve seen me be a badass and kick down doors and beat up unsubs and save the day on “Criminal Minds,” so I said, “Let’s do something else.”
AT: What do you love about “The Bounce Back’s” narrative?
SM: It’s a story about love, a story about having your heart let down and having the courage to fall back in love, told from a male perspective. I believe that in this movie, you truly get both the male and female perspective of falling love. I thought it was going to be a Valentine’s Day film originally, but you know the politics and the process of getting a film out and distributed shifted things. However, I’m glad that the timing worked out for it to come out during the holidays, not that it’s a holiday movie, but it’s a feel good movie for the holidays.
AT: So what did you think about these two perspectives on love, personally?
SM: I think both are right, but neither one are entirely right by themselves because if you’re entirely right in your own thinking, you tend to be alone. Love is this complicated, beautiful, scary entity that’s hard to catch. If it were easy, then we’d all be doing it. So this story is about compromising, hope, faith, and about taking risks and putting yourself out there and believing that it’s there for you. We just do it in such a silly, fun way.
AT: What was it like for you to move from an actor to being both an actor and executive producer on this project? How involved were you?
SM: As an actor, I’ve been very blessed to play the roles that I’ve played, but in so many ways you are still saying someone else’s lines, you are still telling someone else’s story. Somebody else is controlling that process, and your job is just to memorize the words and bring the words to life, and I love that process. However, as an executive producer and to be able to act, I was able to massage the script and tweak the script, and have a say in how the story was told. I was able to be involved in the casting process. I went out myself and got Nadine Velazquez, Bill Bellamy, Sheryl Underwood and Michael Beach.
AT: Oh really?!
SM: I went out with my business partner, and we got [director] Youssef Delara. He did a wonderful piece called “Filly Brown” that got a lot of love at the Sundance Film Festival, and he was excited about the script and he really liked the idea of putting a romantic comedy together. So, it was the perfect timing and the perfect storm. It was a passion project so for me to be able to be in a bit more control as far as the storytelling aspect and to be able to do my thing as an actor was a really rewarding process for me. What I’d like people to realize is that this is bigger than a movie for me. We really did this from the grassroots. What we’re about to accomplish is not easy to do, and it has not been done very often. I paid for this movie myself with the help of my fans. I covered the remainder of the budget. I executive produced and cast ‘The Bounce Back.” We’re distributing this movie on our own; we don’t have a major studio or distribution company with us. It’s my production company partnered up with Liquid Soul and AMC and Regency theaters. We are basically paying to get it into the theaters so that the fans have access to it. This is truly independent movie making at it’s finest. It’s a big risk, but I believe in the project. I believe in myself and the power of social media to be able to reach my fan base and my fan base has been so solid and so loyal to me. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people and turn a lot of heads come December 9th.
AT: Oh for sure. Well, I know this has been a huge transition for you moving away from “Criminal Minds’” Derek Morgan to Matthew Taylor. You’ve lived with Derek for such a long time, so how did you approach Matthew. What was it like getting into the very new and very different character?
SM: I loved playing Derek Morgan because before I played Derek Morgan I was known for the soap operas. I was the cute guy who took his shirt off in “The Young and the Restless” and had sex with his brother’s wife. Then I got to be in a true drama, a heavy piece. What we did on “Criminal Minds” was very dark. However, there are many colors to who I see myself as, and that’s what I’m excited about. Even though I’ve been in this industry for twenty-four years, in a lot of ways, I feel like I’m just getting started and showing the different sides of me and what I am capable. That’s what’s been great about social media; I’ve been able to interact with my fans just with my own true personality. The characters that I play are a part of me, but they are also just characters. There is a quality in me that is very similar to Matthew Taylor. More than anything I think this movie is going to touch a lot of people, I really believe that. I don’t care who you are; you are going to relate to somebody or something in this movie because who doesn’t want to fall in love? Who doesn’t want unconditional love? So this is just my way of just saying, let’s have some fun together because I’m still going to go kick down some doors and be a badass and do different types of content.
AT: So what types of films would you like to do in the future?
SM: I love “Bourne” with Matt Damon and “The Equalizer” with Denzel [Washington]. I love “Begin Again” with Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightly, and all of the classics. I love all different kinds of genres so “The Bounce Back” was just a fun, feel-good thing that I wanted to make for my baby girls and even the fellas who might begrudgingly go to the theater.
AT: (Laughing) They will go along.
SM: All I need from the guys when they walk out of the theater is to say, “It was alright, it was cool.” (Laughing) That’s all I need from them. Just let the baby girls have a nice time and to enjoy this.
AT: So what’s next for you and Bounce Back LLC? Do you have anything else on the horizon that you are working on?
SM: First and foremost, I want to get on the same train as Will Smith and Jamie Foxx and [George] Clooney and all of those guys. I want to keep doing my thing in front of the camera. I love acting, and I love telling stories. I love what I do. If Hollywood has projects out there that move me, I’m going to continue doing my stuff but now, with this new producer’s hat, if Hollywood isn’t making it I know that I can go with a certain budget and create the content myself. Sometimes it will be for me, and sometimes it might be content that somebody else can do. For example, I look at Mark Walberg and his journey from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch to an extremely respected and talented actor and successful producer, so he’s been a mentor and inspiration to me. Honestly, if he can get it done then why can’t I get it done?
AT: You’re right.
SM: Tyler Perry did something similar. I was in his first film, “Diary of A Mad Black Woman” when he was relatively unknown coming from the theater world. He put up some of his own money and partnered with Lionsgate and look at the career and the impact that he’s had. So the game is changing with the independent route, and there is television, and there’s streaming, so if I can do a little of both whether it’s TV, Cable, feature film, or whatever, you’re just going to see more irons in the fire. You’re going to see a broader career open up from me.
AT: That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me and Shadow and Act, Shemar. I really enjoyed “The Bounce Back,” and I’m excited for our viewers to read about your journey in making the film.
SM: That makes me happy. I wish you the happiest of holidays.
AT: Happy holidays!
“The Bounce Back” hits theaters today, Friday, December 9th.
Read my review of the film here.
Writer’s Note: Nadja Alaya, the young actress who plays Moore’s daughter in “The Bounce Back,” has been recently diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Moore has teamed up with the Children’s Miracle Network to help the 15-year old cover her medical expenses. To find out more information about how you can help Alaya and other children who are battling cancer, please visit: bouncebackforkids.org.
Trailer for “The Bounce Back” follows below:
Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a Black cinephile, bookworm, blogger, and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami