Ser’Darius Blain isn’t a man you’d easily forget. His towering frame stands at nearly six feet, five inches tall, so you probably remember him from Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse as Jupitor Blackmon. If not, you’ll certainly recognize him from the massive action adventure comedy, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle where he starred opposite Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The thunderous sequel to the beloved 1995 classic starring the late Robin Williams caught critics and audiences by surprise and sat at the top of the box office as the fifth-highest-grossing film of 2017. For Blain, it has been a whirlwind. “When you’re in this business long enough, you don’t expect anything,” he explained to me as we chatted just ahead of Jumanji’s DVD release. “I was honestly just on pins and needles praying that it would at least get like $300 million. Now, we’re on our way to a billion. You go into this just hoping and praying that people like it because sometimes audiences can be hot and cold about certain projects especially when you’re touching on something that was a cult classic the way that Jumanji was. I’m relieved more than anything.”
In Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Blain stars as Anthony “Fridge” Johnson, a high school student who while serving detention with some of his classmates, gets teleported into a ’90s video game called Jumanji. Once he’s in the game, Fridge becomes Franklin “Mouse” Finbar, a zoologist (portrayed by Hart) who is essentially around to act as a minion for the hunky explorer Dr. Smolder Bravestone (portrayed by Johnson). Blain and Hart collaborated to make sure Fridge was cohesive throughout the film. “I was able to talk to (Kevin) and game plan about how we were going to tackle this character,” Blain revealed. “Ultimately, I found that Kevin just had this huge personality. He’s got bravado. He does it in an internal kind of way, but I am physically large. So, we decided to play off of that. When Fridge gets sucked into the video game, his personality showed, and when I’m out in the real world, my physical appearance was larger than life. We also had some similar body movements and some similar vocal cues. Kevin’s favorite phrase to say is, ‘What the hell,’ so there’s a lot of those in there. I think it worked.”
While filming Jumanji, Blain learned quite a bit about himself. “First of all, I learned I could still play high school, that was a shock to me,” the 31-year-old laughed. “I learned to have fun even when there’s tremendous pressure on you. We all went into this thing knowing that there’s pressure on us to remake Jumanji or reboot Jumanji. That’s a damn near impossible task. However, we never discussed the stakes of this thing. We just decided we were going to go out, have fun, make something that we liked, something that we were proud of, put our blood sweat and tears into it, and hope and pray that audiences would enjoy it as well. I think that it created a lot of comradery between me and my castmates, and I learned how to relax and not put pressure on myself on this one especially when I get an opportunity to follow these giants. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas — all these people that have had these well-established careers, they’re megastars. They just went into it cool as a cucumber. They definitely taught me grace under pressure.”
Though he’s still riding the success of Jumanji, Blain is nowhere near finished with reboots. His next project, the much-buzzed-about Charmed reboot for The CW, has already taken the internet by storm. The forthcoming series which is being heralded as ultra-feminist — will center around three Latina sisters in a college town who discover they are witches. The official series synopsis reads, “Between vanquishing supernatural demons, tearing down the patriarchy and maintaining familial bonds, a witch’s work is never done.” Blain will play Galvin, the boyfriend of one of the sisters who is also an aspiring filmmaker. Already, there has been pushback from fans of the original show as well as the original cast who have grown weary of Hollywood’s reboot culture. Blain, however, thinks there is another way to look at it. “I think if anything, we debunked the myth that reboots can’t hold up to the original,” the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts alum expressed. “It was a great opportunity for us to reintroduce an already established franchise to a new group of fans and bring the old fans along for the ride and have a moment to stroll down memory lane. We’re excited about the pilot we’re shooting right now. We’ve got great writers and fantastic actors on board. Our director (Brad Silberling) is one of my favorites that I’ve ever worked with, and we haven’t even called the first action yet, so I don’t think it’s something that they should be afraid of at all. I think it should be embraced. If not, then at least have an open heart and an open mind to it, and let us show you what we’re doing.”
Charmed was a massive hit when it began in 1998, but twenty years, later the reboot is going to look a lot more like the world as we know it today. “One of the things that stood out to me the most about this Charmed reboot is that I was the first person cast in the entire project,” Blain revealed. “I was actually a bit shocked about it because they didn’t have any series regulars of color in the original one until about the 6th or 7th season. I think it’s a testament to the progressiveness of film and TV right now. Latina women are the focal point of the show; we also have an LGBTQ couple in there as well. We’ve got these extremely strong powerful women on this project. I’m looking forward to being able to tell stories alongside them. It’s indicative of the idea that we all have similar interests, and we’re all on this earth for the same reason. At the end of the day, we’re all here to advance our families and our communities, and take them farther than the generation before us.”
During a time when women in Hollywood and across a vast number of industries are standing up and speaking out, Blain is sure that this modernized version of Charmed will be a show where women can shin both on screen and on set. “We’ve got incredible female writers on this show with Jessica O’Toole Amy Rardin, and our producers as well,” he expressed. “Our Director of Photography is even a woman, and I’m just really looking forward to debunking the myth about the voice of women in Hollywood as well. I think that men have to stand alongside them and be allies. Women and people color are the focal points of this, so we’re ready to kick in the door and show them what everybody’s made of.”
Though he’s getting all geared up for Charmed, Blain certainly hasn’t forgotten about Jumanji. As far as a third film in the franchise goes, Sony already has something in the works, but Blain doesn’t have too many details just yet. “They are underway with planning the next one already, but Hollywood is what it is, and sometimes you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “I’m just really trying to enjoy the now and enjoy the current success of this Jumanji. I will make myself available for sure if they do call upon me, and I’ve kind of whispered into (Jake) Kasdan’s ear already, but we’ll see. You never really know. There’s a bunch of hands in the pot. There’s a bunch of different people making decisions and such; I’m just honored to have been in this one.”
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is now available on DVD, digital and Blu-ray. Interested in winning a copy and a Funko Pop? Enter to win by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ser’Darius Blain will be seen next in the war film The Last Full Measure opposite Samuel L. Jackson.
There is no release date just yet for The CW’s Charmed reboot.
Aramide A Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment writer. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her Master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami