Friday, July 1, 2022

‘White Men Can’t Jump’ Star Tyra Ferrell Talks N-Word Experience with Favorite Scene from Classic 90’s Film | VIDEO

Tyra Ferrell - GettyImages
Tyra Ferrell – GettyImages

*It goes without saying. For every movie you called “favorite,” there is always a scene or two or three from said film that we label our “favorite.” Tyra Ferrells favorite “White Men Can’t Jump” scene? Well, that’s personal.

“Wow. My favorite scene, honestly, because I had a part in it, was when the guys try to up each other on the court,” the entertainer, who played Rhonda Deane, the wife of Wesley Snipes‘ Sidney Deane, in the classic ’90s sports comedy, revealed to EURweb about the trash-talking between streetballers on the basketball court.

Yes, those scenes are just as memorable as the gameplay, generating smiles and laughs. But Ferrell’s scene carries a different layer. The acting veteran had no problem with the actors brainstorming on insults. It was the vibe of the comments and one glaring item that rubbed her the wrong way during rehearsals.

“…the players were always using the N-word,” Ferrell said. “I was off to the side, ready to walk up with the baby on the hip [for the scene]. And it was so offensive to me that they were using it so much and it was just part of their game.”

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"White Men Can't Jump Stars Tyra Ferrell and Wesley Snipes / Photo from Tyra Ferrell
“White Men Can’t Jump Stars Tyra Ferrell and Wesley Snipes / Photo from Tyra Ferrell

Seeing an opportunity and a break coming, Ferrell made it known how hurtful the controversial N-word was to her.

“When that happened, I walked over to the brothers and I said, ‘Hey, look you guys. You guys are doing great, but you keep using the N-word. And that word is very, very offensive. I know it is to me and I don’t use it,’ the “Poetic Justice” actor expressed. “And I told them that this movie was gonna go in the can. And when it goes in the can, we can’t take it back.’”

From there, a challenge was issued to the group. Find another way for the trash talk to stick without including the N-word.

“If we want to make change, we should kill the spiritual lineage of that word because we all know what it means and where it came from,” Ferrell explained. “So I said to them, ‘If you guys can really act, then come up with words and energy that gives you the same vibe because you’re using it the way that you’re using it. But find other ways to use that word without saying it.’”

Wesley Snipes - Woody Harrelson (20th Century Fox)
Wesley Snipes – Woody Harrelson (20th Century Fox)

Ferrell’s suggestion?  Have Woody Harrelson’s character, Billy Hoyle, say the N-word instead of the streetballers.

“If you guys decide not to use that word, then you should let Woody use that word and stop him and tell him why he can’t say that word. That would be a teachable moment for the world and everybody else. So, then people would go, ‘Oh, I get it now,’ you know,’” Ferrell told the group. “That’s one of the reasons every time I see the film, I get really excited because this is what happened. Basically, I said, ‘if you guys can really act, come on. We’re actors here, right? Come up with something new. Let’s have fun with it.’”

Ferrell’s constructive criticism may have been heard. But would the group take heed? When it came time to shoot the scene, she got her answer.

The group decided against saying the N-word.

But the win was short-lived, as black women became the new focus of the actors’ comments in the scene. And not in a good way.

“They didn’t say the word. But then they started doggin’ out the sistas or the mothers. And what would happen was they’d say, ‘You’re mama is so black, that she looks like blah, blah, blah.’ And then they would say, ‘Your mama’s lips so big, blah, blah.’ And then they would start doggin’ out the features and who we were as a people. I was so annoyed,” Ferrell detailed.

With limited time before the scene was filmed, Ferrell brought her concerns one last time to the group, while questioning the new direction of the insults.

“I walked over to the guys and said, ‘Why are you guys doggin’ out the sistas? You know, I’m black, I’m dark-skinned. You’re dark-skinned…,” she stated, while remembering a dark-skinned actor she felt was behind the offensive remarks.

“I would say, ‘You, your mama’s black.’ I said, ‘We’re all black. Why y’all saying negative things about being black? You talk about big lips…Big lips are sexy. White women try to inject to make these big lips…don’t dog us out. If you can really act, come up with things that don’t dog out the race, ok.’”

Carrying a new set of worries, Ferrell went to see “White Men Can’t Jump” for the first time, with no idea if the group took her guidance to heart. According to the “School Daze” alum, the suspense made it hard to breathe.

“I didn’t know what to expect. Especially seeing myself on screen. But mostly, I didn’t know if that N-word was gonna be there,” said Ferrell. “And so all of a sudden, the scenes came up and I’m just gonna say that when I saw the film, I was relieved.

“I was happy that I could do that for the culture and that word was only used once. ” she continued, noting that Snipes used the N-word “in the way it should be used, if you’re gonna make an example of the word.” “When I see the movie, I feel like I accomplished something. And of course, all the other brilliance of the performances were great. But that’s what impresses me the most every time, because I had something to do with that.”

Ferrell’s comments come as movie fans celebrate 30 years since “White Men Can’t Jump” arrived in theaters.  The film, released on March 27, 1992, starred Snipes and Harrelson as Sidney Deane and Billy Hoyle, two rival streetballers who ultimately team up to hustle other streetball players by getting them to pick Billy as Sidney’s partner. In addition to Ferrell, Harrelson and Snipes, “White Men Can’t Jump” featured Rosie Perez, Cylk Cozart, Reynaldo Rey and Kadeem Hardison.

When asked about his favorite “White Men Can’t Jump” scene, the movie’s director and writer, Ron Shelton, had a few in mind that struck a nerve with him.

Ron Shelton Head shot
“White Men Can’t Jump” director and writer Ron Shelton

“I like the hustle scenes, and the nighttime scene where Billy loses a bet to Sydney, thinking he can dunk,” the filmmaker told EURweb. “I also like the scene where Marques Johnson [who played Raymond] ‘robs’ Reynaldo Rey [who played convenience store worker Tad] and ends up going for his gun and everyone scatters.

Scroll down to comment on what scenes from “White Men Can’t Jump” stand out for you.

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