When a man loves a golf game
Anthony Anderson earns audiences with versatility on course and on screen.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Of late, drama-comedy double-threat Anthony Anderson has grown used to visualizing success – and finding it – in his rise from “bright-eyed kid in Compton” to star in everything from Golf in America to Law & Order.
But he blew it when it came to Michael Bolton.
At last year’s Celebrity Shoot-Out at Pebble Beach, Bolton was standing over a putt at the 18th hole. Anderson couldn’t win, but a miss, and a push, would mean his team was alive.
“It mighta been a $35,000 putt,” he says. “It just hit me, looking at him and the crowd, like, ‘Know what, I’m gonna throw him off.’”
Anderson scanned his head for Bolton songs. The only one he could think of was “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Suddenly he was booming the tune over a gathering of thousands. Moments later, Bolton drained it.
“I hadn’t thought how huge a hit that was for him,” Anderson says. “He’s on top of the world when he sings that. It wouldn’t distract him…
“He’s thinking, ‘Bitch, sing my song as I sink this putt.’”
In other walks of life, though, Anderson is making great calls. His work hosting Golf in America has led him to profile everything from Justin Timberlake’s efforts to revitalize a run-down course outside Memphis to surf-legend Jeff Clark’s passion for the game. His role as Detective Kevin Bernard in Law & Order has opened up a whole new crop of opportunities to harvest, and add to a resume that already includes Oscar-winning flicks (The Departed) and comedic hits (Me, Myself and Irene). He just swung through Sundance to rep the arty feature Goats with co-stars David Duchovny and Vera Farmiga before reporting to Salt Lake City to shoot a remake of Weird Science. The Weekly caught him between takes, and after a Pebble practice session, for a round of 18 questions:
• • •
1. So what happened with Bolton last year?
My evil genius worked against me.
2. You’ve done everything from serious stuff like Hustle & Flow to lighter fare like The Bernie Mac Show. How do you accomplish that versatility, and how does it translate to the golf course and back?
I’ve said I have range like a rover. I get to play in both genres, comedy and drama. I try to do it well, because not every actor can play in both worlds. I’m fortunate. On the course, you gotta get out of trouble, out of trap, make a save. With entertainment, we’re in the business of producers, directors and studios telling us “No,” so you gotta scramble, hustle and play every audition like every shot. And sometimes you can lay up, play smart. Pick roles that may not be the biggest, but are part of a bigger picture, like my character in The Departed. It’s not a huge role, but it’s part of an Oscar-winning film, Martin Scorsese’s first Oscar, a part of history.
3. Who’s given you the best advice on golf during the AT&T Pro-Am?
George Lopez and Padraig Harrington. George is always telling me about dancing in my backswing. “You’re not Sammy Davis, Jr., no tap dancing, black.” Padraig says get your knees together on the downswing, accelerate through the ball. Nick Faldo told me: “Your knees need to kiss.”
4. You host a monthly Mixtape Comedy Show with A-grade stand-up comedians, then a rap-off then old-school music, all streamed live on Facebook. What could golf do to harness that kind of freshness?
It’s been our third year now. How do we adapt it? Well, what me and my buddies do: We bring an iPod and speakers, groove to old school hip-hop and R&B for four and a half hours, talking trash, and making business deals. And it’s fun. There’s nothing like being on a golf course with some friends on a beautiful day. You and nature and a game you love.
5. Is it true you first picked up a club and swung it for 45 minutes?
I blame my father-in-law. I blame him for my screwed up swing too. I’d swung a club maybe twice when a kid. He had a nine-iron, I took it out, and swung it for the first time in 20-plus years. From that one mishit, that was it. I’ve never hit a ball like that again. It got me hooked on the game. Now I’m like an addict chasing that first high.
6. The NAACP has given you two Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series awards. They could give you an award for being one of a handful of minorities with a real presence in the world of golf, no?
It’s the 60th anniversary of Joe Louis breaking the color barrier in golf. There’s no denying the old rules and bylaws said no one nonwhite could play this game. Those walls have been broken down, but there’s more we can do, more that the prominent players can do to bring more minorities in. The last person of color to go through [PGA Qualifying] school – I forget the brother’s name – has been since the early ’90s.
7. In hosting Golf in America, what have you learned about our society’s relationship to golf that spoke to you?
The game of golf doesn’t discriminate. Doesn’t matter what color you are, how much you make, how short, how skinny you are. It will still humble you. From a personal standpoint, the game of golf has brought me into inner circles and taken me all around the world. I’ve found myself interacting with captains of industry, presidents of the U.S., the president of Ecuador. I can call up any course, say, “Hey, this is Anthony of Golf in America on the Golf Channel, think I could come out and play?” “Mr. Anderson, we’d love to have you come out and play.”
8. What makes the AT&T special?
Hands down, it’s a golfer’s paradise. Heaven. If you were to take a poll of regular golfers, even pros and ask what course would they play or replay, the majority would play Pebble. The tournament is beautiful. What they do with charities is amazing.
9. If I told you while you were a Hollywood High School kid your career would include golfing with Tiger Woods on his home course, acting with Transformers, playing Jim Carey’s genius son and a detective on Law & Order, what would you say?
(Sighs.) I wouldn’t have believed it, you know. I’m a big dreamer. That’s one thing. The other is the ability to bring that to fruition. Until it happens, still a dream. Meeting Bill Clinton when still in office, and have him be a part of one of my television shows. A career with Martin Lawrence and Martin Scorsese. Had you told me that as bright-eyed kid from Compton, I’d say, “OK, alright. I’ll believe it when I see it.” To work with Jim Carey on his upswing, his first $20 million movie, with the Farrelly brothers, that was special…
I was in Australia to film Kangaroo Jack, sitting with floor-to-ceiling wraparound windows with views of Sydney Opera House, flipping through channels when a question my brother asked me popped into my head – “Did you ever see yourself on this journey?” – and on TV I land on the scene right before my entrance in the film Life with Lawrence and Eddie Murphy. Life was the first movie I’d ever done in Hollywood. So I’m sitting in a fly pad getting ready to do a fly movie with one of the best producers, Jerry Bruckheimer, and I realize this has become my Life. It’s so appropriate that that was the title. This is my life.
10. What’s your secret weapon on the course? Does that translate to the set? Picturing the shot. Me and the ball. I’m playing against myself, not anyone else. On set, it’s different. I draw from tons of personal experiences.
11. Our country’s Law & Order obsession is almost as bad as our obsession with golf. Have you had a moment like viewers where you started handling the police or a lawyer differently?
It does teach me a lot about the law. I know how to get away with crimes. But you’re right, it’s crazy. I’ve been on TV and movies for years, but of all the successes I had up to that point, when people saw me on Law & Order it was like they had never seen me before in television and film. I’ve been in this industry working constantly on a certain level for the last 14 years. This show opened me up to a whole new different market. Same with Golf in America.
12. So, speaking of crimes, you stole your mom’s credit card once to buy a baby grand piano…
The piano was returned after a long ass whooping. She tied me to an avocado tree in the backyard. She whooped me with a 1984 Ford Courier timing belt. She had a chest drawer full of things. I’ll tell you what: The ass whooping I got as a child shaped who I am today.
13. OK, speed round time. How can you tell whether someone’s a golfer?
Calloused hands and fingers – or someone mimicking a golf swing no matter where they are: a restaurant, church, sidewalks.
14. You’ve said golf’s a game of integrity. What’s the worst violation you’ve seen?
No honor among thieves. George Lopez, Don Cheadle and R.J., George’s road manager, play a Brownie Cup at Pebble every year. R.J. didn’t eat the brownie or drink his shots of tequila. He poured them under the bench. And he was leading by five strokes. We all eat the brownie. And all drink the tequila. He has to be ridiculed until next outing in December
15. Something that might surprise people about Scorcese?
He does not like loud noises – loud talking, loud laughter. He covers his ears. And I’m loud. Someone was telling a joke on the set of The Departed. I laughed, didn’t know he was on set, turned around and saw him staring at me with both ears covered by his hands. Once he’s on set, the volume’s on a lower level. You know when he’s on set.
16. Jim Carrey?
What I learned is specificity. What I thought he did – wild antics, hoping the camera would get something remotely funny – wasn’t the case. Everything you see him do, no matter how improvisational you think it is, it’s all been planned. It’s a testament to his comedic genius.
17. George Lopez?
George is pretty much George. The most generous person I’ve ever met. Especially in Hollywood. Generous with time, possessions, money, just very giving individual. Always.
18. Any pre-round rituals you follow as far as food? Or do you make for the hospitality tents’ free food?
I try to eat light before I go out, so I’m not weighed down: banana, apples, fruit.
No brownies. Only during Brownie Cups.