In the animated comedy Madagascar, Ben Stiller starred as Alex the Lion, Chris Rock voiced Marty the Zebra, and Jada Pinkett Smith took on Gloria, the loud-mouthed hippo. Thankfully, those lovable animals will return to the big screen on November 7 in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.
iVillage had the chance to sit down with these three very funny actors to talk about the movie, their lives and their late costar, Bernie Mac.
On Having Their Children in the Film:
Ben Stiller: Well, it was tough because he [son Quinlin], you know, he knew that like, there was something going on. He's only three... and Ella's six. They were sort of wary of the situation. They don't like to be told to do anything. But, then he got in there, and he got in front of the microphone, and there was a run of like a minute where he just had fun and he was like, making sounds, and we were saying like, "Oh, be happy, happy and sad." And then he started to, you know, get a little bit intimidated by the microphone and the whole thing. And then that's when you start to feel like this horrible stage parent... But, I'm happy that they're both in the movie. It's interesting because you realize if kids aren't that comfortable with that situation, you don't want to force them to do it... I was happy that they weren't like, sort of, getting up there and going like, all Shirley Temple or something.
Jada Pinkett Smith: Oh, that was so cute. Because she'd been asking. She was like, "So, how does that work? How does the animation thing work? Mommy, what happens?"... So, it was great when I got the phone call saying, "Would Willow like to play little Gloria?" And so she got to come in. Do some lines. And she got to see the process for herself, rather than me telling her. She actually could experience it in life for herself. So, that was great.
On Bernie Mac:
Jada Pinkett Smith: It's funny, because I saw the movie the day before he passed. [Someone at Dreamworks] told me that he was ill... I didn't know he was in the hospital. I said, "Oh, man, I gotta reach out to Bernie." Then I woke up the next morning and my husband was like "Bernie's gone." That was unfortunate. But, I did have the opportunity to know him. He was a great guy.
Ben Stiller: I mean, it's so sad and, what I did get the chance to do is listen to his performance a lot, especially in the last few months, as we're getting closer to the movie being finished. And I was so excited -- really -- I thought we were going to be able to spend some time together...because, I think he's so good in the film. I just thought it was great casting, and what he did with the role, it just like, exuded so much warmth. And so, it's obviously a really, really sad thing. And, my heart goes out to his family.
Chris Rock: I got a ton of favorite memories of Bernie, man. Just hanging out. We filmed this movie, Head of State, a few years ago. And just every day he was the life of the party. He was the funniest guy around. He made everyone around him feel welcomed and everybody felt like they kind of knew him. And, you know, he was just a great guy to have around.
On Balancing Work and Family:
Ben Stiller: Being together no matter what is probably the biggest thing. You know, just being in the same place. So, like, this summer I've been shooting in Vancouver and the family's been up there all summer, so we've been together. We're here [in New York] now together... Because even if the hours are long, you still get together at, you know, night, or in the morning, or you're just there, and there's a feeling that everybody's connected, which is really important.
Jada Pinkett Smith: I just say, you know, "Mommy's out." ...You know, to just have quiet time. Even trips like this, you know? I'm here by myself. I'm only here for one day, but I'm here by myself. You know what I mean? It's like I got to sleep in the bed myself... I got the ride on the plane... So, that type of time is very valuable... Women, we put out so much. And it's so important that we plug in somewhere. A lot of times, people try to make it seem as though that's not important. Like, you've just gotta give, give, give, give. And if you don't, then that makes you a bad mom and a bad person, if you even want to take a sliver of time for yourself. And what I've learned is that I'm a much better mother, and a much better wife when I have time to be able to go and just collect myself. And my husband has learned and my kids have learned... [that they] receive the rewards of Mommy having time to herself.
Chris Rock: I guess my wife handles more of the balancing than me... You're not just working to take care of them. You're working to take care of them in the event something happens to you. So, you know, being a dad, not only are you responsible for your wife and kids, if you die and they have to move four years later, you're a bad father. Like, you're really responsible for these people. So yeah, there's no balance for me. I work, work, work. When I'm off work, I spend time with my family.