Interviews Movies

Catching the Bug – How White Men Can’t Jump Made Jack Harlow Fall in Love with Acting

What’s old is new again in the all-new comedy White Men Can’t Jump, which is a modern remix of the iconic 1992 film that celebrates the streetball hustling culture of Los Angeles. But this isn’t your average remake or your average story about two street hustlers, this is an LA story, featuring some of the most popular places in the world, filled with influential people that live and grew up there. Streetball isn’t a hobby, it’s a way of life.

In this iteration, Sinqua Walls stars as Kamal, once a promising player who derailed his future in the sport, and multi-platinum rap superstar Jack Harlow makes his big-screen debut as Jeremy, a former star of the game whose injuries stalled his own career. Juggling tenuous relationships, financial pressures and serious internal struggles, the two ballers, opposites who are seemingly miles apart—find they might have more in common than they imagined possible.

While White Men Can’t Jump pays homage to 1992’s Wesley Snipes-Woody Harrelson basketball-bromance and a travelogue of a certain era in street games, the contemporary vision encompasses not only the basketball culture but the bigger picture of race relations in the modern world. This version pays homage and embraces what basketball means to so many today while incorporating the power of social media, where people know talent and have the ability to create stars or destroy their dreams.

(L-R): Jack Harlow as Jeremy and Sinqua Walls as Kamal in 20th Century Studios’ WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by Parrish Lewis. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Jeremy and Kamal have complicated backstories and they both struggle to reconcile the past with the future. Relationships with family, friends and significant others suffer as a result. Complex characters called for a talented roster of performers who each brought an extraordinary point of view to the story.

For Harlow, starring in White Men Can’t Jump was a “learning experience.” Harlow previously cut his hosting chops appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and splitting duties with Fallon at the desk. In the episode, Harlow helped Fallon with his monologue and interviewed guest Dwayne Wade. Here takes on Woody Harrelson’s role from the 1992 basketball classic, while Sinqua Walls plays the part originated by Wesley Snipes.

Jeremy is a talented ball player who’s recovering from a career-ending injuries and the heartache that accompanied them. He’s not ready to let go of his dreams, which could prove costly. “He’s broke,” Harlow says matter-of-factly. “He’s got a chip on his shoulder. He has charisma, but he’s also insecure—he’s out to prove something. He has a lot to learn and he’s trying to figure it out. He’s a damaged guy who’s trying to get it together. He still has big dreams, but he’s not sure how they’ll work out.”

(L-R): J. Alphonse Nicholson as Jermaine and Jack Harlow as Jeremy in 20th Century Studios’ WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by Parrish Lewis. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

For Harlow, who gave us more insight into filming during the movie’s press conference, moviemaking was a new endeavor. One he was happy to take on with Calmatic in the director’s chair. “I don’t know if I could have landed a better first-director mentor. He’s so open with me, so patient and he’s collaborative in a way I hear other directors aren’t. He allows me to explore and he’s a genius. Just seeing him put the story together or corrections he might make, notes he might give me and his explanations of these insights—I’m like ‘wow, I wouldn’t have thought of that.’ He’s a pleasure to work with. I totally relate to his passion and intention.”

Harlow wants to be equally as ubiquitous in film and television as he is in music. During a screening of the movie in NYC, he reiterated, acting is not a hobby for him; it’s a full-time position for him. “Through this film I was able to gain my confidence as an actor, and to me, this shit is not a side quest. This isn’t a side mission that I’m tacking on just to keep the entertainer thing going and make some extra money.”

He continued, “I really got the bug and fell in love with this, and I’m developing a deep passion for the craft of this the same way I had in music. I don’t want it to be a side hustle, I want to go full-on after this, and I’m going after it and I’m going to continue to do more.”

Jack Harlow as Jeremy in 20th Century Studios’ WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by Parrish Lewis. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“I knew they needed someone White, so I said, ‘you know what I’m in.’ It actually took a lot of training and I want to give a big shout out to my trainer Khalid who literally traveled the country with me while I was on tour prior to the movie. We would find gems after the show late at night and get in and work on my left hand and work on my jumper. A lot of hours were put in so I just want to give a big shout out to Khalid for getting me as right as he could because I’m challenged. I have some I have some natural things that give me limitations, but we found a way.”

Reflecting on his first acting experience, he found it to be humbling. Rappers turned actors often have to prove themselves more. “I had just dropped an album. I was in the whirlwind of the music industry. But the way the schedule was set up is as soon as the album came out, I was to come out here and shoot this. It was such a beautiful escape from the place I was in. I think I needed it mentally and emotionally just to get out of the monotony of music.”

“I’m thankful I joined a group of people who were so humble and willing to let me learn, be patient with me and be willing to teach. I feel like I arrived into a egoless environment, as the least experienced person, everyone just kind [of] let me shine and try things. [They] gave me the room to give my opinion.”

“If I felt strongly about something, it didn’t mean it was [going to] go that way, but Cal would hear me out and vice versa, of course. I was all for the lead vision, but I just appreciated I could come into my first one and people actually cared what I thought. I just [want to] give a big shoutout to everybody and everyone that was involved in the film, for making my first one such a seamless experience.”

(L-R): Jack Harlow as Jeremy and Sinqua Walls as Kamal in 20th Century Studios’ WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by Parrish Lewis. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Jeremy’s personal life reveals another side of the character, who’s in a committed relationship with a strong woman he risks losing to his own stubbornness. He is a family man, and Tatiana means a lot to him. Their life together is the most important. However, Jeremy has to work on himself before he can fully appreciate what they have together. Through his unexpected friendship with Kamal, he learns there are options in life only if he’s willing to make the hard choices. This harkens back to the theme of the movie: the individual journey coupled with a friendship built around understanding as Jeremy and Kamal grow as characters together.

Jeremy is not two dimensional,” continues Harlow. “He has a lot of confidence—he’s almost brash. There’s some bravado there. He talks shit for sure—that’s real. Jeremy’s not afraid to talk shit to anybody. He’s not afraid to challenge people and come back with a witty remark. That’s just part of his DNA—he can stun his opponent, knock them off balance, then knock them out.”

Building that chemistry between Harlow and Walls was essential to the believability of the movie. There’s no better way for teambuilding than an extensive basketball boot camp, which was a haven for Harlow. “It’s really quite wonderful. It’s, like, school or summer camp and it’s the first time I felt that since school. It was phenomenal. Every day, I looked forward to showing up. Obviously, I loved the movie we were making, and I love my craft, but I love seeing so many people. Everyone on that set, by the end, I had a little vibe with them. I had maybe an inside joke or the way me and Sinqua had chemistry. I have chemistry with everyone on that set. I had chemistry with the people at crafty. It’s just fun. I mean, sheesh. It’s like school.”

(L-R): Laura Harrier as Tatiana and Jack Harlow as Jeremy in 20th Century Studios’ WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by Parrish Lewis. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“We had that month and a half, two months together where we just were interacting on and off camera and really got to know each other and feel each other out. The first day was definitely a feeling out process. The very first scene we shot was almost weird. I don’t know what we were on, but we were just feeling each other out on that first take. And it low-key got real cause we were just like, ‘Yo, who is this guy?’ But after that, it was really smooth. Great chemistry. I think everyone sees it.”

The experience for Harlow was unforgettable. “Whether we ever do another movie together again or whatever, wherever this leads, we always have this.”

White Men Can’t Jump is now streaming on Hulu.

Related posts

Liza Colón-Zayas Was Reminded to Dream While Filming ‘IF’ Movie

Dana Abercrombie

The Beach Boys Join Frank Marshall and VIP Guests At Abbey Roads Studios

Dana Abercrombie

Good Times’ Showrunner Ranada Shepard Speaks Out Against the Backlash, “There’s So Much More to the Show”

Dana Abercrombie