Ride Along: Casting

Love Interest

Filmmakers searched for a performer who fit their ideal vision of Angela, the woman at the center of our comedy triangle. Alvarez gives a bit of extended background to the story: “Ben is dating James’ sister, and he’s now at the point where he wants to ask her to marry him. In order to do that, he feels like he needs to get approval from her brother because their parents are no longer around. Ben feels he needs to respect that process. Because James doesn’t like him and doesn’t want him to marry his sister, he invites him on a ride along to try and scare him away. Once we get on that journey, all hell breaks loose.”

Packer explains the team’s challenge in finding the ideal performer: “We wanted an actress who we felt like the audience could understand why she would love somebody like Ben—who is a lovable guy, but not in a typical sort of a way—and also who is independent enough that you would believe she’s her own woman. Yet, we wanted someone soft enough, and dependent on somebody like James, that she could play the baby sister.”

The producer adds that—whether it was enduring the countless jokes or managing the testosterone on set—Sumpter was the ideal choice for Ride Along’s female lead. He sums: “It’s an action-comedy, so of course you’re going to have a lot of guys being guys. Tika held her own. I talked to her about how loose and fun the set was, and the amount of jokes and great camaraderie that happens. Tika fit right in; she kept up with the boys.”

Sumpter shares that when acting with a comic, you must be prepared for the unexpected. She provides: “They change things; they’re like, ‘Well, let’s try this way.’ So you get to exercise your brain through these mental challenges. That said, all I did was laugh most of the time.”

Bruce Callen

A number of factors came together to coalesce the perfectly gelled cast of top-notch comedians. One of the comics, Bruce Callen, caught Packer’s attention when he played a small part in the Packer-produced About Last Night, in which Hart starred.

Of the creative process, Callen shares: “Now what Tim, Will and Cube do is allow us, because we’re comedians, to take liberties. So we’d come with suggestions and we’d say, ‘This might be funny; let’s try this.’ That’s where they use our improvisation skills, and that’s what’s been so satisfying. I was able to try material off-the-cuff and feel safe to do it.”

Similar to his fellow castmates, John Leguizamo wanted to be part of the project from the beginning. He remembers: “Tim gave me the script, and I laughed out loud. I was riding a subway and people were looking at me. I didn’t care because it was so freaking funny. I knew it was going to be perfect.” Still, according to Leguizamo, putting so many comedians together in a movie is not always such a smooth ride: “Usually it’s not a good thing, because a lot of comics are a pain in the ass and incredibly competitive, but Kevin is so generous and he’s so cool. He has come through the ranks.”

As far as Packer was concerned, having comics in the movie was a no-brainer. He explains: “We wanted to have comedians in the cast, especially guys that do stand-up, because they understand the flow and the rhythms of comedy. That’s something very important in a film when you must cut, retake, reset and then you edit all the material together. Even though it’s a methodical process, the free-flowing energy that comedians bring shows in the final product.”

It was particularly interesting for the producers to watch the many stand-up comics on set ply their trade. Alvarez gives a prime example: “When Kevin decides to let loose, there’s no telling what he’s going to do. He’ll go really big and completely off the wall with things. It’s hard to watch as a crew because you want to start laughing, and we did at times. There’s really no way to describe it except for hilarious.”

While comedians were of paramount importance, casting the ominous and omnipotent Omar, the man who runs the Atlanta underground with an iron fist, was task No. 2. Filmmakers chose celebrated actor Laurence Fishburne for the role of the perennial thorn in James’ side. The mystique of having the celebrated performer in the production reverberated throughout the set. Shares Packer: “The cast was whispering ‘Morpheus is here.’ It was so cool because he’s such an actor’s actor. He has such a commanding presence and brings such a gravitas to anything that he does.”