May 11th, 2012
10:05 AM ET
After appearing in heavyweight movies like “Seven Pounds" and “For Colored Girls," Michael Ealy's been looking to lighten the mood.
The 38-year-old actor, who's also starred in acclaimed series like “Californication” and “The Good Wife,” is currently bringing laughs as part of the ensemble cast in the romantic comedy “Think Like a Man,” which grossed over $30 million in its opening weekend.
And in USA Network’s new series “Common Law,” which premieres Friday at 10 p.m. ET, Ealy's set to show even more of his comedic side.
"Common Law" follows two bickering homicide detectives, Travis Marks (Ealy) and Wes Mitchell (Warren Kole), who are ordered to go into couples therapy.
The producers were actually hesitant at first as to whether Ealy could handle the comedic aspects, since he was known for more dramatic roles, and the actor told CNN that he had to audition three times for the part.
The actor proved he could swing it, and now joins Sonya Walger and Jack McGee in the new series. It's right on time, too, as Ealy told us he'd been looking for lighter and more fun parts to play.
“Two years ago, I decided it was time to diversify, and that meant trying other genres,” he said. “I thought ... 'I need to laugh a little bit.'”
Another draw for Ealy is "Common Law's" buddy cop premise with a modern twist. Growing up, he used to religiously watch buddy cop series and movies like “Lethal Weapon" and "Bad Boys."
“I always wanted to have ‘Bad Boys’ on TV,” Ealy said. “‘Common Law’ is reminiscent of my youth.”
What makes the show stand out to him is the focus on the relationship between the detectives rather than just the case itself, as in other procedural series.
“The market is infiltrated with law enforcement [shows], but rarely do we show cops as humans,” Ealy said. “The case is important but the relationships are even more important, and that’s why it belongs on a network like USA, where it’s ‘Characters Welcome.’”
When Ealy first read the script and learned more about his character, he said Marks seemed very different and a lot like his brother. In Ealy’s mind, the character is just as competent as Elliot Stabler from “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” but the audience gets to see more of Marks’ humanity, flaws and quirks. So, what's a better way to summarize him?
“Defining [Marks] is difficult for me,” he said. “What I look for is [a mix of] Axel Foley from ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ and John McClane.”
The laid-back and flirtatious attitude that Marks has clashes with his partner Mitchell’s serious and obsessive nature, qualities Ealy's developed over time with co-star Kole. When they first met, Ealy said they had nothing in common, except being Washington Redskins fans. The more episodes they shot, the closer they became.
“It’s kind of like playing jazz, when these two guys are at their best and they are just making music,” he said. “You as a [viewer] have to just sit back.”
Kevin Hart was another person Ealy became better acquainted with after filming “Think Like a Man” with him. The comedian apparently gave him comedy tips to prepare for “Common Law.”
Many fans of Ealy have been following him since his stint on the comedy "Barbershop," where he had the chance to show how funny he can be. After joining Twitter recently, the actor said he was amazed by the sheer number of people who remembered the role.
"What is always amazing [is] to meet all these people who have watched me since 'Barbershop,'" he said.
Ealy added there was a reason that he had not appeared in many romantic comedies during his career.
“I have waited for the right rom-com to come along, and my patience paid off,” he said of his part in "Think Like A Man." “I was drawn to the script, not only for my own character, but for where the other characters are going.”
The fact that he got to woo Taraji P. Henson was a bonus.
“I had a love story with Taraji P. Henson,” he said. “I was like the luckiest guy to be able to do this role. I have been trying to work with her for seven years.”
Some of Ealy’s next projects include an independent movie called “Unconditional,” which is about a woman who is torn between seeking revenge for her dead husband and moving on by working for an under-resourced community.
After his big-budget movies and TV roles, doing an independent could seem an odd choice. But Ealy said he is not too keen to limiting himself in one area of entertainment.
“I honestly think I’m just an actor,” he said. “It doesn’t matter the medium. I can go on stage and be happy, I can be on TV and be happy.”
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