It’s Ladies’ Night on Friday, May 22, when the anticipated movie Chocolate City hits a theater near you. Centered around a struggling college student, the hot dance flick gives an intimate look at the life of a male stripper, as Michael (played by Robert Ri’chard) who faces several financial hardships, and follows a whim to enter an amateur night in order to provide for his family.
When his part-time gig doesn’t aid him in making ends meet, Michael finds unexpected success as a hot new sizzlin’ dancer, alongside fellow dancers Adrian (Tyson Beckford) and Magnus (Darrin Dewitt Henson) in “Sexy Chocolate.”
Co-starring big screen veteran Vivica A. Fox, supermodel Tyson Beckford, Michael Jai White, funnyman DeRay Davis and Darrin Dewitt Henson of Stomp the Yard and “Soul Food,” Chocolate City is a steamy, fun ride, with all the right moves; “a film for the whole family,” says Henson.
On the eve of the Chocolate City premiere, rolling out had the opportunity to speak with cast members Darrin Dewitt Henson and Robert Ri’chard, who gushed about the film’s potential to become a cult classic and the diverse audience they hope to reach.
Tell us about the upcoming film and your individual roles.
Darrin Dewitt Henson: Chocolate City is really a coming-of-age film that surrounds a character who captures the hearts of women when he enters amateur night at an exotic dancer club. My character, Magnus, is one of the [original] dancers in the club, who is worried about superiority and the lack thereof, based on this young man who comes in on amateur night and wins the hearts of the women. Within the subculture of these clubs, there’s a seniority among the dancers, so you really get to see a tug and pull between my character and the owner of the club (Michael Jai White) which isn’t uncommon in these clubs. This film is really about the subculture of the African American male dancer, basically.
Robert Ri’chard: I’m just going to piggyback off that and say that we all can understand and relate to the lengths someone will go to provide for their loved ones. My character is given this big opportunity on amateur night and because he put himself out there, he discovers this hidden talent that allows him to pay the bills.
There have been quite a few comparisons made to the Magic Mike franchise. What do you think of those comparisons? Do you anticipate Chocolate City becoming a series?
Henson: As far as the genre of the male dancer, that’s the only comparison that could be made. I think it’s unfair to compare the two because they’re two completely different films. It would be like comparing Stomp the Yard to Scarface. They’re two different films. But they’re about male dancers, so in that way, they’re the same.
When it comes to becoming a cult classic, I think that it’s very well on its way there in the same way that any other really good film that people have viewed, people want to see part two, part three, part four, part five. Like the Fast and Furious franchise, I think Chocolate City definitely has its own leg. I’m not saying that because I’m involved with the film. I’m saying that because it really is a good, exciting, fun film; [a] tantalizing and teasing film that never gets old.
I think that when you see the movie, you’re going to want to see and part two. You’re going to want to see what happens to these characters and what goes on in their lives outside the club.
Ri’chard: I think in general, everyone in the world loves chocolate. Everyone loves chocolate. Come out to the theater. Watch the movie and let us entertain you.
Robert, how does it feel to take the reins as the lead in this film with so many big actors on deck?
Ri’chard: Basically, someone called me and said all these great actors are coming together to do this great film and want you to hop on board. And I said thank you God! I went ahead and jumped on the film and was on set the very next day. I think also, all of us as Americans understand, we go to work, we work hard and when we’re off work, we want to have a good time. We want to entertain ourselves and be with our families. That’s really what this film is about. I recently went to a screening of the film and the number one comment was this is the most “entertaining” film I have seen. So, this is definitely a film that will make you feel great.
How was the dynamic working with Vivica, DeRay Davis and Tyson Beckford?
Henson: I wasn’t on set with Vivica but I’ve worked with her in the past and I know these guys had an amazing time. My character worked with the dancers, Michael Jai White, Ginuwine, Robert, Tyson Beckford, there were so many dancers involved. The choreography had to be constructed so there was a synergistic vibration that we worked with.
Everybody was really close. Everybody was a team player. We all worked out together while filming. I choreographed the film — and Robert came in like a superhero and just really stepped up. He came in as the lead of the film and really made sure that his presence was felt. There was a strong sense of brotherhood that really allowed us to make this the best film we possibly could to give to the audience.
Remember that this film is really about the subculture of male dancing. We got to see a glimpse of it from a female perspective in The Players Club but never really from the Black male perspective. It was there, but a little sugarcoated and no disrespect to the film, because it really set a precedent around the world, but I think we give a little bit more of a realistic vibration of what African American strip clubs or dancers are like in the film.
Ri’chard: I think for me, it’s just a dream team cast. Who wouldn’t want to play with Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan or Larry Byrd? It’s the same when it comes to these actors. I was the young buck on the film, but everyone was calm and respectful and we had so much fun! The film is very clean too. I saw it and said you know what? Whether you’re a mother or a daughter, this is for you. You’re not going to cringe. It’s just going to be a lot of fun.
What’s the main message you want fans to take away from the film?
Henson: Real quick for me, it’s not a Black film because the actors are Black. That’s number one. It’s a film about a subculture in America. The same way anybody can go enjoy another film. Anybody of any race and color can get into the film because it’s about family, a person’s desire to survive in society and discovering their ability to do so with their God-given talent. It really, really is about the American Dream.
Ri’chard: For me, it’s all about the families, buy your tickets, come out and have a good time. The same people who went to see Magic Mike will enjoy Chocolate City. It’s a PG film, so we really look forward to families coming out and enjoying it.
For more information on Chocolate City starring Robert Ri’chard, Tyson Beckford, DeRay Davis, Imani Hakim, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Carmen Electra, Ginuwine, Vivica A. Fox and Michael Jai White, follow the movement at https://www.facebook.com/chocolatecitymovie or http://www.twitter.com/choccitymovie.
Chocolate City hits select theaters on May 22. Check your local listings for more info.