Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind The Making Of “Jason’s Lyric”
At the core, Jason’s Lyric is a love story, at least three to four times over. There’s the dysfunctional type of love between Joshua and Jason’s parents, that starts all of the drama in the first place. There’s the familial love that keep Jason in Houston for so long, defending, rationalizing and protecting his brother and then there’s the love story between Lyric and Jason, who have to figure out a way to escape their toxic surroundings if they want their relationship to work. You know the movie, you remember that one scene…you know what I’m talking about. You might even have memorized some of the lines but you probably don’t know the behind the scenes secrets. Check them out below.
Remember how saucy that love scene was? I just can’t talk about this scene without mentioning the grass that was stuck to Allen Payne’s butt cheeks as he and Jada were rolling around in the hay. Well as graphic as that scene was, there was much more to it. So much that it was going to receive an X rating. The team had to trim down the sex scene and then it was an “R.”
You may best know Suzzanne Douglas from that Robert Townsend show, “Parent Hood.” But before that, she was in Jason’s Lyric as the mother, “Gloria.” Though she played the mother to Allen Payne and Bokeem Woodbine, who played the troubled brother “Joshua,” Douglas is actually only 11 years older than Payne.
Jada didn’t trust the director
Jada was on the cusp of a very active career in the ’90’s, and decided to take on the role of “Lyric.” But just because she agreed to the role, didn’t mean that she was exactly comfortable with how people would perceive her. In 1994, she told the Philadelphia Inquirer that she didn’t know how McHenry was going to manipulate her image.
“I just didn’t trust Doug (McHenry, the director) and the vision of what he wanted to do. He could exploit an image of what people might think of me, but I wasn’t going to allow him to do that to me.”
Jada was so against McHenry that she stated she would prefer not to work with him again.
Since Jada was so worried about her image, it was largely reported that she used a body double during, not only the sex scenes, but the Inquirer claims that wasn’t even her kissing Allen Payne. Hmm… I don’t know about all of that. That looked like Jada to me.
Wasn’t disappointed by what she saw on screen though
Though she was initially worried, Jada was happy with the final product. In fact, she even felt that the unedited love scene would have been appropriate. In the same interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pinkett said that the NC-17 rating was assigned because of racism. “There is no secret that there is a double standard when black films are rated.” Even some in the black community took issue with the scene. Pinkett said it has to do with the hangups some people have about sexuality. “There was no rape, no derogatory imagery, in Jason’s Lyric. Arnold Schwarzenegger can kill 50 people in his movies, and nobody is having a fit about that, but if you try to express a healthy physical love for someone in a movie, that’s a problem.”
Though Jada said that she would prefer not to work with McHenry again, the two would pair up once more when he directed Kingdom Come. Wonder what changed?
Who’s the director?
Judging by McHenry’s Ivy league background, (He graduated from from Stanford with an Economics degree and then went to Harvard to get a law degree.), you might not think he would make a movie like this. After school, he worked in the record industry before jumping into film.
What he thought about the NC-17 rating
Just like Jada, McHenry wasn’t too pleased about the Motion Picture Association of America trying to impose the NC-17 rating on the film. He also thought it was racial. “The violence didn’t bother them. They were uncomfortable (with) sexual intimacy between African-Americans.”
Despite the violent and sexual content, in an interview with Luke Ford for his book The Producers: Profiles In Frustration, McHenry still felt the overall message of the film was hopeful and even offered a non-stereotypical picture of love in different facets.
“I’m attempting to put a role model out there,” he says. “He’s not a rapper, a gangster, or an athlete. He’s an everyday guy.”
Why he decided to do it
In that same interview with Ford, McHenry, who’s directed movies like House Party 2 and Kingdom Come and produced movies like New Jack City, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate and Two Can Play That Game, said that Jason’s Lyric was the movie he related to the most.
“The movie that’s closest to me is Jason’s Lyric. I decided that I was going to direct something. I read a script that had potential. I saw a lot of my background in it. I said, I have the power to do it. I don’t give a Isht. I’m directing this movie. And I got the money and I did it. It was Romeo and Juliet in the ghetto. It had a lot of different themes in it. The message to me was two things. Sometimes to be a hero, you have to walk away. The hero doesn’t always kick the bad guy’s A$$. Sometimes you have to destroy the person, and sometimes you walk away. And if you truly love someone unconditionally, you have to let that person go. Because that person’s destiny may not be intertwined with yours.”
How he responded to the criticism of the film
In something of a Spike Lee response, McHenry talked about how the critics received Jason’s Lyric. He claimed that some didn’t understand it and some just weren’t paying attention at all because the film featured an all black cast.
“There are two communities. Reviewers don’t understand black movies. They don’t understand the vernacular and they don’t understand the situation the actors are portraying… I don’t know how anybody could not like the movie.”Take Kingdom Come  with Whoopi Goldberg and Loretta Divine. Do you think the Academy Awards people will pay any attention to these fine performances? If my name was Woody Allen, and I didn’t have to raise a dime, and could make anything I want because he’s got a tribe of people that support his A$$, I would get Academy award nominations. “African-Americans are a minority in this industry. Being black has no biological significance at all. We’re not a different species. Racism is in the interest of the majority or we wouldn’t have it.
Whatever happened to Lisa Nicole Carson?
Remember Lyric’s hood, yet super sensitive and romantic friend, “Marti”? When Lyric told her about Jason washing her feet, Marti, who was dating Lyric’s brother, “Alonzo,” said “I would love for a ni**a to wash these feet!” Between her romantic nature and those absolutely outrageous hair styles, Marti was a supporting character we couldn’t forget. Then shortly after, Lisa Nicole Carson, went on to play the best friend to Nia Long in Love Jones. After that Carson kind of disappeared.
A few years ago, BET caught up with Carson to see what she’d been up to. This is what she had to say.
“Well I did take a break from acting although I have been seeing everything on Broadway and most of the stuff on off Broadway. And I’ve been reading scripts from time to time and keeping my acting chops as fluid as I can possibly keep them, but mostly I’ve been working on my singing and my songwriting. I write songs so it’s something that I want to get out there and share with the world and let them see that part of me that’s deeply personal but extremely valid. Let’s hope. You know this business is crazy but I’m going to give it all I got.”
Lisa Nicole Carson didn’t have a problem with director
While Jada was hesitant about how her image would be used in her sex scene, Lisa Nicole Carson, who also had a sex scene, though she got to keep her clothes on, felt very comfortable with McHenry and all of the directors she’s worked with thus far. She told BET:
I definitely have a very soft spot for those films that I did. I have to give all props to the directors – in “Eve’s Bayou,” Kasi Lemmons and in “Love Jones,” Ted Witcher – and even Carl Franklin (“Devil In A Blue Dress”) and Doug McHenry and George Jackson (“Jason’s Lyric”). I think they all had passion, they had talent, and I think everything just came together for them. They knew what they wanted, they knew how to cast, they knew how to write in certain circumstances and it was just a beautiful time for Black cinema.
Ebert dug it
While McHenry said some critics didn’t get the film or blamed racism for it being rated harshly, Roger Ebert, appreciated the film. He praised both Allen Payne for being the good guy without being a “goodie two shoes” caricature and Bokeem Woodbine, “Joshua,” who was responsible for much of the conflict in the movie.
The performances are strong, and particularly so because Jason, the “good brother,” is not portrayed as the sort of wimp that this genre usually calls for. Just because he is responsible and hard-working and wears a “dumb uniform” on the job doesn’t make him soft; we gradually realize that he’s harder than his ex-con brother. It’s invigorating, how much confidence it has, and how much space it allows itself.
Do you agree? Was this a good movie in your opinion?