Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind The Making Of “Two Can Play That Game”

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If you’re into playing games, you might have seen a bit of yourself in the 2001 film, Two Can Play That Game. It was all about the foolish things men and women do in order to keep the upper hand, maintain their sense of power in a relationship. That’s what Shante Smith (Vivica Fox) was doing when she noticed that her man Keith (Morris Chestnut) was “acting up.” You remember the whirlwind journey these two went through; and if you paid attention you might have even picked up on the take away message. You remember it all but we bet you don’t know these behind the scenes secrets. Check them out.

Director Mark Brown

If you’ve seen How To Be A Player, you’re familiar with Mark Brown. He wrote the 1997 film. Brown told the Washington Post started out as a model first and then started acting. From there, he started writing because he felt there was more control over his vision. After writing, he started directing. He pursued his craft by taking a few classes at American Film Institute and studying under directing coaches around town and shooting short films. Two Can Play That Game was his first film. After that he went on to write Barbershop, State’s Evidence and The Seat Filler.

What was the original name?

Believe it or not, Two Can Play That Game was not the original name for the film. First, the film was called “How to Make Your Man Behave.” They kept it for so long, when the cast members were promoting the film, they were still referring to the movie by the old name. In that same interview with the Washington Post, Brown explained why they decided to change the name. “We were concerned that we didn’t want to isolate the men from the audience. So “Two Can Play that Game” was less abrasive to men.

Playing Games

In a roundtable interview with the Washington Post and others, an interviewer asked Brown how he was able to write from a woman’s perspective. He said the characters were based off of women he knew.

I combined my ex-girlfriend with my sister and pretty much used their voice in their relationships and by observing the relationships that I was in.

Another interviewer asked Brown if he was concerned about perpetuating stereotypes that black couples played games in relationships.

As far as the stereotypes, my parents have been married for 50 years and I see visual game playing. In every relationship, especially in the early stages of the relationship, there is a power struggle or game playing. I think that this [movie] is an example of relationships in general, not just about women. I think women and men play games to show that they have control and who “wears the pants.”


Who was supposed to be Deirdre?

You may remember that Deirdre was Mo’Nique’s character. Though she was great in the role, she wasn’t the casting director’s original choice. She revealed in an interview with Black Film that Tyra Banks was supposed to play the character. Remember Deirdre was the fashionista friend. It didn’t work out for Tyra but we were happy to see Mo’Nique in the role.

How did Mo’Nique get the role

Since Tyra couldn’t swing it, how did Mo’Nique luck up with the role? She answered that in a Black Film interview

Well, money. (laughter) No, actually I got this movie and it actually just fell into my lap. My agent called me on a Friday and said there is a role in a movie with Vivica Fox if you want it you have to report to work on Monday. So I hadn’t even read the script. So I got there on Monday and I fell in love with the script. Actually, Tyra Banks was supposed to be Deidre. They went so far different, but I actually love that they put a glamour girl in with those tiny-weenie women. I loved that. I loved that Deidre was so close to Mo’Nique. She said what she felt and felt what she said and didn’t care. She loved who she was, she loved her man and was not afraid to talk about sex or anything. She was out there. That is who Mo’Nique is except I wouldn’t wear that cheap jewelry.

The Glamor Girl

In that same interview Mo’Nique talked about the fact that this character, Deirdre, was interested in fashion. It was important to her that the character wasn’t limited in her fashion choices just because she was plus size.

I will not wear Moo-Moo. I will not be the unattractive one because I am beautiful and I want to be glamorous. I want to show my cleavage and I want to show my legs. I want to be sensuous, I want to be all that. I will not allow them to do that. I won’t let them stereotype me as the fat girl.

The women

If it seemed like the women on set had a great rapport with one another, it’s because they did. Mo’Nique expressed her excitement about working with all of these women.

We do because we are all friends off the set. Because when you are living your dream and then you can share that with your girls and it’s their dream too, it’s awesome. Before I came here, I watched them on TV and I was like wow, I want to be there to someday. So when I met them, it was like yeah and they were real. I can appreciate that about them.

(Black Film)

The Reunion

If your memory serves you, you may have noticed that Two Can Play That Game was not the first time Vivica and Morris were tied up together. In the ’90’s they were in the short-lived sitcom, “Out All Night” together, along with Patti Labelle. Though Morris was trying to get with her during that show, Two Can Play That Game was the first time Morris got to kiss Vivica, which he enjoyed. In an interview with JETthe two talked about reuniting after all those years:

“That was many years ago when we did that and we’ve done many things since. We’ve both matured as actors and as human beings. It was fun and great to work with her again and see how far we’ve come together.” – Morris

“It was wonderful to reunite with Morris, this chocolate, big Hershey kiss. I just love it! It was nice to see how  much he has really matured into a wonderful man who I believe is underrated in Hollywood. If I can help him go into the next chapter of his career as being a sex symbol, I’m glad I have a part in that.”

Love On Set

Vivica and Morris weren’t the only two who had worked together in the past. The cast was full of members who’d been involved with other movies.

  • Vivica Fox, Anthony Anderson and producer Doug McHenry all worked together on Kingdom Come.
  • Wendy Raquel Robinson, Anthony Anderson went to Howard together.
  • Wendy and Vivica both starred in the sitcom “Getting Personal.”
  • Wendy and Bobby Brown also worked together in A Thin Line Between Love And Hate.
  • Tamala Jones, who played one of the friends in Shante’s circle, worked with Vivica in Booty Call  and lastly, Anderson and Mo’Nique worked together on the film 3 Strikes. 

Though some would think working with same actors was stale or represented some type of liability, Wendy Raquel Robinson and McHenry said it was an asset. Here’s what Wendy had to say to Culture:

“It’s a very blessed situation that many of us know each other already,” said Robinson. “It makes a huge difference on a set because there are no egos or drama and you can just be free to improv or ad lib and just try things out without having to worry about stepping on somebody’s toes. It just becomes about getting the job done and doing the best work possible.”

Vivica Out of the Dating Scene

You might not have remembered but Vivica was married once upon a time.  During the filming of the movie, she was celebrating her 2nd wedding anniversary with R&B singer, Christopher “Six-Nine” Harvest. In interviews promoting the film, she told Culture why she was happy to be out of the dating game.

“When I was dating, I was what you’d call a ‘jerk magnet,'” she says. “When you start dating, everybody goes through a period of running into these types of guys. But my philosophy is that you’ve got to kiss a couple of frogs until you find your prince. ”

The two were married in 1998 and divorced in 2002, a year after the movie was released. Rumor has it was due to infidelity on his part.

Anthony Anderson on women

In the same interview with Culture, Anderson explains how his character, Tony, was a bit shiesty and who really taught him, the real Anthony, about women.

“I’m just lucky to be in a loving relationship with my wife. But it’s interesting that for someone giving out all this advice, you don’t see my character in a relationship in the movie. In real life, everything I know about women, I’ve learned from my wife. You’ve got to know when to shut up and you only speak when spoken to. You know, I just sit in the corner and play with the kids. That’s how things work in my house. “

Keep it clean

In that same Washington Post interview, one journalist noted that though there were sex scenes, there was no nudity in the movie. They asked director Mark Brown about this and whether it was a conscious decision. See why he made this decision.

Absolutely. I think that you can tell an effective story without a lot of nudity and cursing. There was an effort to stay away from that. My parents are Seventh Day Adventists and are really strict and I wanted them to see this movie.

I would say this is a date and relationship movie. If you are in a relationship, you can leave with something from the movie. 

Roger Ebert Says…

Roger Ebert usually has some pretty thoughtful things to say about all movies and is often one of the few mainstream critics who understand black films. While he thought there were charming moments from the movie, he ultimately thought the playing of the games was a bit cheesy.

The movie does have charm and moments of humor, but what it doesn’t have is romance. The Shante character is so analytical and calculating that life with her might be hell on earth for poor Keith, even with all of Tony’s advice. By Day 7, I was wondering if any man is worthy of (or deserves) such treatment. And Shante doesn’t just narrate a little from time to time; she must have half the dialogue in the movie, even interrupting love scenes to explain to the audience in great detail what is happening, and why. What we basically have here is “Waiting to Inhale.”

Commercial success

 Though Ebert thought it was kind of cheesy, commercially, the movie did really well. The movie cost $6 million to make and made $7 million in the first weekend. Though that’s not necessarily a blockbuster, the film eventually went on to make $35 million.

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