|Everyone Feeling 'Just Wright'
About Movie Shoot at the IZOD Center
--Queen Latifah, Common star; Nets Players and Coaches to appear--
By Ben Couch -- NJNETS.com
August 17, 2009
East Rutherford, N.J.—Behind the benches at the IZOD Center on Wednesday, as players donning Nets and Heat uniforms milled about, the lower tier was packed with fans cheering wildly for the Nets, and yet nary a sound escaped anyone’s lips … until the director yelled “Cut!”
And with that, the normal buzz born of a few thousand spectators sitting had returned. The mass of extras were on hand for the on-location shooting of “Just Wright,” an upcoming romantic comedy starring Queen Latifah and Common. Latifah will play a physical therapist, Leslie Wright, who falls in love with the Nets’ star she’s rehabbing, Scott McKnight (Common). It’s a merger of work and passion for the Queen, who grew up a Nets fan in Newark and also played power forward on her high school basketball team.
“It’s a trip, and it’s a lot of fun,” Latifah said. “I’m nowhere near what I used to be, but to actually grab a basketball and be on an NBA court is crazy! I put a ball in that basket yesterday and now I can watch the games and say, ‘Oh, I put one in there.’ You know? It’s pretty exciting. I think everybody who’s not a professional athlete out there who has the opportunity to do this is having the time of their lives.”
That includes a number of Nets season-ticket holders, who were invited to serve as extras during the three-day shoot. They worked 10-hour days, earned a little spending money and learned how movie magic happens.
The answer is slowly and with much repetition. Jay Brustman, who’s been a season-ticket holder for 25 years, brought his 10-year-old daughter Marci to Wednesday’s shoot. Marci has participated in several school productions, including High School Musical and Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and expressed an interest in film to her father. When Jay received an e-mail from the team announcing the shoot and chance to be an extra, he applied right away.
The duo said they spent most of the shoot sitting and cheering, time and again. But they did get a kick out of seeing Nets coaches and players, and the various actors, up close. And yet the new vantage point only served to reinforce Brustman’s season-ticket seat selection.
“It’s weird sitting down here,” Brustman said. “I sit in section 108, row 15, and I’ve never been this close. But I think it’s better to be a little bit higher up. I wouldn’t want to sit here for a whole game -- you get blocked out a lot. When Coach Frank stands up you get obscured.”
Frank wasn’t the only familiar face for Nets fans in attendance – Team President Rod Thorn, forward Bobby Simmons, announcers Marv Albert and Kenny Smith, and even NBA superstars Dwight Howard and Dwyane Wade were all on-hand to make appearances. Simmons was personally invited to participate by Common.
The two Chicago natives have known each other since Simmons was in high school. Common, whose father is ABA player Lonnie Lynn, used to play at Simmons’ high school gymnasium on the weekends. He credited Common with opening doors for Windy City actors and musicians to work in the entertainment industry, while noting that shooting a movie for the first time was a natural extension of his endeavors in entertainment and marketing, starting with his play on the court.
“‘Lights, camera, action!’ I’m used to that,” Simmons said. “But ‘cut’ -- you can’t ‘cut’ in a basketball game. That’s the fun part about it, having the opportunity to get it right. It’s working on perfection, and that’s key. It’s like shooting a foul shot: repetition is what makes you better.”
Latifah could second that, as she worked hard to establish herself as an actress after breaking through as a rapper 20 years ago. Though she’s now a bankable star, she never forgot about the team she rooted for throughout her youth.
“I am a Nets fan!” she exclaimed, proudly. “Daryl Dawkins used to get his hair cut at the barbershop over my house growing up. I’ve been a nets fan since I was a kid, so I thought I was kind of a big deal because I knew Daryl Dawkins. He spoke to me on the block, it meant a lot. I’m kind of curious and excited to see what’s going to happen over the next two years, where they will wind up, but I think I’ll be here on the East Coast a lot more, so I’m definitely trying to catch a lot more games.”