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What You Don’t Know About the Actresses of the Single Moms Club

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Tyler Perry’s new movie about the hardships of being a single mom opens tomorrow Friday, March 14th. I was lucky enough to be invited to breakfast and a Q & A with the 5 actresses of the film: Nia Long (May), Wendi McLendon-Covey (Jan), Cocoa Brown (Lytia), Amy Smart (Hillary) and Zulay Henao (Esperanza). I learned how they connected to their characters and how their real life situations impacted the development of the film, which by the way, is very funny and touching. Here are the highlights:

NIA LONG
Nia Long plays May, a single mom with a teenage son, who is trying to help her son cope with an absent father. Most of us remember Nia as the actress who played Will Smith’s longtime girlfriend in The Fresh Prince of Bell Air. What you don’t know is that the actor Massai Zhivago Dorsey II who plays her son in The Single Moms Club, is actually Nia’s son. When Nia was offered the job by Tyler Perry, she mentioned that her son was the same age as Ricky, May’s son in the movie. Tyler responded by offering the part to Massai. The impressive thing about Nia is that she declined Perry’s initial offer. “Oh no, my son is going to audition like everyone else.” And Massai did audition for the role and won it fair and square. What a great example of good parenting. Kudos to Nia for expecting her son to earn his way into the film like everyone else and not just handing him the role on a silver platter. Big mommy points to Nia who seriously gets what’s important!!

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WENDI MCLENDON-COVEY
We know the famous comedienne from Brides Maids (Rita) and her new television series The Goldbergs (Beverly Goldberg). Wendi entered the room and sat at our table with a vivacious, “Hi Girls!” as if we had been besties forever and hadn’t seen each other in a while. I found her personality infectious as her energy lit up the whole room. Wendi plays a driven business woman who chose to have her child alone. The most interesting thing I learned about Wendi was that she did not have children and didn’t really have that desire to procreate that many of us do. She believes that women can have it all, just not all at the same time. This is the exact sentiment that her character Jan, who thinks women can have it all, all the time, has to wrestle with. Wendi said that because she is very into her career she can understand how her character would be tempted to just throw money at the child to keep her out of your hair while you are building your career. She also said she loved working with actress Cassie Brennan who plays Jan’s daughter Kate. Tyler Perry encourages improv in his films and during a scene on the steps of the school while improving, Wendi admits that Cassie really made her cry and she couldn’t stop. So when you see the scene where Kate really gives it to Jan, know that Wendi is truly crying and completely enmeshed with Jan.

COCOA BROWN
Funny and beautiful Cocoa Brown plays a single mom of FIVE (oh yeah, I said 5) children. Another high octane actress kept us in stitches during the interview. Cocoa who started the film as a married woman ended up divorced by the wrap. When she was handed her baby boy, now 18 months old, she looked at him and said, “Well, it’s just you and me.” She knows first-hand what it is like to unexpectedly be a single mom. No-one really plans on this (well, almost no-one). Cocoa also shared that she too did a lot of improv in the movie. Tyler encourages it. He told Cocoa, “I trust your funny.” Much of the movie is spontaneous improvisation, which I love!! I love Cocoa too!

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AMY SMART
Amy is adorable as the newly divorced mother of three, who hasn’t a clue as to how to manage without her husband and maid. The poor woman stumbles around the house shell shocked with baby appropriately screaming in the background. Amy who does not have children of her own can relate to her character Hillary as a person that is just checked out of her life. She knows people who are kind of checked out and has a feel for what that might be like. In the movie she does a hilarious scene with actor Ryan Eggold who plays her hot, contractor neighbor. Here’s the fun part, in her real life, she is married to the very hunky carpenter of Trading Spaces fame Carter Oosterhouse. As she enthusiastically told me at the after party, “I have the real thing!” Way to go Amy!!

ZULAY HENAO
Wow, is this woman beautiful. So is her onscreen love, William Levy! Sometimes don’t you wonder how people can actually be this beautiful? Zulay plays a single mom with a real jerk of an ex-husband, played by Eddie Cibrian. The ex is constantly undermining and bullying her into submission. I thought it courageous of Zulay to share with us how sometimes she can lose herself in a relationship and that she was going through a transformation and break up while filming The Single Mom’s Club. She found a critical scene in the movie cathartic as she and her character were both finding their way back to themselves and both finding their strength simultaneously. After the scene, Tyler approached her and asked if she felt better. She was amazed that he knew. Tyler is very intuitive, “He’s like a witch or something”, he just knows things. So when we watch Zulay act, we are also watching her grow into herself on a very personal level.

I have to say, I really enjoyed meeting the actresses and learning a little bit about each of them. I find it interesting how their personal lives really reflected the lives of the women in the movie. After knowing all the little tidbits, I have to say that I enjoyed the film even more the second time.

Terri Garcia has been a Southern California girl since the age of two. She has lived in Los Angeles County and both North and South Orange County. A stay-at-home mom and confessed “pinaholic”, she loves all things creative. She believes in giving back and practicing random acts of kindness. She finds joy in creating thoughtful, creative gifts, traveling, historical fiction and most importantly being mom to two very active boys. Similar to the Little Red Hen, she likes to do things herself; although in the end, she will happily share the homemade bread with family and friends.
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