Will Packer’s name has echoed through Hollywood for more than two decades. His career as a producer began in 1994 when he and director Rob Hardy released Chocolate City in 1994. Since then, his credits have soared as he’s made fans Think Like a Man, go on a Girls Trip, and laugh so hard it’s made them cry on a Ride Along. But today, he’s Breaking In to theaters nationwide with his latest thriller starring Gabrielle Union.
As his 27th (major) film, Packer challenges the traditional mold of Black cinema by using Union to illustrate the range instilled in actors of color beyond the stereotypical roles as maids, thugs, and the token Black friend seen in mainstream film. Thus, contrary to clichéd notions about Black Hollywood, Packer’s hour-and-a-half thriller will have fans sitting at the edge of their seats, whispering “WTF” while screaming at Shaun (Gabby), her daughter, Jasmine (Ajiona Alexus) and her son, Glover (Seth Carr) to fight, kill and run for their lives.
To celebrate the release of another Blockbuster, Packer sat down with The Source to dish on his work with Gabrielle, “typical” Black mother characters portrayed on camera and everything he has in store for the future — eight new films to be exact!
[Editor’s Note: Exclusive movie clips included]
The Source: How did you end up recruiting Gabrielle Union as the lead for this film?
Will Packer: I was working with Gab on another project, and this pitch came to me about a reverse home invasion movie. A little bit of a different take on the typical home invasion movie where the family is trapped in the house or trying to keep the bad guys out. [In] this version, Gabrielle’s character had to break inside the house to save the family from the bad guys. I was talking to Gab, and I said, ‘You haven’t really whooped ass on screen since Bad Boys 2. Are you still trying to do that?’ She said, ‘I’d love to. I just haven’t had the opportunity.’ I talked to her about it, gave her the pitch and she was all in. I never thought about anybody except Gabrielle Union. It was always going to be Gab.
Does this movie embody the typical Black mother character?
You know (laughs)…I don’t know if there is a typical Black mom. It definitely is a Black mom…the thing about this character is that it’s not like Gab has any special skill set or that she’s CIA or anything. She’s just a mom — but that’s enough. The character is specific enough to know it’s a Black mom for sure, but it could be any mom. She said, ‘Let’s have the character act the way I would really act. Let’s have the character do the things and have the nuances that give her some texture and some flavor.’
What capacity did James Lopez and Craig Perry have in helping you put this film together?
James is my producing partner in Will Packer Productions. He’s the head of film there. We do everything together, and [he was] instrumental in finding the director, James McTeague, who’s known for his work on V for Vendetta and The Matrix. Craig Perry (American Pie, Final Destination) is the one who pitched the project to me. He came up with the idea. That’s kind of how this team works together. Gabrielle was actually a producer on this film as well, so she helped us with casting and getting the script tight.
What other movies did you have to pull from to know that James McTeague was the perfect guy to film this movie?
He had done V For Vendetta and a movie called Survivor…he had a really strong reel. The thing about him is that he got the script. He got script, and he had a vision of how he wanted to execute it.
How does it feel to be an HBCU graduate turned billion-dollar filmmaker?
Everything I needed to know, I learned at an HBCU— FAMU to be exact. They taught me that I have the confidence to overcome any challenge [and] that I’ve got what it takes. I learned that in an environment that was competitive, yet nurturing. Hollywood is tough. It’s competitive. It can be cutthroat [and] adversarial, but I never worry if I’m enough because I have that confidence an that was instilled in me in those college days.
What’s on deck for Will Packer in 2018?
I have a movie called Night School, which is super dope. [It stars] Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish. We’re also in production with a movie called What Men Want with Taraji P. Henson, which is dropping in January. I got a couple of TV projects on OWN that I’m excited about. I got a major team around me and we’re hustling, brother. We’re hustling. That’s what it takes.