In A Thousand Words, Eddie Murphy plays Jack McCall, a big-shot Hollywood literary agent whose insincerity irritates everyone. When McCall lies to a New Age guru, the guru punishes him by planting a magical Bodhi tree in his backyard. With every word McCall says, one of the 1,000 leaves on the tree falls, a curse that will force McCall's death when the final leaf falls. NBN talked to Clark Duke, who plays McCall's assistant Aaron, during a roundtable about his acting career and working alongside Eddie Murphy.
How was it working with Eddie Murphy?
I never quite got used to it. It was incredible. Also it was kind-of scary because his lines were so limited, so it was like I had to talk for him. Talking for Eddie Murphy is a huge challenge.
How is it going from being typecast in the role of a college student to taking a post-collegiate role in A Thousand Words?
It's really nice. I feel like now that I'm 26, I am kind-of getting over being a college student and I can move on to bigger and better things.
How would you describe Aaron, your character in A Thousand Words?
He starts meek, but by the end he becomes Eddie Murphy's character, Jack. The way Aaron is terrified all the time wasn't that hard to play, because that's how I felt acting alongside Eddie.
What makes this movie different from the typical bad-guy-turned-good movie?
There's a little more heart and compassion at the core of this movie, I think. The lead actor, Eddie Murphy, is able to be very charismatic even though he really can't say much. Plus, let's be honest: I'm in this one. That raises the bar somewhat.
Who are the actors you look up to the most?
I really like Chevy Chase. Christmas Vacation was one of my favorite movies growing up, so it was amazing to work with him in Hot Tub Time Machine. Also. most of the old cast members of Saturday Night Live have influenced me a lot, especially the members around during the period Eddie Murphy was there.
You have experience with both television and film. Which do you prefer?
I personally enjoy the film stuff the most. It's like going to summer camp — it's an intense three months, then it's over. The TV stuff is a little more of a grind. It takes longer and it can get a little more monotonous.
What was it like going from being an extra in movies to working alongside your heroes?
It's taken about 10 years. The only part that really felt like a dramatic change in my life was the time between Hot Tub Time Machine and Kick-Ass. That was when people started recognizing me. They would stop me on the street and I would have bros yelling at me. Good stuff.
What was your favorite scene to act in A Thousand Words?
There was one scene where Eddie can't talk, but he has to convey an idea, so basically I had to say what I think he would say if he could talk. I got to do a bad impression of his mannerisms, which was terrifying yet probably the most memorable scene I acted in.
Are you open to acting in dramatic roles in the future, or do you plan to stick with comedy?
Comedy is my favorite, and it's harder than absolutely anything. You can teach someone to be a good dramatic actor, but you can't teach someone to be funny. I want to keep doing comedy, which is what I love to do.
What about comedy keeps you coming back to it?
Everyone enjoys comedy to some extent. It's something you can't overthink lest you break it. So I think it's the enjoyability of it that keeps me coming back.
Which actors would you like to act with in the future?
I'd love to work with Jack Black, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Danny McBride is my absolute favorite actor ever, so it would be a dream to work with him. And I'm a huge fan of Jonah Hill, so I'd love to act alongside him as well.
What's the most important thing anyone has ever said to you?
Oh, wow. That's a hard one. There's so much great advice I've gotten, I don't think I can choose just one thing. How come you don't ask me something easy like 'What's your favorite color?' My favorite color is purple. Yep.