The original White Men Can’t Jump has been heralded as a classic that many believe should remain untouched. Still, in 2017, Blake Griffin teamed up with Black-ish creator Kenya Barris to give the 1992 film an update. Now, over 30 years later, Sinqua Walls, Jack Harlow, Laura Harrier, and Teyana Taylor are tasked with bringing a new tale to life.
Although the new story is similar in theme and has recognizable tropes and nods to the original, its cast and creators made the recreation their own. Purposefully, the leading talent did not attempt to reboot the roles played by Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Rosie Perez, and Tyra Ferrell.
“I think we all came to the conclusion that we were going to leave the very big shoes in a glass case, and leave it beautiful and understanding that it’s not broke so we shouldn’t be trying to fix it,” explained Taylor ahead of the film’s release during a Zoom video chat. Walls, sitting proudly beside his leading lady, nodded in agreement.
“Not taking those big shoes out the case to fill them. I think what we did was customize our own pair of shoes and made it our own and we sampled a classic,” added the 32-year-old actress. “We then added our own melodies, and our own tones, and instruments, and different things like that. We call it a remix. We remixed and sampled a classic record, and we created our very own beautiful record, and it was a love letter to the original classic.”
Walls added his perspective on the weight of taking on iconic roles. Detailing his respect for the actors of past generations, the 38-year-old explained how the reboot pays homage to the past.
“We definitely, we understood the responsibility, and I think when everyone is asking [about] the pressure, it’s like, no, we understood the responsibility and we felt honored to be able to step into those shoes of all these different characters, to let the people who paved the way for us know how much we appreciated them, and how much of we wanted to make sure we honored them.”
“I think we never lost sight of the fact of what we were creating, what we were doing, and to know that, hey, we appreciate y’all for giving us this platform for paving so many ways,” he added. “As actors and also in that time, in that era, actors of color to create spaces for us to win and to grow. We took that responsibility and we remixed it in a way that we feel like does them justice and updates to today, out of all, everything out of love.”
In 2023’s version of White Men Can’t Jump, the duo star as a loving couple who are determined to succeed on their own terms. Taylor’s character Imani is a talented hairdresser, forced to take clients in their apartment until she saves enough to own a salon. Walls plays Kamal, a once-promising basketball player who derailed his future in the sport and now struggles to face his reality.
When Kamal links with Jack Harlow’s eccentric character Jeremy, a former basketball star himself, the two devise a plan to come up both on and off the court. Despite their rocky beginning, the men realize how much they have in common and what they can learn from their differences.
An important factor in Jeremy and Kamal’s success is Imani and her “ride or die within reason” mentality. Together, the couple power through the ups and downs, and because of their trust in each other, are able to succeed. As a real-life basketball wife, the “Rose In Harlem” performer was able to be inspired by herself.
“I feel like there was a lot of Teyana in Imani and vice versa,” Taylor explains. “Because, it was like, granted, Iman and I was in two different sports—I was in a sport of music and he was in a sport of basketball—and I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs, and I think that we were able to be there for one another.”
The Nanny actor has played basketball since he was six and went on to play college hoops at San Francisco University. Not only did the role tap into his athletic skills, but it allowed the actor to be on a team once again. Together, the two actors hope fans are inspired by “Kamani,” a portmanteau couple name for their White Men Can’t Jump characters.
“I think we walked in from day one saying, ‘I got you, you got me,’” Walls explained of working with Taylor.
“That’s why love is so important in the story,” he said. “And if anything, it’s like, hey, this is the kind of relationship that you want. That’s literally, instantly, what you should do for your partner.”
The A Thousand And One star echoed the importance of trusting each other to bring their portrayal of a healthy Black love story to life, agreeing with Walls on their creative process.
“Yeah, and holding each other accountable, and knowing how to also create healthy dialogue and healthy debates without burning down Rome. You get what I’m saying?”
The breakout actress added, “It’s just like, we done took things too far and now we want to work it out…well if Rome wasn’t built in a day, imagine having to clear it out to rebuild. The initial time that Rome was built…It’s like how do we avoid getting there? How do we nip it in the bud before it even gets there, and hold each other accountable and just be there for one another?”
Both of them agree. “We don’t burn down Rome over here.”
White Men Can’t Jump also stars Vince Staples, Myles Bullock, Paris Nicole, and the late Lance Reddick in supporting roles. The film is directed by Calmatic, written by Kenya Barris and Doug Hall, and produced by Barris and Paul Hall. The comedic drama is now streaming on Hulu.
Watch the full interview with Teyana Taylor and Sinqua Walls below.