By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
The brunette beauty, who is dating Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, says joining the franchise and getting a chance to get in on the action as a Miami police detective was a blast.
Best known for her work as a “fake” journalist on “The Daily Show” and subsequently appearing in the ensemble cast of “The Newsroom,” Munn said by phone from Miami (where much of the “Ride Along 2” sequel was shot) that she was excited to do more physical comedy.
The 35-year-old says she always wanted to be an actress, but her strict Chinese mother, who immigrated to Oklahoma from Vietnam after the war and married an American, wanted her to study something more practical than acting in college, so she majored in journalism at the University of Oklahoma. The skills she learned in college came in handy when she served as a correspondent for the Showtime documentary series “Years of Living Dangerously,” where she interviewed the governor of Washington State.
Movie audiences will remember her as the on-again, off-again girlfriend of Channing Tatum’s title character in “Magic Mike” and a fearless mom in 2014’s “Deliver Us From Evil.”
In “Ride Along 2,” she plays a no-nonsense police detective named Maya, who gets involved in a drug trafficking investigation led by Ice Cube’s Atlanta-based Det. James Payton, and his wise-cracking, frantic soon-to-be brother-in-law, Ben Barber (Kevin Hart, reprising his role). As they try to track down and bring down the drug kingpin to justice, they also discover some unscrupulous local politicians that may be part of the ring.
Munn spoke about co-starring with Ice Cube, Kevin Hart and fellow newcomer to the franchise Ken Jeong.
Q: How did you like playing a detective in this?
Munn: There were two main things that attracted me to this. I wanted to work with Kevin and Cube. I think Kevin is hilarious and Cube is, obviously, iconic and a brilliant entertainer. That was an exciting opportunity. But what also excited me was to play that I got to play a detective who got to carry a gun and run around and chase the bad guys, and actually be one of the guys. When I saw that, I told Tim Story, the director, I said, “Yeah, I’m down for that!”
Q: You look incredibly fit in this. Did you do a special workout?
Q: What about handling the weapons? Did you have train for that?
Munn: That, I did. I learned how to use a gun and became comfortable and confident about handling it. I learned how to be safe with it.
I shot this in 2014 and then I shot “X-Men: Apocalypse” last summer. That’s when I really started working out and getting in shape. I’m happy that I look in shape but it’s a marked difference in how I looked in “Ride Along 2” and how I feel now.
Q: I would guess all the running around and action got you ready for “X-Men.”
Munn: Yeah. There was a lot of running in this, and we would do take after take. Keeping up with the guys was my motivation. It wasn’t really a problem, though, so that was good.
Q: You have a fun dance scene with Benjamin Bratt where you do the tango.
Munn: That was a lot of fun because we had to take dance lessons together. There was a lot of choreography to learn, which was really fun. I’d never done the salsa before so I had to learn that.
Q: How is he as a dance partner?
Munn: He’s awesome. He and I wanted to learn and we were good students. We both worked really hard and practiced and practiced. He was so collaborative and fun, and he’s really strong. I knew that when I had to do a dip or twirl that he was going to catch me. It’s a great way to get to know somebody—take a dance class together. You really have to be vulnerable and trust each other, and be OK with looking silly. It’s OK to look silly because you’re on your way to, hopefully, looking not silly.
Q: Maybe we’ll see you on “Dancing with the Stars?”
Munn: Oh God, no!
Q: You have a multicultural cast. Two African-American leads, plus Asian and Latino supporting players. Do you think this diversity reflects the changes going on in Hollywood to better reflect society?
Munn: Kevin Hart is one of the top comedians in the world. He basically stands alone. He just has talent. He and Cube made the first movie such a success based on their talent. The great thing about the producers and the director, Tim Story, they’re not looking at color, they’re looking for people with the right chemistry and the right dynamic.
When they called me about coming in and doing this part, I wasn’t sure, at first. But then I met Kevin backstage at an awards show and instantly we were joking around and riffing. Afterwards, I told my reps, “Yeah, I’ll do it.” I just loved him so much. That’s what I think is so great about the producing team and the director, they’re just looking for chemistry and who fits best together, so the color of your skin or your race doesn’t come into the equation.
Q: The scene where you and Cube are riding in the front seat of a pickup truck and Kevin and Ken are in the back riffing, how much was improvised and how fun was it shooting that scene?
Munn: That was one of my favorite scenes to shoot. Every time I shot a scene with Kevin, I would break down laughing. At least half the takes were ruined because I was laughing so hard. It’s like being front and center at one of the funniest improv shows you could see whenever Kevin and Ken were together.
Q: Did Ice Cube ever break character and start laughing while you were shooting that scene?
Munn: No, Cube rarely breaks. That’s what makes me laugh even more sometimes when Kevin was acting crazy and then I’d look over at Cube and see him straight-faced. It just makes me laugh and that’s when I’d break.
Q: Did Tim Story let you improvise some of your lines? For example, the scene where Benjamin’s character is trying to make a move on you and you just give him a high five and walk away?
Munn: That was all improvised. Tim just said to me, “Go do what you want.” It was just an opportunity to have fun. You gotta get in and gotta get out, but the rest you can have fun with.
Q: Do you want to do more comedy?
Munn: I just want to work. All actors just want to have the opportunity to do great work. When I got the opportunity to do “The Daily Show” and Jon Stewart, it was exciting for me. And then came “The Newsroom,” and working with Steven Soderbergh. And now, working with Kevin. So whatever the genre is, I just want to continue to work with great people.
Q: You’re developing a TV show for the CW?
Munn: Yeah, I have a production company with CBS Studios so I sold the show. It’s not for me to star in. The shows that we’re developing are to create vehicles for other people. So we’re working on that. Ted Humphrey, a writer with “The Good Wife,” is onboard to help with the writing and to help flesh it out. Going forward, it’ll be fun to go behind the camera and create vehicles for other people and see what I can do from the other side.
Q: When you posted your picture in costume as Psylocke on Instagram, you nearly broke the Internet. There are so many “X-Man” fans excited about the upcoming “X-Men: Apocalypse,” what can you say about playing that character and joining the “X-Men” franchise?
Munn: Psylocke is a telekinetic, a telepath. I’ve loved her since I was a kid. She’s really lethal and not afraid to use her strength. She’s introduced to audiences in this movie. It was really fun to do, and not just because I got to put on the costume but to be able to run. I learned how to wield a sword and I learned Tae Kwon Do and all of those things. It was fun to learn all of those skills and be able to develop them and really feel like the character. Whenever you get to join that caliber of actors and director (Bryan Singer), it’s exciting. You always hope for opportunities like this but they don’t always come around.