The actor: Vivica A. Fox made an indelible impression on moviegoers as Will Smith’s stripper girlfriend in the 1996 blockbuster hit Independence Day before moving on to meaty parts in hits like 1996’s Set It Off and 1997’s Booty Call and Soul Food. Then Quentin Tarantino provided a big career boost by casting her as part of a squadron of foxy assassins targeted for revenge by Uma Thurman in 2003’s Kill Bill Volume 1. Fox had a comeback in 2007 when Larry David cast her as a woman who evolves or devolves from being his houseguest to being his nightmare girlfriend in a scene-stealing role on Curb Your Enthusiasm. She’s logged plenty of time in the reality-show trenches as well, both as a contestant on Dancing With The Stars and as the host of The Cougar and Glam God. In 2006, Fox produced and starred in Je’Caryous Johnson’s play Whatever She Wants. A filmed version of the play has just been released on DVD.
Whatever She Wants (2009)—“Vivian Wolf”
Vivica A. Fox: Whatever She Wants was Vivica’s return to the stage. I hadn’t done theater in years. When I started off as an actress, I did at a play at the Taper Too Theatre here in Los Angeles, called In The Abyss Of Coney Island. That was more of a dramatic play. It was a small theater house. This was the first time I was literally on the road, doing a play, for four months. It was a traveling play, eight shows a week, starring role. I was in nine of the 11 scenes. It was a lot of work. Not only was I starring in the role, but I was producing the play as well. Being a producer and a star of the play was a lot more challenging and difficult than I ever anticipated, but so rewarding. I got to be involved with the writing, the casting. Je’Caryous Johnson and Gary Guidry from I’m Ready Productions gave me a wonderful opportunity, and we produced a wonderful play that was so well-received. And I was involved with writing it, getting it together, developing it, as well as casting. We got Boris Kodjoe to come along, who I had never had a chance to work with. Richard Roundtree got to play my father. This is the third or fourth time Richard and I have gotten to work together, and he played my dad.
AVC: Do you feel like he’s your surrogate father?
VAF: He’s like my surrogate dad. He is. Shaft is my surrogate daddy. I mean, why not? He’s a bad motha—shut your mouth now. So that was really fun and really well-received. I really loved it, and I got an NAACP Theatre Award for outstanding performance. So that was really rewarding. We’re also about to team up again to do another play that I’m about to go back on the road with in March, called Cheaper To Keep Her, starring Brian McKnight. And I’m going to go back out there and do it again, because I really loved every night, being in front of the audience, letting my audience see me in person. It’s real intimate, you get to make them laugh and cry, they get to feel you. And then afterward, we go out and do a meet-and-greet session with the fans. It was just a wonderful experience. I really, really enjoyed it.
Born On The Fourth Of July (1989)—“Hooker, VA Hospital”
VAF: What I remember about that experience is that if you went to go see Born On The Fourth Of July and you happened to take a bathroom break real quick or grab some popcorn, you probably missed me. It was short, but it was memorable. It was a wonderful opportunity to work with Oliver Stone and Tom Cruise. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work with those two? But it was really small and not that memorable.
AVC: Do you remember any of your lines?
VAF: I was a prostitute, honey, and I was making out in the bed, so there wasn’t a lot to remember. But I do remember that I didn’t know that it was Tom Cruise one day, because he was just coming back from the war. He looked all jacked-up, and his hair was all jacked-up. And he walked by and there were so many people and I was so new to the business, and he introduced himself to me. And the only way I really remembered it was him was when he walked away, I said, “Nice to meet you.” And I remember the most beautiful and intense blue eyes I had ever seen in my life. And he walked away and I went, “Oh my God. Was that Tom Cruise?” And he turned back and looked at me and said, “Yeah. I look kinda jacked-up, huh?” And I was like, “Oh man!” So that was my first meeting with Tom Cruise. Since then, of course, we’ve seen each other tons of times.
Don’t Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood (1996)—“Ashtray’s Mother”
VAF: That was really fun as well. It was a spoof on Angela Bassett. You know, Boyz N The Hood at the time was huge. It was groundbreaking. It was a wonderful thing for John Singleton and all these other actors, and for us to spoof it was really, really cool. It was the first time I got to work with Keenen Ivory Wayans, and I had a good time doing it. I really did.
Independence Day (1996)—“Jasmine Dubrow”
VAF: Going from doing a spoof to being a superhero’s girlfriend… I played the stripper with a heart of gold who wins the guy. And me and Will Smith won an MTV Award for Best Kiss, which was cool because we went up against Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly [in Bound]. So I’m so glad we beat out the chick kiss. That was cool, but talk about a lot of training and preparation I’ll never forget. My funniest story with that is that I actually had to do a strip scene. And I remember I was living in Inglewood, California at the time, so they found a local strip joint there, and I met a stripper there at 9 o’clock in the morning when the strip joint was closed, and on the very first day, she said, “I need you to show up with heels that are four inches high and a G-string, and leave your inhibitions at the door.” I was like “Oh wow. This is going to be great.” But I did pretty good.
AVC: Kind of like a boot camp for stripping?
VAF: Yeah, I definitely had stripper boot camp. And then we also went to work out afterward.
AVC: Did you have a sense of how huge this movie was going to be?
VAF: Well, I’m going to tell you when I knew Independence Day was pretty big. Because at first, I was so happy to get the role, because everyone was going out for it. I didn’t even get a chance to audition, because I was on a soap opera at the time, and they were like, “Honey, you just don’t have a big enough name.” So they finally called, and I got the audition, and later I got the part. I was just so stoked. So I was training, doing this, that, and the third. And one day, we walked onto a stage and there was a spaceship. And I went “Holy moly! We’ve got money!” I mean, geez, it was a spaceship. And Will turned and looked at me and said, “Oh you didn’t know that this was a $70 million film?” So it was like, “Welcome to the big leagues.” First time out, and the film went on to gross $800 million worldwide and it changed my life, because everyone and their grandma went to go see it.
Set It Off (1996)—“Francesca ‘Frankie’ Sutton”
VAF: Yeah, I went from working with Will Smith to working with Will Smith’s wife. So the Smiths have been very good to me. Set It Off was the little movie that could. That’s the way I look at it. It was about four girls robbing a bank, which a lot of people thought, “Well, this could be a comedy. What is this really, really going to be about?” But I commend the director, F. Gary Gray, and the actresses. We sat down and took this little independent script that was really kind of poorly written, and shaped it and formed it and loved it and created a cult classic. I can’t tell you how many people walk up to me today and say, “That Set It Off, I can sit down and watch it over and over. I know the movie’s 10 years old, but I just love it. I still cry. I still feel you guys.”
AVC: So did you guys do a lot of improvisational work with it?
VAF: There was a little bit of improv, but mainly we sat down and massaged and made the characters’ relationships more believable. Why are these people doing this? What is her motivation? Nobody wakes up and says, “Hey, we’re going to rob a bank.” So me made sure the reactions and the revenge and their backs being up against a wall and the relationship between these girls was real and believable, and that they would fight for each other and live and die for each other, and this was their only way out of the ’hood.
Booty Call (1997)—“Lysterine”
VAF: Wow. Going from drama to just straight-up comedy with Tommy Davidson and Jamie Foxx—what a blast. I remember we did a scene at a Chinese restaurant, and Tommy and Jamie, coming from In Living Color, could come up with jokes that would just knock your socks off. These guys are so funny. We would literally have to put a napkin in our mouths and hold it so we wouldn’t bust out laughing at them, because they were just hilarious. And I can cuss you out in Mandarin. [Swears in Mandarin.]
AVC: You had a lot of scenes with Jamie Foxx in that film.
VAF: I had not a clue that he would go on to the level of success he has. I knew he was funny and talented, but I remember one day, me and him kind of got into it, because I was trying to sleep and he was in there playing that damn piano. I was like “Jamie! Could you turn down the piano?” He loved his music, but I had not a clue that he was going to be an Oscar winner and a recording artist, and one of the big top dogs in Hollywood.
Batman & Robin (1997)—“Ms. B. Haven”
VAF: Woo! Got to work with Arnold Schwarzenegger. That was so cool. You know, my fondest memory of Ms. B. Haven is how Joel Schumacher came up with my name. [Laughs.] I said, “Where’d you get Ms. B. Haven?” And he said, [Impersonates Joel Schumacher.] “Well, I was hanging out with my friends and we went to a state fair. And we’re walking, and one of the things they were doing was a display on monster trucks, and one of the trucks was Ms. B. Haven. And I said ‘That’s going to be one of the characters in my movie.’” And he met me and he knew it was going to be Vivica Fox. So I got the role. I was so excited, but I must tell you, my skin consumed so much glitter from that costume that my skin was extracting glitter for weeks. Glitter would just pop up, because your skin will absorb it.
AVC: Were you one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love interests in that?
VAF: Not really his love interest, I was just one of his hot chicks. [Sings.] “He’s Mr. Freeze.” I still remember that little song and dancing around. Yeah, that was fun, and then Arnold was blue. Who knew, the Governator? Who knew that this guy would go on to be the governor of California? Life is just an amazing journey. It really is. But I’m very happy for Arnold, that he’s doing well.
Soul Food (1997)—“Maxine”
VAF: I was on a roll there, huh? I forget how much work I’ve done, now that you’ve reminded me. Thank you so much. Um, Soul Food… Another wonderful little movie that could. Here’s a film that, I think our budget was maybe $6 million. We shot it in Chicago in six weeks. I was so proud of the film, because it showed America that an African-American film about family could sell, could do well, could cross over and have true meaning. It wasn’t violent and ignorant. It was classy and showed us having good family relationships. That’s what I’m most proud about that movie.
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)—“Vernita Green”
VAF: Woo-hoo! Kick-ass chick! Work it, Vivica! All right, let’s talk about that. Working with Mr. Tarantino. Amazing. The hardest film I’ve ever done in my life, just because of the training. We trained for six months. The first three months, eight hours a day, five days a week. Oh my God, I thought I was training for the damn Olympics. I said, “What the hell is going on?” But during the shoot, I went from literally a size 8 to a 2. I lost a little bit too much weight. When you’re working out like that, your body just doesn’t hold on to any fat.
AVC: You’re basically pure muscle?
VAF: At the time I was, absolutely. I could kick. They used to love me and my kicks. But I was like “I’m a former cheerleader, so there you have it.” And I can play basketball, run track, and play volleyball, so yeah, I’ve always been an athlete at heart.
AVC: Did you audition, or did they seek you out?
VAF: Well, what happened is that they said, “Quentin’s going to have a meeting with you, and if he likes you, then you’ll figure out if he’s going to make an offer or whatever the deal is.” We had a quick meeting, and the meeting was… well, no it wasn’t. They said “The meeting will probably only last 15 minutes.” It lasted 45 minutes, almost an hour. And I said, “Well, thank you, guys, I think it’s a good sign. I think he likes me.” So he calls the next day and said, “I want to go to her house, I’m going to read one scene with her, if she does great, then I’m going to offer her the part.” Came to my house, read the one scene, said “I love you,” we went and had sushi and celebrated. Then we trained, trained, and trained. Then Uma—it took four days to film our fight scene, and I remember sitting in the tub one morning and counting the bruises on my leg, and I counted 30. But you know, they’re like battle scars. I was so proud of them.
Boat Trip (2002)—“Felicia”
VAF: Hilarious. Hilarious. A while back, we did a beer commercial together, and he’s never forgotten it. I was also there the night Cuba Gooding won his Academy Award, and I was like, “Cuba, who would have thought?” From that beer commercial to the Academy Awards, and now here we are working on a film together. And my one main memory about Boat Trip was that we spent two days on an actual boat. Every day, we would dock in some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. One day we docked in Santorini, Greece. We started in Athens. Then another day in, I think it was Israel. Then another day in Egypt. But I’m going to tell you, after 10 days on a boat, if I never see another boat, it will be way too soon.
Curb Your Enthusiasm (2007-2009)—“Loretta Black”
VAF: Gosh, man. Who knew that show had such a cult following? Curb Your Enthusiasm opened me up to a whole new audience, and I tell you, everywhere I go now, especially when I go to New York… man. People are like “I love you on Curb.” I get guys, I walk into the airport, “Yo, Curb! Off the chain! Great job!” Who knew that the Blacks would bring Curb Your Enthusiasm back and create such a wonderful new aura for the show? Like, it totally revived it. Everybody’s like, “Man, it was getting kind of stale, and you guys did a great job of bringing Curb back to life. You guys were great. I love the Blacks, you guys coming back, and you and L.D. hooking up.” And now people are like… We did a quick improv audition, and he said the main reason why I got the part was because when he walked in, I was like, “Yo, what’s up, L.D.?” He went “No one has ever called me that.” That’s one of the main reasons I got the part.
AVC: Was the idea always that Loretta would be a major character, or was that something that evolved as the show proceeded?
VAF: The character’s definitely evolved, because we didn’t know whether it was going to work. We didn’t know how the audience would perceive it. We just didn’t know.
The Cougar (2009)—“Host”
VAF: Cougars are all the rage! I’m so glad that Hollywood and America are embracing women when they get in their 40s instead of putting us out to pasture. That’s when a woman’s in her peak. That’s when she’s hot. She’s already been through all of the junk. She’s confident. Secure with who she is. So I was really proud to host that show. And younger guys are finding older chicks hot. Less drama, they’ve got their own money, and they’re moving like popcorn! So it was fun hosting the show. The one guy who I wanted to win did win, but she didn’t really get him until the end, until he just picked her up and put her on the pool table and made out with her. It was great. I was like “Mmmhmm, I told you Jimmy had it!”
AVC: What was the premise of the show?
VAF: I gave a 40-year-old newly single mom, who felt like she had a young spirit and was attracted to younger guys, her pick of the litter of 20 younger, gorgeous guys, who all had to woo her and pursue her to win the key to her heart.
Celebrity Family Feud (2008)—Herself
VAF: Man, me and my family, we had such a blast. My most favorite experience is that the night before, we’re at my house, and we’re in the kitchen: “Let’s name the top five presidents.” “Let’s name the top five this.” “Let’s name the top five that.” And we’re thinking of all of these supposedly smart things to do.
So we’re in the kitchen, we’re trying to think of all these smart things: the president, the top five landmarks, the history. And we get there, and they ask us “What are the top five ingredients on a hotdog?” “What are the top five ingredients on a hamburger?” “What do strippers do? Name five things that make you think about a stripper.” We were like “Uh…” You know what I mean? So that was a really fun experience. We beat Mo’Nique and Larry The Cable Guy, then made it to the finals, and we were just nine points short of winning for my charity.
AVC: What was your charity?
VAF: Breast-cancer awareness.
Hollywood Squares (1999-2004)—Herself
VAF: Oh, man, yes! It was cool, because that’s something I grew up watching. Hollywood Squares was like American Bandstand, you know—those kind of shows we don’t really have that much anymore. It was really fun to go do those. I really enjoyed them, and answering, and being the secret square and everything was fun. It’s like I’ve become a little bit of pop culture. So that was cool. And I got to hang out with my girl Whoopi Goldberg, who—we later went on to do a film, Kingdom Come, together.
Dancing With The Stars (2006-2008)—Herself
VAF: Yeah. Oh God. I’ve retired my stilettos since then, let me tell you. That was damn near harder than Kill Bill, because gosh, training six hours a day. I hyper-extended my left shoulder, but it was really wonderful. But I also feel like I got a little bit robbed, because how do you go from finishing in the top three three weeks in a row to then getting the boot? But I will always be a Dancing With The Stars alumnus, and believe it or not, Dancing With The Stars led to Curb Your Enthusiasm. Everything happens for a reason. Larry David was looking for an attractive girl that could be funny, and his kids were all watching Dancing With The Stars, and I got the call.
AVC: So it was fate.
VAF: I was literally on my way to take a vacation to the islands, and they gave me a call and said, “Well, before you go to the airport, do you mind stopping by?” And I was like “You know what? I’m just going to swing by there. Okay, you guys, I’m so tired. Da da da da da.” So I land on the island, I’m having a great time, I’m hanging by the pool, and my agent calls and says “Guess what? You’ve got to get back on the plane. You got the part.” So I had to come back. Another good memory about Curb Your Enthusiasm was that when I wasn’t even looking or expecting to get the role, and was about to take a licking-my-wounds vacation for getting booted off of Dancing With The Stars… Life has a funny way of just changing it up on you.
Thank you so much, and I just want to tell everybody thank you so much for supporting my career over the years. We’ve got another play coming out soon. So not only do I have movies that are going to be coming out, I’m going to be on True Jackson with Keke Palmer, playing her mom, so I’ve got TV, movies, and also I’ve got a new wig line called Fox Designs that should be coming out by spring 2010.