Read Shockya.com's exclusive interview with actor and screenwriter Jameel Saleem, who plays James in the upcoming film ‘Exit Strategy.’ The self-described “un-romantic” comedy, which is set to hit select theaters in the Philadelphia area on February 10, 2012, follows Saleem’s character, James, as he’s evicted from his apartment. He moves in with his new girlfriend of three months, Kim, played by Kimelia Weathers, and discovers she’s not what he wants in a relationship. He enlists the help of his best friends, Carville, portrayed by Quincy “Qdeezy” Harris, and Leona, played by Noelle Balfour, as well as Kevin Hart and L.A. Power 106 radio host Big Boy, to find a relationship exit strategy. But Kim feels breaking up isn’t an option.
Saleem discusses with us, among other things, how he came up with the idea for ‘Exit Strategy,’ which fans can currently buy tickets for on Fandango, and demand to bring to their area on Eventful. The screenwriter-actor also spoke about his working relationships with Weathers and director Michael Whitton.
Written by: Karen Benardello
ShockYa (SY): Besides appearing in ‘Exit Strategy,’ you also wrote the script and co-created the characters the story is based on. Where did you come up with the idea for the story, and have you had similar experiences in your own life that James went through with Kim?
Jameel Saleem (JS): Well, the idea came from a web series that we started in 2007. Kimelia Weathers, my co-star, actually came up with the premise with some other friends. We shot our first web series, and put it online. It got a lot of attention from friends, and it started to get passed around and blew up. We did like seven episodes over a three-year period. In 2010, I decided to turn it into a feature film.
I’ve definitely had some horror stories, as far as relationships go. (laughs) I think we’ve all had something to that effect. Maybe not to that extreme, but we’ve all been through situations that are similar to that.
SY: How did you prepare to play James, and did writing the screenplay help you get into his mindset?
JS: Yeah. I’ve been playing James for years, throughout the seven episodes that we shot. So I’ve been living with this character for awhile. Not to mention, James is pretty much me. (laughs) I’m really playing myself in an extreme situation. Honestly, that’s me on the screen. (laughs)
SY: ‘Exit Strategy’ marks your first major leading feature film role. Did you feel any pressure while filming to portray the character any particular way?
JS: I did feel pressure. Being the lead of a film wasn’t something that I had done, except for little short films. Once I passed the script to the director, I kind of took the writer’s hat off, and went into full actor mode. We only had 14 days to shoot the film. So I wanted to be prepared and know my lines, and go in there and give good performances, improvise and have a good time.
I guess after the first day, the pressure kind of went away, because the crew and the director and Kimelia were great. It really was a fun time. After the first couple scenes, there really was no pressure. It was pretty much just having fun.
SY: Like you said, you had a 14-day shoot, and ‘Exit Strategy’ is an independent film. Did that pose any difficulties while shooting?
JS: We had the usual difficulties that you have while shooting any film, even a major one. We were shooting in an apartment that was next to a high school. During the afternoon, the marching band would practice. We’re inside an apartment, but we can still hear the drums and the trumpets. We kind of had to work our shooting schedule around that. Just little things like that that we were able to work around, and it worked out.
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