There are some very brilliant writers out there that will tell you, you can’t write a better story than true life. It’s unpredictable and it never runs out of material. Some stories will fascinate where others can terrify but I believe everyone’s favourite is a redemption story. We are all capable of empathy and are always hoping for a silver lining to a tragic story… so when it comes, there is always restored faith in the world that karma is listening and still has bigger plans for you. As it turns out, your life has a better chapter waiting and all you have to do is reach for it.
There was a true story about a horrific tragedy and it did manage to have that silver lining some years later, but that journey to reach it is really the heart of the story. I’m referring to a true story that was in the news a number of years ago where a couple moves from Minnesota to LA and she gets pregnant. She is the maternal one, the nurturing one and her husband is a guy. They start a blog to keep family up to date with the pregnancy. Unfortunately, 48 hours after delivering their daughter, the mother experiences a pulmonary embolism and dies. Fast forward years later and dad is a hero example of a father and finds love a second time.
The film, Fatherhood is a retelling of that tragic story that picks up the pieces when there are still some missing and creating a new picture with the pieces you have left. The film is adapted from the novel 2 Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love” by Matthew Logelin. It stars Kevin Hart (Jumanji, Upside, Fatherhood) and is directed by Paul Weitz. Hart is co-producing alongside David Beaubaire and Peter Kiernan with Dana Stevens, Marty Bowen, and Paul Weitz, developing the screenplay. It also stars Melody Hurd (Them) as Kevin Hart’s daughter Maddy. Montreal’s Teneisha Collins (Future Man, Fatherhood, The Detectives) also joins a star-studded cast featuring Alfre Woodard (Clemency, 12 Years A Slave), Lil Rel Howery (Bad Trip, Get Out), DeWanda Wise (She’s Gotta Have It, Someone Great), Anthony Carrigan (Barry), and Paul Reiser (Mad About You, The Kominsky Method).
Hart stars in this heart-warming, funny, and emotional true story about a widower taking on one of the toughest jobs in the world; fatherhood. The film follows Hart’s character Matt as he navigates the highs and lows of parenthood. From putting an infant child to sleep or dealing with family pressures, Matt is determined to beat the odds to become the best father he can be, focused on fulfilling all of his daughter’s needs; despite the obstacles, life throws his way. Teneisha plays Ms. Burns, Matt’s daughter’s private school teacher, while constantly attempting to get him and his daughter to follow school rules, unintentionally creating a conflict that ultimately threatens their father/daughter dynamic in this uplifting, touching, and humorous film.
I caught up with Teneisha at her home in beautiful Montreal and we shared a lot of laughs talking about Kevin Hart, the film and her future projects.
HNMAG “Congratulations on being in the film, Fatherhood. Since you live in Montreal, was the film shot there?”
TENEISHA “Most of it was shot in Montreal but we did some shooting in Boston too.”
HNMAG “This film is based on a true story. Were you familiar with the book before taking on the role?”
TENEISHA “Before the audition I had gone onto Google and looked it up, and then realized it was a true story… then fell into the rabbit hole. By the time I had finished reading, I knew I had to be part of this project any way that I could, because its so heartbreaking – especially after having met the real Matt Logelin and seeing how he’s doing today makes it such an honour to be part of the story.”
HNMAG “You first read the script in the Miami airport and then burst out crying within the first 10 pages. It sounds like something very sad happens?”
TENEISHA “Matt and his wife are totally in love. They move from Minnesota to LA and Liz gets pregnant. She is the maternal one, the nurturing one and Matt is a guy (laughing). They started this blog to keep the family up to date with the pregnancy. Unfortunately, 48 hours after delivering Maddy, Liz experiences a pulmonary embolism and dies. I don’t think I’ve ever had a visceral response to a script. I was sitting at a bar and had just received the script and was just under 10 pages when I just started bawling, not just a tear but all out ugly crying at this bar. I did get my drink for free, which was great. The story is based on his blog, which became a way of coping with his wife’s death as well as being the sole parent to this baby girl. As time went on, his blog started getting more attention and grew a following, so he turned it into his memoirs, which became a New York Times best seller – Two Kisses for Maddy because every night he’d put her to bed, he’d give her one kiss from him and one from her mom.”
HNMAG “Is there something in this film for everyone?”
TENEISHA “I think so. If you’re a fan of Kevin Hart, you’ll see his personality shine through. He’s such a big personality that it just comes out naturally, without any effort. You’ll see a lot of his mannerisms, you’ll see his energy and humour as well. You also have Lil Howery, who’s a fantastic comedian and hilarious. There’s Anthony Carrington, who was extremely funny in Barry. Although you have the comedic elements you also have the love, the struggle, the tears and you have a story for old and young. There’s even different storylines that they’ve been able to weave together beautifully. You’re able to follow from birth till the age of seven, which is quite a long storyline. There are elements for every single person and imagining Kevin Hart taking care of a baby on his own is funny in itself but then there’s the story of ‘just him’ which really has something for everyone.”
HNMAG “How did you prepare for the role of Maddy’s school teacher?”
TENEISHA “I’m a huge fan of Paul Weitz – About A Boy (co-wrote, directed) and when I saw that he was directing this film, I just knew I had to be a part of it. Meeting him at the call-back had solidified it and he is a collaborator. In talking to him on the callback, I got a sense of how he worked and how we could work together. Staying open to the possibilities was important because it was the first time that my co-star was a 7-year-old child. All of my scenes are with Melody Hurd and Kevin Hart but all of my scenes have Melody in it, which isn’t something I’ve gotten to do much of. In preparing for the role, I really had to lean into my nurturing side. My character could be played so many different ways, but it came down to the distinction of what felt authentic to myself but also being open for day one to be thrown a curveball. They told me she wasn’t the nurturing person I thought she was and that she’s actually a hard ass (laughing). Because Paul is such a great collaborator, he gave me a lot of creative and emotional liberties that allowed me to be organic and truthful in the moment – which was such a blessing.”
HNMAG “Can you share with us the audition process for acquiring the role?”
TENEISHA “I’d say it was a longer process but a straightforward process. From my first audition to the first day on set it was 1 ½ months. I had auditioned for 2 different characters, including Matt’s (Kevin Hart) deceased wife. I waited weeks and weeks hearing, ‘you’re the top choice’… and then the call comes and I end up being in the room with Paul, working on these scenes that seemed to go on forever. I would say that we did every scene several different ways. Paul somehow had a way of tapping into his impression of what I had perceived at that moment for the character and was able to recognize that and go with it. I got the call the day before I was travelling and the day I was going to see Oprah. It felt like everything had fell together and it was a magical moment.”
I had asked Teneisha to expand on her Oprah experience. She splurged for 4th row floor seats for her mom and her. They were up close and personal and Oprah could see them. At one point, Oprah had been saying things about purpose and standing your truth, being honest and finding love in everything. She had locked eyes with Teneisha during the 2-minute speech and having already been on a high from getting the part in Fatherhood, she then jumped onto a plane the morning after, for Miami for a few days before returning to the set, ready and in character.
HNMAG “You were truly hooked after performing in your first school play at 8 years old and at 10 yrs. old, you handed your parents the yellow pages and asked them to find you an agent. What was your parent’s reaction?”
TENEISHA “I was a precocious child, so I don’t think they were at all shocked. I grew up forcing my younger sister to perform in my own productions. The one woman shows became 1 woman and 1 hostage shows (laughing). My parents weren’t too surprised when I jumped into theatre and became obsessed. You don’t often hear your 10 yr. old asking you to find an agent but they were ready for it. We had met with a couple agents and they were ready to jump in. Although my parents are very level headed people, they trusted my judgement, even at a young age, that if I wasn’t enjoying it, I didn’t have to stay in it.”
Teneisha added, “it’s better to feel the fear and do it anyways, and face the rejection or the negative outcome, whatever that may be, rather than not doing it and sitting in doubt.”
HNMAG “With this film – Fatherhood, do you have any funny Kevin Hart stories?”
TENEISHA “I do, it’s a funny story that turns out quite well. I haven’t seen Kevin in a serious movie, so when you read the script, you have a bit of an expectation of where it’s going to go. The first few days of shooting are very light, silly scenes. He would be on his cell phone playing poker and telling jokes. But in later more dramatic scenes, he flipped the switch and I thought I was being punk’d because I saw that other side of Kevin Hart that we’d only started seeing more recently, after releasing his documentaries. I do think he’s one of the hardest working people in Hollywood and I got to see his work ethic, his vision, his perfectionism and you see the producer and all these different sides of him. We learned a lot of dances on set, thanks to Melody. She taught me how to floss and I still can’t do it. What’s also very cool is that my relationship with her was used to influence her relationship with Kevin in the film. The director had spotted us doing the floss and created a scene with Melody teaching it to Kevin.”
HNMAG “You play the female lead, Monique Huffman in an episode of the anthology docuseries Real Detective, based on a true story along with Louis Ferreira and Sergio di Zio. Do you enjoy playing multi-layered characters?”
TENEISHA “Oh my god, I love playing multi-layered characters. Monique Huffman is actually made the villain in this series and she’s actually a civilian involved in the case of her brother’s murder. I love the layers and the more complicated the character, the better. This character may be lying, may be deceitful and may be 8 months pregnant. Although there is a lot of information about this case, there’s not a lot of information about this specific character. It’s a dark, gritty drama and there’s also a Canadian version of this show, The Detectives about Canadian cases. I have to say that my approach to a character like this is very exhausting. It’s one of those projects, where you’re so busy, you don’t have time to hang out at your trailer. When you have all this grief, the anger and the fighting layered on top of it, you end up feeling like you’re running a marathon. You’re literally physically sore at the end of the day, everyday. I feel like I’ve been training for the last 15 years on how to access my emotions at a deeper level. There’s happiness and joy but there’s also grief and sadness. When I got the role, I felt like I had been preparing for it for the last decade, I am ready. It’s about connecting to the material and putting myself in those shoes. There’s a lot of internal work that I do to get into that mindset of that character, that world and that space… and sometimes that takes a little while to shake off. I’m usually a very positive and bubbly person but I found myself apologizing to people for being so blunt – I had no filter. It becomes visceral at a point where it lives in you and every cell of your body.”
HNMAG “When you wrap on a film or series, do you have a ritual to help shed that character, like hot tubbing or a glass of wine to celebrate?”
TENEISHA “With Fatherhood, I did go hot tubbing, I had some friends in town, so everyday we’d go to this water circuit place which had a sauna, steam room and was the perfect place to decompress. When it’s a really deep character, the first thing I like to do is come home and take everything off, including make-up and get into the bath tub… and usually there’s a glass of wine. I’ll put on some fun ‘80’s or ‘90’s music. After that, I’ll go to my happy place – an episode of The Office, which I have memorized. Anything that will allow me to turn off my brain, so the emotions will dissipate on their own. I also surround myself with good people and I like to spend time with friends and family. If I’m really having a hard time shaking it off… I’ll watch laughing babies on Youtube.”
HNMAG “I understand that you’re also writing a comedy series that has gotten the attention of Netflix?”
TENEISHA “I’m writing a dramatic comedy series that was inspired by experiences I’ve had with my best friend, Venessa Grimaldi. She had won season 21 on ABC’s The Bachelor and being so tightly knit, I felt like the bachelor adjacent. People don’t realize the trickle effect the show has on your family and friends. Since we’re so close and do so much together, I went through a lot of these experiences with her. Initially, my storyline was all about the ridiculousness and how ludicrous life is after the show. It was straight, very funny comedy and I had gotten some great feedback, but it didn’t feel fulfilling. That all shifted after meeting 2 male contestants from The Bachelorette. We had a few days to hang out and chat about their experience and they had these raw and honest conversations with us about their time on the show and the aftermath. It caused the writing to shift from a straight comedy to a dramatic comedy. That’s when I became really excited about it and it came to life. I had an opportunity on Netflix’s Canadian Virtual Pitch Day to pitch it and out of over 10,000 submissions, mine was amongst the less than 1% that was shortlisted. I’m now working on adapting the show and hopefully I‘ll be able to get it made.”
Teneisha adds, “The goal with my writing is to tell stories that need to be told. With this series, it’s never been told from that perspective and there’s never been a story out there like this. I’ve also got projects that I feel need to be told and seen that might not have anything to do to me. It’s a great time for women and diverse creators because there are a lot of initiatives out there providing opportunities in domains that we previously didn’t have access to before.
It was such a delight talking to Teneisha Collins on her experience on set with the great Kevin Hart and I’m quite certain that Kevin is telling his friends and family about his great experience working with the Fabulous Teneisha Collins!
If you’d like to follow Teneisha and her latest projects:
- Website: www.teneishacollins.com
- IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3806273/?ref_=tt_cl_t10
- Twitter: @teneishac
- Facebook: Teneisha Collins Official
- Instagram: @TeneishaC