Jermaine Fowler has never shied away from a challenge. The comedian and actor dropped out of college to become a stand-up and painstakingly worked his way up the ranks of show business until landing his breakthrough performance opposite his comedy idol Eddie Murphy in 2021’s Coming 2 America.
In this episode of The Last Laugh podcast, Fowler talks about his latest leading role in The Drop as a man whose life is thrown into comedic chaos after his wife (PEN15’s Anna Konkle) drops their friend’s baby at a destination wedding. Fowler also discusses the highs and lows of his comedy career so far, from rejecting “imposter syndrome” while acting opposite Murphy to the promising sitcom he co-created with Abbott Elementary’s Quinta Brunson that never saw the light of day to the game-changing stand-up hour he currently has in his sights.
When I ask Fowler to lay out the premise of his new movie, which premiered on Hulu this past Friday, he starts with the short version: “The Drop is about this couple whose relationship gets tested.”
The long version is that it’s about a couple who are actively trying to have a baby and start questioning everything after Konkle’s character Lex immediately drops their friend’s baby upon arrival in Mexico for what was supposed to be a celebratory reunion but ends up being a weekend full of awkward recriminations and existential despair. It’s also very funny.
And it’s that contrast of humor and horror that drew Fowler to the project. “That was my favorite shot of the film,” he says of the film’s inciting incident. “That was one of the most beautifully shot things I’ve ever seen, contrasted by this horrific event. I think it’s just hilarious.”
The Drop is Fowler’s first leading role in a film since his breakout performance as the son of Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem in 2021’s Coming to America sequel. When I ask him what it was like to be branded “the next Eddie Murphy”—by this publication and others—he lets out a guffaw and shakes his head.
“You can’t put that much pressure on yourself,” he says. “It really fucks with you. And I’ve seen some of my favorite people crumble with that sort of pressure. So I’m just a student of the people that come before me as well. So I try to remember, I’m only me. I can’t be anyone else.”
At the same time, Fowler says he was able to push any intimidation about acting opposite Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Tracy Morgan, and other comedy heroes aside once he got on set. “I’m supposed to be here,” he told himself. “There is no imposter syndrome going on right now.”
Below is an edited excerpt from our conversation. You can listen to the whole thing by subscribing to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts, and be the first to hear new episodes when they are released every Tuesday.
Is it true that there was no real, formal script for the movie and that you were all working it out on the fly? How did that actually work?
Yeah, so there wasn’t a traditional script. There was a “script-ment,” which is a detailed outline. So there were scenes that were blocked out for the director to share with us. We just had to kind of fill in those gaps with dialogue and the actions and things like that. And it was a small crew, so we didn’t have time to really make mistakes.
Were there any moments or anything surprising that came out of the improv that either furthered the story or made you think about it in a different way?
There are moments when, for example, I had to break up with Anna Konkle’s character Lex at the pool and that scene ended with me crying. And there was one take when the director (Sarah Adina Smith) said, “Don’t, wipe those tears. Start with the tears.” And I’d be kind of in a shitty place when we started the scene. So each scene was different and it was a challenge to push myself and push the character’s boundaries a little bit. So I just got to thank the director and her vision for the film. I’ve never been pushed that far emotionally, and I was exhausted afterwards. It would hurt, in a lot of ways, to continue to do that.
You and your co-star are both relatively new parents and of course the movie is about you grappling with that decision to become parents. So how did being a father influence your performance and the way you thought about the scenario that they’re in?
Well, for example, when she drops the baby, I remembered there was a time my partner, my girlfriend, dropped our baby. I didn’t see it. I came back home and she was in the dark holding the baby, and I was like, “Meagan?” She’s like, “I’m in here.” I go into the room and she’s crying over the baby. I’m like, “What happened?” And she’s like, “I dropped her.” And I just remember that fact, it broke my heart. And I just had to try to support her the best I could. So when Anna’s character drops the baby, I just remember that face, man, which broke my heart also. Also, she dropped a doll baby in the scene. It wasn’t a real baby, we’re not monsters. But she dropped the doll baby, and I just put my son’s face on that baby. So you try to connect yourself to a lot of these situations to give it life.
How does your partner feel about you telling everyone that she dropped your baby?
I’ve only told two people! And she’ll tell you. But it happens. And it won’t stop happening. People will make mistakes. I’ve dropped my baby. Well, I haven’t, like, dropped it. I’ve thrown my baby up in the air and it’s hit things, because I’m an idiot.
That’s a classic one.
It is! Especially if you forget how low a ceiling is. I’m an idiot. I’m dumb. So, you know, I’m not going to not hurt him. It’s gonna happen. So I hope if she hears his interview, she doesn’t get mad at me, because this is probably the first time she’s hearing it. I hope she’s not learning about me throwing our baby into a ceiling for the first time.
That would be bad.
Yeah, it would be terrible. But, surprise!
I mean, that’s kind of the message of the movie, that we’re all capable of dropping a baby.
[Laughs] I think people are going to walk away from this movie with many takes. Who knows what people walk away with? I know I walked away with a couple of things. But one, especially, is that love can be tested and your sense of worth is going to be tested. And we’re all gonna have moments where we don’t know why we’re here and what we want to do and it can hit you at different moments. It can hit you on a vacation, it can hit you at work, it can hit you anywhere. It’s how you handle those tests that’s very important.
Listen to the episode now and subscribe to The Last Laugh on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts, and be the first to hear new episodes when they are released every Tuesday.