Getty Image/Ralph Ordaz
The plan was to talk with Don Cheadle about football and his new Super Bowl commercial around doppelgängers and organic hard seltzer for Michelob ULTRA, but what are plans nowadays? Cheadle let us know about what it was about the ad that appealed to him and how his hate of Tom Brady is softening, but then we freelanced a little.
Don Cheadle is a movie star and producer. When and how we return to movie theaters sans anxiety is anyone’s guess, but it’s also on seemingly everyone’s list when it comes to things that would signify the restoration of normalcy. So we had to dig into his thoughts on that and on the things that are touched by the state of movie theaters including filming in a bubble to continue feeding the need for fresh content and what it means to have nearly all movies released to streaming or pushed back until… your guess is good as anyone else’s.
In addition to a no-bullshit conversation around the state of entertainment culture, we also touched on Cheadle’s thoughts on the GameStop “stonk” story, a natural fit considering the “outsiders screw with the rhythms of the market and status quo” focus of his Showtime series, Black Monday, which is about to start filming its third season. And for good measure, we threw in a question about Meteor Man. The style is called: eclectic.
What’s the litmus test for you to do a Super Bowl commercial? What is it that makes this the one you wanted to jump into?
Well, it has to be several things that have to come together. It has to be a product that I’m like, “all right, I’ll mess with that,” and having this hard seltzer be the first USDA certified organic seltzer is more on-brand with me, and how I feel about what I would put in my body. The Super Bowl is a sweet moment to do it, and my team happens to be in the Super Bowl and I believe will win the Super Bowl. The Chiefs are my people, I’m from Kansas City. And also, sort of the cherry on top and the icing on the cake is that my brother is in the spot with me. We get to do what we do normally anyway, which is take shots at each other and have a great time, so that was definitely… That sweetened it.
Speaking of the Chiefs and the Super Bowl, your pick is obviously biased here. I’ve seen before, you definitely have your issues with Tom Brady. That extends now that he’s with the Bucs?
Actually, I was a Hatriot, so I’m fine with him taking this team all the way and doing what he’s done. Look, you can say whatever you want to say about Tom Brady as a quarterback, but he’s clearly the GOAT. Even Patrick Mahomes gives it up to him as being the GOAT.
Well, for now, and has been for how long? Does he have another finger to even put a ring on? He’s balling out of control, so it’s great. It’s going to be a great game. It’s not going to be a cakewalk for the Chiefs. It’s going to be a game for sure.
Is this a tougher match, do you think, than the 49ers last year?
I think it will be, because it seemed to me that at some point the 49ers sort of caved to the moment [last year]. You could see when it got super, super tight… I mean, they could have legitimately won, ostensibly, late in the game. I don’t think we’re going to see Tom Brady getting shook. He’s not the entire team, but absolutely he’s the driving force of the team. If he can keep everybody together, the Chiefs are going to have to play a full game every down to make sure they win.
Obviously, with everything going on with the GameStop thing and with Black Monday focused around the stock market [in the ’80s], you’ve got to have an opinion on this stuff. What are you thinking while watching this unfold?
Well, it’s unbelievable in some ways, and I think it really shows you the power of… whether it’s for good or for however you want to couch it, I think it’s great when you see people coming together and figuring out what their power is. Now, is it just a pure cynical play, and they just want to do a David and Goliath [thing]? Maybe. I don’t know. I think it’s unprecedented in this space. I think it’s telling that, when you want to shut down one side of the buying, they don’t shut down the billionaires. It’s like, that’s not right, and when the tail wags the dog, people freak out. I’m, in some ways delighted that it happened. In other ways, I’m just watching it to see what are they going to do? What’s the course correction now that they’re going to do? What’s the market adjustment going to be?
Yes, exactly. It’s like, you want to root for the David versus the Goliath. You just want to make sure you don’t get any on you, is the thing.
[Laughs] You want to watch it from afar. You’re like, just call your guy and go, “Where’s my stuff? Do I have any…”
I see a season four of Black Monday. You guys do season three and then season four is the GameStop debacle and you jump ahead.
It seems like it’s a good fit for us, or we just ape it now and do something to be right on the nerve of stuff. So maybe we just take some of that now and bring that into season three.
Have you started filming yet or is it on hold with everything?
Yeah, coming up next month, in fact.
Have you gone through the process of filming during COVID?
I shot a movie in Detroit in the fall and we got through it. No incidents, a couple of scares, but nothing really happened. Steven Soderbergh, to his credit and the team that we worked with in Detroit, Wayne State, we had a great epidemiologist and a great doctor. We bubbled and we were able to do it, hit it and quit it, get in and out in six weeks. The day we left, it was going off in Detroit. It was surging like crazy. We just got out under the wire, but everything held together. It’s a real question of risk-reward, and it is a lot of… It causes a lot of anxiety when you’re in that environment, especially when you’re the actors or the performers, and we’re the only ones who can’t wear any PPE. It’s a little dicey.
Does that enhance the camaraderie? Being in the bubble?
Oh yeah. I think so. Again, to Steven’s credit and to the credit of the production, and Casey Silver and Warners, and everybody who came in to make it happen… The staff of the hotel was tested every other day as we were. Steven paid for the bar up top, so everybody in the restaurant, so you get to have whatever you want. People just didn’t have a lot of incentive to try to go off and do other things elsewhere. And when we did, and if we shopped or if we ate someplace else, we were very careful about how we did everything. Then if things were surging and things were bad, then nobody did, and we just hung out. We were able to get through it. Like I said, I think because we had a great team, and hopefully, going back to work, we’ll be able to observe… Because if we’re not, I’m not going to go. We’ve got to be able to be 100 about it, because nothing’s worth somebody getting sick and dying.
Yeah, exactly. What’s your take on the idea of all these movies going to streaming. As an actor and as a producer and a filmmaker, how does that impact things for you? Because it seems to open up some avenues, but it also seems to maybe just flood the marketplace.
I think it’s exactly what you said. It’s going to move in both ways. There are some benefits to it, because people can really get what they want immediately and especially in this environment, but there are absolutely some downsides to it. The pressure that… Talk about AMC, AMC’s having a similar GameStop thing with that stock, but this was coming for awhile. It was trending this way. I think it’s potentially very bad for the distributors. We’re going to want to, I imagine at some point, I don’t know when it’s going to be, I don’t know if anyone… No one has that crystal ball, [but we’re] going to want that cathartic experience of being all together in dark space, looking at iconographic people on a big screen and these big stories, and have that theatrical experience. But I don’t know when that’s going to be. When are we going to want to huddle together seven inches from each other again and do this?
I couldn’t imagine right now, or even anytime in the near future, doing that without it being on my mind constantly. You go to a movie to escape. It’s another thing to try and escape from. It just makes it really challenging.
Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. It’s like one of those situations where, do you just hold back and not produce it at all? Or do you do it and say, well, this is going to happen. Someone’s going to be watching it on their couch at home or in a home theater, or however they’re going to watch it. On their laptop. It’s a brave new world as far as how we’re experiencing that, and like I said, it was already coming and then COVID pushed it over the top. I saw a movie during this time. I went and saw Tenet at the theater, but it was just me and David Harbour [who he was bubbled with on set in Detroit]. You have to rent out the whole theater for 150 bucks or whatever it was. That’s how we experienced the movie and I wouldn’t go do it any other way. It was that or my house. I wasn’t going to go sit in the theater, even at 25 or 30% capacity. I’m not completely comfortable, because we don’t know how this thing is spreading exactly. With all these variants that it’s more transmissible, it’s just, you’re playing Russian Roulette to go see a movie.
Yeah, definitely. I have one more question and I’m going to just get stupid — if you had to pick in terms of who would win in a fight, is it War Machine, Captain Planet, or Meteor Man? Obviously, you didn’t play Meteor Man, but you’re in the movie, so I’m curious.
I’m hoping that’s something you’ve never been asked before.
I’ve never been asked this. I think the answer would be… we’d have to determine what the rules are. If you could use all of your powers and have unlimited whatever that rock was that he touched that gave him his powers… [Laughs] Then I think Meteor Man would probably win. Right?
I think the rules are that you have it in the street, same as at the end, he can do the runway walk thing if he needs to.
Yeah, I think Meteor Man wins, because the bullets, we already saw, War Machine’s got crazy bullets. But if he can deal with all that, then he’s gotta be the last to go. Although, Captain Planet might beat them all.
We’ve got to figure out a way to make that happen. We’ll have to get a GoFundMe going for a trillion dollars to pay for the licensing.
You can check out Cheadle’s Super Bowl ad below or during the game.