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Anthony Anderson takes on aliens — on film

Anthony Anderson gets the better of ‘Transformers’ of film, but the star admits in real life he'd run for cover if alien invaders rolled up on him. By Miki Turner
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

Six years ago, when a still virtually unknown Anthony Anderson was shooting scenes for a forgettable comedy called “Kingdom Come” in South Central Los Angeles, the chubby gap-toothed actor came barreling into his dressing room past me and the film’s publicist moaning and groaning.

“You’ve got to wait a minute,” he said. “I’ve got to go to the bathroom. I ate some bad (stuff).”

Craft Services can be a little harsh on the digestive system.

These days, however, Anderson has his meals catered in posh, five-star suites, and has appeared in more memorable films such as “Barbershop,” “Hustle & Flow,” “The Departed” and his latest, “Transformers,” which hits theaters July 2.

If you have no idea what that big-budget Michael Bay film is about — which is understandable since there’s been so little buzz about it — longtime “Transformers” fan Anderson is more than happy to fill you in.

“It’s about me saving the universe single-handedly with a few of these robot things,” Anderson, 36, joked during an exclusive interview over lunch in his hotel suite.

In actuality he had some help — lots of it — from Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Jon Voight, John Tuturro, Rachel Taylor and others who played a role in helping the Autobots recover their “Allspark” (life source) from Earth before the enemy Decepticons could use it against them. Anderson plays Glen Whitman, a computer geek who has been recruited by a co-worker (Taylor) to decipher the Decepticons computer lingo.

“I had to be a part of this movie,” Anderson said after taking a bite of his grilled vegetable panini. “I grew up playing with Transformers — Optimus Prime and Megatron and all these guys. This is like pop culture iconoscism to the nth degree.

“Plus it’s an action film with two brothers in it and neither of us die within the first five minutes! But they killed the black robot! They killed Jazz. So a brother did die!”

From flatlands to hills of BeverlyThe flesh and blood brother Anderson was referring to is Gibson, his homeboy from South L.A. Although they had no scenes together, the two friends spent their down time talking about how far they had come since the days of their transformation from the inner city flatlands to the hills of Beverly.

“We sat and talked about the dream that both of us have had respectively, coming from where the both of us come from — him from Watts and me from Compton, and where we are in our careers now and where we will be. How can we take what we’ve accomplished and what we have yet to accomplish and bring that back to the hood in a grassroots type of way to foster the young community there now?” Anderson said.

This month Anderson will move his wife and two kids into a new community. The Howard University alum is relocating to New Orleans to shoot his new Fox drama “K-Ville.” In it Anderson plays a cop distressed by what’s going on, as well as what’s not going on in his lower Ninth Ward neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It doesn’t help that he’s patrolling those dangerous streets with a partner who has a rather dubious past.

“K-Ville” is actually Anderson’s second foray into series television. His first show, a semi-autobiographical sitcom he created called “All About the Andersons,” was cancelled by The WB after only 16 episodes in 2004.

“I initially got back into television because I felt like it was something that I wanted to do,” Anderson said. “And I didn’t feel like I quite did it the way I wanted to do it with ‘All About the Andersons.’ The wrong network, the wrong time for that show. So, I created another show and sold it to Fox and we were going down the development road with that. They didn’t pick it up, but they gave me K-Ville.

“And so, it’s a one-hour drama. It’s something different for me as the lead on that show. I was part of a drama with ‘The Shield’ but you know, it was time to show a different light and this was the best opportunity. I wanted to do television just because you can have a life.”

Being the lead on a new series can be daunting, but Anderson says he’s not concerned with critics or ratings because both are out of his control. He’s more focused on being the best he can be and doing what he can for the people of New Orleans who are still suffering nearly two years after the levees broke and flooded the city.

“The Ninth Ward was completely decimated and destroyed and then 10 months later it’s still just a barren wasteland,” Anderson said. “And not only that community but the surrounding parishes and communities. It’s a shame to be in a community and sit with people who lived through this Hurricane Katrina and to sit back and see the lack of help that they’re receiving to this day. So, that’s why I applaud Fox for having our show there, bringing back jobs to the community and having a helping hand in rebuilding that community. I don’t think we can rest on our laurels.

“I’m going to do all that I can to help rebuild that community because it is now my community. I’m going to be living there — God willing — for the next six, seven, eight, nine years. That will become my family and my place.”

But right now he’s in a sunny suite in Beverly Hills surrounded by reminders from his childhood. There are Optimus Prime and Megatron action figures, Transformers T-shirts, caps and comic books. His two kids are going to be some happy campers.

In reel life, Anderson couldn’t be more thrilled that he’s a part of what is sure to become one of the highest-grossing films of the summer, and quite possibly the year. In real life, however, if the robots rolled up on him he’d be running to the loo.

“I’d s**t on myself,” he said. “I’d be petrified, but I’ll tell you this. I would get in the car. That’s my personality. If they’re rolling up on me like that, whatever’s going to happen is going to happen. I wouldn’t be a part of it.”

Anthony’s answersOn his favorite Transformer as a kid: “Optimus Prime. I grew up in Compton and we’d play with both of them, you know. Sometime Megatron would win and sometimes Optimus Prime would win. That’s how we did it in Compton. Sometimes evil prevailed!

On keeping the script secret from his friends and family: “We had to sign a confidentiality agreement. That, and the threat of a lawsuit and Steven Spielberg getting my next child and any money that I do have kept me from telling people. But it was easy. I wanted it to be a surprise.”

On his rising star: “It’s been kind of a whirlwind. I’m one of the fortunate ones to have been blessed in this business and to continually work and to continually work with some of the better and best people in the industry in front of and behind the camera. It’s been dizzying to go from something like ‘Hustle & Flow’ to ‘The Shield’ to ‘The Departed’ to ‘Transformers’ and now ‘K-Ville.’ Sometimes I just have to pinch myself and take my own time and smell the roses and stand out in the rain and get wet. That’s what it’s about.

Miki Turner is a freelance TV producer/writer in Los Angeles. She can be reached at