Pop Culture, Theory & Essay

Casting “Your Degrees Won’t Keep You Warm At Night” — The Movie

Coming to a dollar theater or barbershop bootlegger near you

So, after (half)jokingly mentioning that the upcoming “Act Like A Lady, Think Like a Man” movie means that the “Your Degrees…” flick can’t be far off, a few people ran with that idea in the comments section and on Twitter; having their own “auditions” where they named which actors and actresses should play Liz, Panama, and I. They each also took it a step further and (of course) put themselves in the movie and cast that role as well.

Hmm. Sounds like a great idea for a Friday.

If I were casting the VSB movie…

Casting The Champ

To cast a convincing me, I’d need an actor who can pull off the dry (and occasionally inappropriate) deadpan humor thing; a guy who’s laidback and may seem shy at first but is surprisingly (and completely) arrogant. He’d also need a smart-aleck/sarcastic streak, and he’d need to look like he was capable of being a college basketball player at one point in his life. Having an accent no one has ever heard before would help, too.

I saw that Isiah Washington was mentioned on Twitter, but although we definitely know he’s available, he’s like 20 years older than me. I thought of Donald Glover because he could definitely pull off the deadpan/dry humor thing and the laidback thing, but I might be a foot taller than him and I probably outweigh him by 100 pounds.

This leaves us with two actors. Anthony Mackie Rob Brown (just off of the strength of his role/performance in Finding Forrester) and Craig Robinson. Who I’d end of choosing between the two depends on the director (more on that later)

***Also thought about putting Jay Pharoah here, but I need to see if he can act outside of SNL***

Casting Panama Jackson

For P, you’d need a guy with an oversized personality who doesn’t hold his tongue. An extrovert, life of the party type who’s also a bit more thoughtful and sensitive (and smarter) than he wants people to believe. Basically, while The Champ is the “nice guy” who’s secretly kind of an asshole, the Panama character would have to be the opposite. He’d also need to be a guy who you can see shifting from the corporate/conservative office setting to Chucks and Levi’s with ease, and it would definitely help if this actor had some “southern-ness” to him as well.

Honestly, the first name that came to mind was Vince Vaughn, but he doesn’t work for obvious reasons. Terrance Howard has the secretly sensitive asshole thing down pact, but I don’t want Mr. Wet Wipes anywhere near this project. I thought of J. D. Williams too, but I just can’t see Bodie Broadus ever being a responsible dad and holding down a “square” 9 to 5.

Again, who I decide on depends on the director, but right now the two best candidates seem to be Donald Faizon (Who I think would be perfect) and Ice Cube Mos Def.

***I know P’s biracial, but aside from The Rock and Vin Diesel, there aint all that many biracial actors running around to choose from***

Casting Liz

Liz is the easiest casting decision. You’d need an actress who could be a professional devil’s advocate/hater with a secretly vicious sense of humor, but a true heart of gold. You’d also need to hire a woman who could realistically be an M.I.T. grad (sorry LisaRaye), who thinks she has hoodrat tendencies but really doesn’t. Lastly, she definitely needs to have some “Valley Girl” in her.

Jennifer Hudson, Maya Rudolph, and Tracee Ellis Ross all came to mine, but for this role, regardless of the director, I’d go with a newcomer, Issa Rae — a woman who many of you know as The Awkward Black Girl.

***Mindy Kaling and Angela Nissel could both definitely work here too***

The Director

If we’re going straight comedy, it has to be Judd Apatow. If we’re going for more of a dark comedy/drama feel, I’d like Stephen Frears, Ted Witcher or (as a wildcard) the Coen brothers. (Wanted to put Tarantino here, but I just don’t think he’d fit with the material)

If we’re going all black everything, I’d pull Robert Townsend’s ass out of retirement and let him and the entire Wayans crew take a stab at it.

Anyway, budding VSB producers and casting agents, who would you cast in the VSB movie? Also, don’t limit it to Liz, Panama, and I. Please put yourself in the movie, and if you’d like, your favorite VSB regulars as well. Who would play you?

The red carpet is yours.

—The Champ

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Lurk No More

    I’m on one….FIRST!

  • I’s cast Nephew Tommy as Panama. 1st of all, this is a Black movie, 2nd, he’s a 3

  • tgtaggie

    I can’t imagine Vince Vaughn playing Panama. lol. Vince would have to be like Kirk Lazurus (Robert Downy Jr.) from Tropic Thunder.

  • Tarantino*

    Pharrell acted once before. So I’ll cast him as me.

  • Lord, thank you for giving me tomorrow off so that I may partake in the ratchetness that will ensue today. This is going to be a fun one.

  • xLadyTx

    Definitely Donald Faison as Panama!

  • Lauren London as Liz (DON’T HATE ME!!!!!)

    Baratunde Thurston as The Champ

    Tia and/or Tamera Mowry as Cheekie

    KeKe Palmer as Panamette

    Tocorra as Yoles

  • CaribbeanQueen

    hmm for some reason the light skinned guy from House Party came to mind for P lmao
    omar epps could work for you champ.. maybe
    and anika noni rose for Liz

  • naturalista88

    I’m just gonna sit and watch/read for the impending hilarity/f*ckery that is about to ensue…

  • Now I’ve never met Panama in person, but judging from his half face avi, I would chose this guy – from Disney channel and other random movie fame:


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