Director Calmatic makes South L.A.’s Leimert Park the epicenter of his latest film

(L-R) J. Alphonse Nicholson, Calmatic, Laura Harrier, Jack Harlow, Teyana Taylor, Sinqua Walls and Myles Bullock attend the premiere of “White Men Can’t Jump” at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California on May 11, 2023. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for 20th Century Studios)

With two feature films released within three months of each other, Grammy Award-winning Director Calmatic has his foot on the gas with no signs of slowing down. Following his buzzworthy reboot of “House Party” in January, Calmatic’s latest undertaking was reimagining the 1992 film, “White Men Can’t Jump.

With veteran actor Sinqua Walls and rapper-turned-actor Jack Harlow as the film’s leads, Calmatic’s second feature shows his growth as a director. In this latest iteration, we see Kamal (Walls) and Jeremy (Harlow) whose personal affiliations affected their opportunity to play in the NBA, the pair join forces to compete in a Leimert Park basketball tournament with the hopes of winning a half-a-million-dollar prize.

In an exclusive interview with the LA Sentinel Calmaticgives insight into how he went about advocating for himself as the director of “White Men Can’t Jump.” He shares, ““House Party” was my first time making a movie so I was kind of asking for things like, ‘Can I do this? Can I get this?’ This time around I was more assertive in saying ‘This is the person, this is who we’re going to get.’ I think that confidence is something that the studios and all of the other producers respect.”

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The renowned music video and commercial director went on to share the lessons that he’ll take with him into his next productions, “I also had to learn to trust my gut and not question my initial instincts on whatever idea I had. I think people can sense that and people love to support someone who’s confident. It’s an approach that I’m going to carry with me throughout my career.”

Speaking of confidence, “White Men Can’t Jump” is rapper Jack Harlow’s debut film. With over a billion streams on his song, “Industry Baby” (with Lil Nas X) and tracks “What’s Poppin” and “First Class” nearing the same milestone, Jack Harlow has quickly become a household name. Despite the fact that some artists’ musical prowess doesn’t always translate to TV and film,

“White Men Can’t Jump” was the perfect vehicle for Harlow to foray into acting. “He auditioned and did a great job,” shares Calmatic. “I feel like confidence is Jack’s secret weapon. He came in at a time in his career when he was on top and he was more vulnerable than ever. He had a #1 song on the radio, a platinum album, and was in the middle of a tour, but he was able to come in, lock in and do a job that he had never done before and it was admirable.”

Director Calmatic attends the premiere of “White Men Can’t Jump” at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for 20th Century Studios)

In addition to introducing the world to Jack Harlow as an actor, audiences also get the pleasure of experiencing Sinqua Walls as a leading man. With an extensive resume that includes the television series, “American Soul” (BET), “Power” (Starz), and “Teen Wolf” (MTV), “White Men Can’t Jump” was the coveted opportunity for Walls to truly show his range as an actor.

Sinqua was our anchor,” said Calmatic. “He set the tone for the way the scenes should be developed and the way things should work.”

Originally from Louisiana, 38-year-old Walls has called Los Angeles home since middle school. “During the audition process, Sinqua and I had a conversation where we were talking about LA basketball and the way James Harden plays has traces of him going to Audubon Junior High School. The same way Russell Westbrook plays, it was like someone that went to Henry Clay Middle School. It’s just an energy that you can’t really explain if you’re not from here. We used some of that secondhand language to develop the characters.”

Calmatic shares that an integral aspect of Walls’ performance being so believable is the fact that they were both able to relate to the lead character’s plight in the film. “What is it like to be a kid that grew up in the jungles who played for Dorsey [high school], didn’t make it [to the NBA] and now has to work for a UPS type of company delivering packages to people in Windsor Hills? That’s a very specific story that you have to be from here to know. Sinqua knew that story well and it made our jobs a lot easier.”

(L-R) Jack Harlow and Sinqua Walls attend the premiere of “White Men Can’t Jump” at El Capitan Theatre

In addition to Walls and Harlow, the film also stars Compton native, Vince Staples, singer Teyana Taylor, Laura Harrier, Myles Bullock, the late Lance Reddick, and J. Alphonse Nicholson. While attending a recent “Black on the Block” festival in support of the film, The Sentinel caught up with J. Alphonse Nicholson, best known for his role as Lil Murda in “P. Valley” and asked about his experience working with Calmatic on the set of “White Men Can’t Jump.


Calmatic is amazing. He’s so genuine and so generous to the actors,” said Nicholson. “He’s an actor’s director as I like to say. He’s doing everything he can on his end to make sure you have everything you need. You can trust him. It’s a pleasure to work with him. Calmatic is a legend already and I look forward to working with him again.”


When asked his thoughts on the criticism around reboots, Nicholson said, “I think you’re always going to be inspired by other generations of film so it’s nice to have a fresh take on it for this generation. It’s different while at the same time paying homage to what Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson were able to do, Calmatic puts his own special touch on it. I think if you give it a chance, you’ll really enjoy it, the kids will love it, it’s a great film.”

“White Men Can’t Jump” is streaming now on Hulu.