If there was ever a movie where art imitates life, it’s the new short film The End Again, starring Columbus Short and his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Tanee McCall. Short and McCall portray Joe Maxwell and Jane Salmon, a couple who are ending their five-year relationship. The film begins with the day Joe and Jane are preparing to move out of their home.
During their move, the couple share memories and rehash old arguments. But The End Again doesn’t end there.
The short film is a prequel to the forthcoming feature-length film Openended, which reunites Joe and Jane for a single day to mourn the loss of a mutual friend and to confront unresolved feelings. Crystle Roberson, the director; Felicia Pride, the writer-producer; and Latisha Fortune, the producer, are currently raising funds for the feature film via their Indiegogo campaign. The campaign started on Sept. 29 and will close on Nov. 4, 2014.
Over the last year, Short and McCall’s public life has been thrown into the spotlight. The Root recently had the opportunity to sit down with McCall to discuss her role in the film, as well as her personal life.
The Root: Can you give our readers a brief rundown of your background and career?
Tanee McCall: My background is in the arts. I went to performing arts boarding school and I went to college for dance, but I have always done theater and dancing simultaneously. But with dancing, your career is a lot shorter, so I definitely wanted to hit that first because you aren’t dancing into your 50s professionally. My goal was always to dance and then act.
I did a lot of movies and I worked a lot with Chris Stokes and Marques Houston. I was in Houston’s “That Girl” video and … in Hairspray and You Got Served. After doing every dance movie you can imagine in the last 10 years, I started to get more serious about acting. I did some Web series and a lot of webisodes and then really kind of settled into my role as wife and mom and supporting my family. And my husband’s career took off really, really fast, and so naturally, as women, sometimes you fall into the background role.
Our life wasn’t filled with assistants and a bunch of people, so I kind of filled that gap and then got a little angsty and bored because I am an artist and creative. I went back to dancing when I heard Beyoncé was holding auditions for a video that she was putting out, so I went to it … it had been, like, three or four years, but I just went, and I was like, “It will be like a free workout; why not.”
I ended up booking her “Diva” music video and ended up on her I Am … Tour. After I had my daughter, that kind of slowed things down, and now I am divorcing. I feel like I am moving out to L.A. all over again and just starting from scratch, but it’s a good thing, and I am happy and excited.
TR: What attracted you to The End Again and the role?
TM: You know, they sent me this script and asked me to put myself on tape for it, and I was like, “OK, I’ll get to it, I’ll read it, I’ll read it.” I had a lot of things going on, you know, being a mom and wife, and I finally sat down and it was the deadline—like, the last day I could have done it—and I read, and I was like, “Oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness, I love it. Why didn’t I read it sooner?”
Then I didn’t feel prepared and I was sad with myself, and I had to rush this and put myself on tape for it, but I loved the script. I loved the script because I was getting really disenchanted by the material I was being sent by my manager and my agent. I was either playing a baby mama, a gold digger, a stripper, a whore or a slave. I was attracted to the character because it was written for any race. It was honestly written, like what I would think white actresses get to play.
I grew up with a lot of black films being character-driven. Love Jones, Love & Basketball and Poetic Justice were very patient films where you get to know the characters, and we don’t really have that anymore. I felt that this script was so patient and so real, and I loved the fact that when I finally did solidify the role, what made me fall in love with it even more was that every person of great interest in terms of the team—the writer, the executive producer, other producers, the director—are all African-American women, and that is so hard, being a double minority in Hollywood. Being a woman is hard enough, but then being a black woman on top of it, our stories do not get told and we are not represented at all.
I really respected the fact that Felicia Pride, the writer; Latisha Fortune, the producer; [and] Crystle Roberson, the director, were rallying for this to come to fruition … that is why I really wanted to hit the promo for this, because they started their Indiegogo campaign, and we have to take the driver’s seat in this as African Americans. Hollywood isn’t going to do it for us. If we really want to see ourselves reflected on-screen—big screen, small screen—we are going to have to take matters into our own hands and do it and create it ourselves, and be supportive of one another as audience members and as creatives.
TR: Jane Salmon and Joe Maxwell in the movie are going through a breakup. Was this filmed around the same time your marriage issues with Columbus Short came about?
TM: I’m usually super, super private about things like that, but I will say for the sake of the movie, and then I will open up a little bit about it. Yes, I filed for divorce … September 2013, and I only say that to say that this movie was shot when we were separated. I was living somewhere else and he was living in the house, but he wanted his family back and he was trying, and this was one of his attempts, I believe.
I auditioned for this outside of him; I did this, I booked it. We had done multiple chemistry reads with different actors, and it just wasn’t there. Columbus dropped me off at one of the last auditions and picked me up and saw I was kind of frustrated because shooting was coming up in a couple weeks and we hadn’t found our Joe.
Columbus was like, “Why didn’t you ask me to do it?” and I was like, “What?” He was like, “I mean, I’ll do it. Why not me?” We always have worked separate, even if it was a project that he was cast in and he was the lead for it and I was an actress going in for an audition. I knew he knew the producers, the directors, everybody in the room; I still wouldn’t go in there and say, “My husband’s in this” or “I’m his wife,” and I wouldn’t allow him to, either.
I wanted everything to be gotten on my own merit. I wanted everything to be separate. As a matter of fact, I only hyphenated “Short” to my name as an eight-year-anniversary present to him, because I just really wanted things to be on the up-and-up. I never wanted work and our relationship to affect one another. We’ve been very private about our private life, and our marriage was really important, and we didn’t want fodder for gossip. So when he did that and volunteered, I thought it was really selfless.
It’s a short film and he was on Scandal, and it’s the No. 1 show. I would say that this movie was the thing that really bonded us, and it was the thing that made me go back. When we shot it was amazing, the experience was amazing; we have a great working relationship. We have written, produced, starred, choreographed and danced together. Our link was a lot through our artistry and the fact that we were both art kids and Renaissance kind of people. So it was great to shoot with him because he is an amazing actor.
You can say many things about my husband, but one thing you cannot, cannot ever say is that he’s not talented. He’s one of the most talented people on the planet I’ve met and still, to me, probably the most talented individual I’ve ever met in my entire life. We had a really great time shooting this, but unfortunately the reconciliation didn’t work out. So people ask, “Were you guys having problems before or after the divorce?” The answer is, both. It was basically two separate filings. I filed in September 2013 and April 2014. We shot this in January 2014. So there you have it.
TRt: Do you think that couples can ever end things on an amicable note?
TM: Absolutely. Yes. I don’t see, really, why not. I know you have to give one another the space and time to heal and get over it because [of] your heart and your feelings. You can’t just flip a switch, but as long as there is a mutual respect there and no one was disrespected or abused or harmed, I think, definitely, why not? Love is love.
TR: What can people look forward to seeing you in in the future?
TM: Right now I actually have a few things that are being developed and under wraps—and you know, in the business, there is one thing of speaking things into existence and another to talk prematurely. As confident as I am about things moving forward with certain projects that I have, it’s in the works and it’s nothing I have signed, sealed and delivered at this point where I feel confident enough to publicize right now. But I am definitely back in there and auditioning and grinding. I have a few modeling things I’ve been doing, and I have never modeled before, so I am about to embark on new creative ways to showcase my talent.
TR: What do you want people to know about, Tanee?
TM: I want people to know that I have always been doing this; that I didn’t move to L.A. to marry a famous actor and be a housewife and sit around eating bonbons and going out for lunch to the Ivy every day and shopping. That’s not me.
I have a creative soul. I have been doing this since I was since I was 2 years old. I moved to Los Angeles to act, dance, write and create. If there is anything that I want people to take away, [it's] that I am not Columbus Short’s wife; I am not Tanee Short. I am Tanee McCall. I’m my own entity.
I have a strong belief in empowering women, and I hope that I can be a light and strength to other women who may have gone through similar situations like I have. I’ve gotten such great responses from all women of all races. I’ve gotten a lot of people sharing their story with me, but particularly after the whole D.L. Hughley thing, with him calling me a ho.
I got such support from my sisters, and it makes me emotional to think about it, but the way you guys rallied around me, I felt a type of way about my black men. I really did. Because when things happen with them, we come, we march, we yell, we scream. And I am not a victim, but I felt very kicked when I was already down. I was in hiding with my head under the covers, mourning my marriage. I was hurting. And I was with my husband before he had anything. My husband didn’t have a car, a job or anything when I met him. What we created together, we built together as a couple.
Any woman that is a wife and a real wife knows what the job is as a wife, and that was no easy chore, particularly with someone that was so high profile and powerful. That was a full-time job, being his wife, and to be attacked like that really hurt, but I really appreciate my sisters for coming forward and supporting me. I needed that; I really did. And I hope that more people can come and share their stories with me and that I can be a light and help women know that they can get out of similar situations and be OK.
To learn more about The End Again and Openended, go here.