Jack Harlow says his game is lacking in 'White Men Can't Jump': 'It's called Hollywood, brother'

In 1992, Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes teamed up for a buddy basketball movie called "White Men Can't Jump." The film went on to be a hoops-themed favorite. But did the world really need a remake?

Thanks to a new pairing − rapper Jack Harlow in his first feature film and veteran actor Sinqua Walls − the reboot remains zippy and timely, anchored as it is to themes such as race relations, dashed dreams and the color-blind bonds formed through sports.

Being asked to star in a reboot (streaming Friday on Hulu) "meant the world to us," says Harlow, 25, fresh off a "Saturday Night Live" hosting stint and a confessional new album, "Jackman." "It's such a classic, I remember seeing it in the theater."

Walls, 38, who stars in the upcoming horror satire "The Blackening" (in theaters June 16) and portrayed "Soul Train" founder Don Cornelius in TV's "American Soul," played Division I college basketball at the University of San Francisco. The original "White Men" is in his personal pantheon of basketball movie greats, which also includes "Blue Chips," "He Got Game" and "Sunset Park."

Hulu's "White Men Can't Jump" remake stars rapper Jack Harlow (left) and Sinqua Walls as a pair of hustling hoopsters who team up in the world of LA streetball.
Hulu's "White Men Can't Jump" remake stars rapper Jack Harlow (left) and Sinqua Walls as a pair of hustling hoopsters who team up in the world of LA streetball.

"Nothing is going to take the place of the original," says Walls. "We wanted to pay homage and also update the story."

Deviating a bit from the original which involved a gangster subplot, the 2023 version focuses on how the protagonists, both struggling financially and emotionally, team up to play in a lucrative street hoops tournament that can turn around their fortunes.

Question: You both look like you've got game in this movie. Did you need to bring your skills up to speed?

Walls: I grew up playing since I was 6, so it was old hat, just had to dust it off. I go to the gym once or twice a week, I keep the heater ready.

Harlow: I'm (terrible). He's really good.

Really? Jack, your moves look good in the movie.

Harlow: It's called Hollywood, brother.

Jack Harlow (left) shares the stage with Bryson Tiller on Oct. 12, 2022, in New York.
Jack Harlow (left) shares the stage with Bryson Tiller on Oct. 12, 2022, in New York.

Your camaraderie in this movie seems genuine. Was it?

Walls: This wouldn’t work with the amount of time we’ve had to spend together if we didn’t naturally get along. You hear those horror stories, but this isn’t one of those.

Harlow: We did a chemistry read and I was very intimidated. But one thing I’ll say about this brother right here: his integrity. Through and through. Stand-up guy, bro. I just immediately clicked with the human he was. He was giving me pointers, sharing a lot of knowledge. So this is someone I’ll be able to call a friend for life because of one phenomenal summer.

Sinqua, were you a fan of Jack Harlow the rapper before you met? What did you make of criticism he's received for being a white musician in rap?

Walls: From the time I met this brother, he was a good man and a good friend. Was I familiar with his music? Yeah, and his music is phenomenal. I think some people want to be critical when people are telling their story and their truth. He walks around with his own confidence, and he’s comfortable with himself, so people are challenging that, because it’s rare to see someone who’s like, yes, I’m good with me.

Your movie does crackle with racial tensions but ultimately shows how sports in particular can erase that.

Walls: Basketball is a backdrop to community building. I’ve met so many people from different walks from life because of basketball. For Jack and Sinqua and Sinqua and Jack, it’s about what kind of impact do we want to have on people? It’s not a one or other color experience, it’s a human experience.

Jack, you have a deadpan delivery in this movie that is hilarious. And you pulled that out on "SNL" recently, too. Does comedy come naturally to you?

Harlow: I was raised on certain type of humor. To me, "The Office" is probably one of the best shows ever. And my parents are charismatic and hilarious. So I was raised in a place where people could hold court with their humor.

Any favorite memories from the shoot?

Walls: It was a beautiful version of summer camp. My brother here is very committed to everything he does. When he came in as an actor, he didn’t come in saying, I’m Jack Harlow and I want to act. He came in as a scene partner, a teammate, a friend. He’s one of few people who called me and said, I want to talk before we get onscreen, I want to run lines. I’ve worked with a lot of talented, illustrious people, famous people, who haven’t made that same level of commitment. So for this to be his first one, he’s years beyond where people would be. I do believe he’ll be one of the superstars in this industry.

Sinqua Walls starred as Don Cornelius in BET's "American Soul."
Sinqua Walls starred as Don Cornelius in BET's "American Soul."

Quite the compliment. But that could mean an even bigger spotlight, Jack. In your new album, you express reservations about fame.

Harlow (laughs): I mean, I change my mind, I definitely want to be famous, this (stuff) is sweet.

What's the best thing about being famous?

Harlow: We lived a blessed life. Fame aside, the ability to make a living doing what we love, it sounds cliché but it’s the greatest gift. Of course, there’s going to be some bumps, but I’m really grateful for the life I’m living right now, and I know it’s actually fragile.

Are your fans going to see more of you on the big screen?

Harlow: Yeah definitely. I feel liberated. Sometimes there’s a box music puts you in, and you’re Jack Harlow. So for me, playing characters is really exciting. Oh, I get to jump out of that box as much as I want.

New movies this week: Watch Vin Diesel's 'Fast X,' Jack Harlow's 'White Men Can't Jump'

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jack Harlow movie 'White Men Can't Jump' lets him be more than rapper