While both Daniel Sunjata and Jason O’Mara absolutely nailed it as Ranger and Morelli in the new Stephanie Plum comedy One for the Money, they did it in very different ways. As mysterious bounty hunter expert Ranger, Daniel just had the whole package: The look, the unflappable calm, the cool in tense situations.
But with Jason, it came down to one line. Skip to 1:10 in the trailer, when Morelli speeds away yelling, “Good to see ya, Cupcake!” For me, that was quintessentially Morelli: The words were from Janet Evanovich‘s novel, but the scruffy cop yelling part-insult, part-compliment to his ex was something you had to see.
Jason revealed, however, that the parts that clinched it for him was when he would improvise lines with co-star Katherine Heigl. This makes sense, since the cast was under so much pressure to please Evanovich’s fanbase of almost twenty years. The choice came from director Julie Anne Robinson, and it helped to get him, a longtime TV actor, more comfortable working on a film, as well as to cement Morelli and Stephanie’s on-screen banter.
Katherine comes in and nails it on the first take every time, and it’s almost like, “OK, let’s move on.” But the director said, “Let’s not move on, let’s do another take.” She’d have a private word in Katie’s ear and a private word in mine, and then we’d start making stuff up and firing different kinds of insults at each other.
It’s a very exciting way of working! I’d seen Harvey Keitel do it on Life on Mars, and it gets your adrenlaine pumping. You don’t know what’s gonna happen next, and there’s a sense of danger. I think there’s something dangerous about Morelli, and even Stephanie’s relationship with him—there’s something unpredicatable. I’m quite proud of what we came up with.
When I pressed him for specific lines that had been improvised, he offered up these exchanges, none of them uber-spoilery:
- When Morelli is rooting through Steph’s apartment while she’s naked and handcuffed to the shower, he overturns her cases of junk food and rants, “How do you eat the way you eat and look the way you look?” She snaps back, “What’re you doin’ with my Tastykakes?”
- During an argument, he yells, “We’re history—like the pyramids, baby!”
- Stephanie: “Maybe we should call the police.”
Morelli: “Jesus, Stephanie, I am the police.”
For these as well as your favorite lines from the book, check out One for the Money, out tomorrow.