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Playing With Fire In Theatres November 8!

This post is in partnership with Paramount Pictures


We were thrilled to be invited by Paramount Pictures to visit the set of the Playing with Fire Movie starring John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Brianna Hildebrand, Dennis Haybert, and Judy Greer.


When straight-laced fire superintendent Jake Carson (John Cena) and his elite team of expert firefighters (Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, and Tyler Mane) come to the rescue of three siblings (Brianna Hildebrand, Christian Convery, and Finley Rose Slater) in the path of an encroaching wildfire, they quickly realize that no amount of training could prepare them for their most challenging job yet – babysitters. Unable to locate the children’s parents, the firefighters have their lives, jobs and even their fire depot turned upside down and quickly learn that kids – much like fires –are wild and unpredictable.


Playing with Fire

Directed by: Andy Fickman

Executive Produced by: Mark Moran

Produced by: Todd Garner, Sean Robins

Story by: Dan Ewen

Screenplay by: Dan Ewen and Matthew Lieberman

Starring: John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, Brianna Hildebrand, Dennis Haybert, Judy Greer

On the Set of Playing With Fire

While on the set, we had the opportunity to interview actors John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, Brianna Hildebrand, and Judy Greer plus producer Todd Garner and director Andy Fickman.

Playing With Fire Movie with John Cena

John Cena and Autumn Murray


When asked about how he keeps himself grounded when it comes to starring in a leading role. John Cena (actor and professional wrestler) gave us an in-depth look at how he feels about filmmaking and what makes films successful.  

I don’t believe that the person at the top of the lineup should hold entitlement or power over anybody.  I believe that the success on this movie is going to come from everyone’s efforts.  With Playing with Fire, it is not just me it is everyone involved with making the film.  That is Keegan, John, Judy, Andy, Brianna, Dennis, the dog, publicity, the assistants, the people holding the lights, the people bringing in the cameras, the people bringing in the lenses, catering, the people who feed us, etc.

In regard to being grounded. I believe that I got that discipline from the WWE live tour.  We can go out there and do the best we want, but if the ring isn’t in good shape, if the staging isn’t set up good, if the effects don’t work right, our show doesn’t come off as magical.  So, I know we need every piece.  And that’s just something I’ve never lost.

When asked about researching for the film, and training as an actual smoke jumper, John replied:

When you see the movie, you’ll understand that smoke jumping is more of a backdrop for the story.

The best way to try to build this impenetrable emotional wall for my character (Jake Carson) was to make him the most elite of emergency personnel possible.  And what smokejumpers do, you can’t train for.

They literally just jump out of a plane and into these massive natural disasters and stay there until it’s done.  So, they jump with a few supplies, and they are left with their firefighting tools and enough food they can pack.  They break bones in the fall down, it is not the safest profession.

I think when people watch this movie, they are going to be swept up by the story of that emotional wall coming down.

I could train for months to find out what it is like to be a smokejumper and still not have it down right.  In the film, we don’t do smoke jumping any harm by pretending we know what we’re doing.  We give them a proper homage, and then we do the things that we can manipulate to make sure that they look as elite as they are.

But, it’s all a backdrop to build this emotional wall that my character has that he’s not going to let anything through and that work is first and that the job comes first and foremost, and you dedicate your life to the job.

Playing With Fire In Theatres November 8! #PlayingWithFireMovie


Producer Todd Garner is known for such films as Daddy Daycare, Zookeeper, Game Plan, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and Pacifier to name a few. Todd gave us an overview of Playing with Fire.

It's about Missoula Smokejumpers. There are 339 smokejumpers in the United States. It's the most elite part of the firefighting unit there is. They're kind of like the Navy SEALs of firefighters.

And the idea is that these guys, in real-life, they live way off the grid in these depots. And they're constantly ready to fight a fire. They're completely self-sufficient. They'll jump into a fire with 150 pounds of gear. Sometimes they'll be in there for 48 hours. They basically just take chainsaws and axes and things like that.

These guys stumble upon a burning cabin because John Cena's character (Jake Carson) is attempting to try to curry favor with his boss to get a promotion. So, he's trying to get a little face time, because normally they don't do rescues. And because he does that, he stumbles on these three kids. And so, in classic family comedy fashion, these four lug-heads are stuck with these three kids. And these guys who are prepared for anything, to go into a fire for 48 hours and survive but surviving three kids for 48 hours is probably beyond their control.

When asked if Todd or any of the cast and crew met with any real-life smokejumpers before filming the movie, Todd replied: 

We did meet with a few real life smokejumpers and they read the script.

Smokejumpers don't generally jump from helicopters they jump from the planes.  It is tough to film a rescue from a plane. So, we did take some creative license with what they do by helicopters in the movie.

They were happy with the message of the movie, which is they are heroes and they generally do the right thing.

Playing With Fire Movie with Keegan-Michael Key Pin

Keegan-Michael Key and Autumn Murray


Keegan-Michael Key (actor, comedian, writer, and producer) plays Mark Rogers, one of the smokejumpers who belongs to a depot in Redding, CA. Keegan shared the backstory of his character with us.

Mark is hyper-helpful I guess is how I would describe him because a little bit of his back story is that a smoke jumper saved his life.

And so then he decided–he saved his life in more ways than one, really, because what he has figured is he was kind of living a dead-end rat race life.  And he wasn’t even aware that this was something that a person could do, let alone feel fulfilled doing.

And then, he threw himself into this job wholeheartedly.  So, he feels in a way that he owes the people that brought him like a Phoenix out of from the ashes into a brand-new life.  Not only did they save his physical life, but they have saved his spiritual life, his mental life, and his emotional life.

So, the fire depot is like home to him.  It’s like his Sanctorum in a manner of speaking.  So, he is extremely helpful.  And one of the comedic bits–or as we say in the business, one of the runners through the piece–is that if you need something, Mark has it – sometimes magically.  There are moments in the film that are so broad comedically that my character is pretty much a wizard.  He kind of bends space and time.  In one moment he may be on one side of the room and then when you need him, he’s literally on the other side of the room, so hyper-helpful.  He’s kind of the shepherd of the rest of the crew.

When the script was written, his character was originally named Maurice.  Keegan gave us his reasons for wanting the character's name changed to Mark.

I personally felt that the name Maurice was being used as a punchline.  I wanted to give him the most ordinary name possible.  The movie itself is hyper-realistic and there are parts of the movie that are so fun.

But some of the fun is derived from a supernatural quality.  I wanted to keep as much of it grounded as we could because I want to be able to pull people in. I want to start at a place of reality, so that as we hype up into this other behavior, we really take you along with us.

For example, with my sketch show (Key & Peele) if you started at 16, I’ve already lost three-quarters of the audience.  You must start at one.  If the middle of your scene–or the middle of your film–is a 16, you’re probably cooking with gas.  Don’t ever start it at 20 because people are going to go, “Okay, this is already surreal and weird.  How am I supposed to identify with these people?  How am I supposed to go on this journey with these people in a practical way?  So, that’s why I changed the name.

Playing With Fire Movie with Judy Greer Pin

Judy Greer and Autumn Murray


When interviewing actress Judy Greer on why she wanted to take on this role, she replied:

That’s an easy one because I loved the script, which is probably what everyone always says.  I have been doing a lot of really dark acting roles lately.  There is a TV show that I am doing that’s really dark and intense and some recent movies that have the same theme.

After reading the script, I honestly felt like I manifested this job for myself because I was looking forward to doing something fun and going somewhere where I can just hang out and work with really cool, fun people and make people laugh.

What has it been like working alongside John Cena?

He is part of the reason why I took this role as I had heard such good things about him.  On the first day of work, we filmed a scene where John takes his shirt off and I see his reflection in the mirror. It was literally the first day and our characters are starting to soften up towards each other. When I saw his reflection, I totally forgot my lines, and everyone was waiting for me to talk.  I apologized for forgetting my lines and everybody on set started laughing.   I think everyone had the same reaction as I did to be honest.

Since telling my husband about that scene, I get a million texts a day from him now and he says things like:  “You know, I cleaned the drain of the sink.  I don’t know if John Cena would clean the drain of the sink. I also have been giving Mary (our dog) her medicine and she hasn’t bitten me.  I don’t know if John Cena would be able to feed the dog her pill every morning.” I am enjoying his reaction.

But seriously, John is wonderful to work with as are Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo, and the entire cast.  We are having a lot of fun.


Playing With Fire In Theatres November 8!



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  • ‘s Brianna Hildebrand – after they rescue them from a forest fire, but are unable to locate their parents. It doesn’t open until November, but Paramount has decided to go ahead and get the ball rolling on the movie’s marketing this week.


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