'Bad Boys for Life': Keyport native reprises role in new Will Smith, Martin Lawrence film
Actor Will Smith drove his co-star Martin Lawrence in a Porsche 911 to the premiere of the latest "Bad Boys" movie in Los Angeles. (Jan. 15) AP Domestic
Bianca Bethune was bit by the performance bug at a young age.
The Keyport native discovered her love for performing in adolescence, when she performed dance routines at halftime of New York Liberty and then-New Jersey Nets basketball games.
Bethune, 29, attended Rutgers Preparatory School in Somerset, commuting to New York City for auditions and New Jersey to take classes.
When she was 11 years old, Bethune got her first big break, landing the role of Megan Burnett, Martin Lawrence's on-screen daughter in the 2003 film "Bad Boys II."
"After that, my mother and I, we actually moved out to California, sold everything. Kind of that actor story, you know, living in a small little studio apartment ... We just pushed through, kept the grind going," Bethune told the Press.
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Seventeen years later, the "Bad Boys" franchise is back with its third installment, "Bad Boys for Life," starring Will Smith and Lawrence. Bethune reprises her role as Burnett, now grown, married and a mother. The film debuted at No. 1 over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, bringing in $59 million in the U.S. and Canada box offices.
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"I’m grateful that I crossed that bridge from child actor to now adult actor,” Bethune said. She credits life experiences as preparation for the movie.
"I’ve gone through a lot of heartache, heart break, friends, family circumstances that definitely cultivated a strength inside of me that was able to carry on into the film," Bethune said.
Working alongside seasoned actors Smith and Lawrence, Bethune appreciated their insight and presence on set.
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“It was like a family reunion. The chemistry was there. There was never a moment where I felt disconnected. It just felt like, almost like a missing piece, we’re just back together again, like we never left," Bethune said.
"They were definitely open arms to me, super gracious and taking time to speak to me and ask me how I’m doing in the sense of, like, my career. We didn’t miss a beat, it was awesome, so loving," Bethune said. "The first day, Will wasn’t even in the scene I was in and he made sure he came over to our location, said hello and gave me a hug, just showed me love and told me how excited he was to see me.”
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Prior to filming "Bad Boys for Life," Bethune acted on a number of television shows. She has acting credits in "Criminal Minds," "Everybody Hates Chris," "Zoey 101" and "Rosewood." For four seasons, she starred as Sharee Gifford on Freeform's "Switched at Birth."
"Sharee was going through circumstances in high school. She was tough around the edges but definitely had a heart of gold and that’s definitely me," Bethune said of her "Switched at Birth" role.
However, Bethune feels as though she personally relates more to her "Bad Boys for Life" character Burnett.
"With Megan, that’s me. That role was me. And the fact that I grew with her … that just shows my growth that I’m doing what I’m supposed to do and I’m on the right path,” Bethune said.
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What's next for the Keyport native in 2020 and beyond? She's working on short films and ways to keep her creative fire lit.
"I like to paint, I like to go outdoors and go for hikes. It also goes hand in hand because no one’s working 24/7. So the days when things are slow, what are you doing to keep yourself uplifted and happy and in a positive spirit?" Bethune said. "A lot of 'no’s' can weigh you down, you know, make you second guess and doubt yourself. There’s no need for that. It’s just that job wasn’t for you because another one is coming.”
Despite residing in the Golden State, Bethune is a Jersey girl through and through. She lived on Atlantic Street in Keyport and took horseback riding lessons in Colts Neck.
“My family is out there, so I do try to come out, especially during the holidays, so it’s that kind of hometown feel. It’s like a Hallmark movie that you don’t always get especially in California. I definitely miss the quaint, hometown mom and pop stores, restaurants, that kind of vibe," she said.
What's the most important lesson Bethune has learned in Hollywood thus far?
“Persistence is key. I feel like so many of us look at the 'now it' girl, 'it' guy and try to replicate who they are versus just waiting our turn. I’d definitely say be proactive in your craft but know that your time comes in your time," Bethune said. "And there’s no rush, there’s no need to step on someone else’s toes. Just keep with the pace and follow your journey and you’ll get there.”
Jai-Leen James is a digital producer at the Asbury Park Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @j_james17.