MIAMI BEACH — Sitting only a few steps from the famed sands of Miami Beach, Florida, comedian and actor Hannibal Buress admitted he spent “far more time on the sand” making “Baywatch” (opening Thursday) than he did as a kid growing up on the West Side of Chicago.
“I went to North Avenue Beach a few times, but I grew up in the area of North Avenue out by Austin [Boulevard], so going to the beach wasn’t a big part of my growing up. I’ve been, but not all that often,” said Buress, who added that “I’ve come to realize a lot of people not from Chicago don’t realize the city has a lot of beaches — running all the way from the South Side all the way up to Evanston and the northern suburbs.”
The Steinmetz High School grad, who recently moved back to the city’s Wicker Park neighborhood, did remember one thing about the lifeguards from the few times he did go to Chicago beaches. “They sure didn’t look anywhere as good as the bodies — both men and women — who worked on this movie,” the somewhat beefy actor said with a hearty laugh. “Everybody — and I mean everybody — in this film, and that includes all the extras, were so great-looking. That’s everybody except me. That’s why they made me keep my shirt on in every scene I’m in!”
Buress’ connection to the “Baywatch” project began with an audition for the role of a police officer who’s the nemesis of Dwayne Johnson’s Mitch character and his lifesaving team. That role ultimately went to Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. “While I didn’t get that part, the producers came back to me later and reached out about the Dave character. It was fun, mainly because they allowed me to riff a lot and improv with the lines, so that was great!”
That said, Burress explained that he was a little intimidated when it came to the day he had to film his big scene with “Quantico” star Priyanka Chopra, who plays the sexy villainess Victoria Leeds in “Baywatch.”
“Priyanka is a really good actress. I’m mid-level, if that,” he said with a chuckle. “She came in so prepared. Right in the first take, she nailed it. I genuinely believed her character. I totally felt her evilness as Victoria.
“I thought to myself, ‘Oh, man! I better learn my lines a little better, so I can be on point with her!”
His character, Dave, is known as an expert hacker. “I’m not really much of a techie guy,” Buress said. “I’m 34, and at that age, the internet came around in my teenage years, but I still remember what the world was like without it.
“Here’s an example of my situation. I’m still not very good at Snapchat. I try to do stuff, but I end up thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing?!’ So, there are situations like Snapchat where I feel old, because I can’t get it!”