John Shaft and his son John Shaft Jr. (evidently their familial relationship has changed) have both been known for two things: their reputations as ladies’ men and tough crime fighters who know how to get answers. With the addition of the third generation in JJ, Shaft is going to add some interesting dynamics to the world of that character. And one of the most surprising is the relationship between Samuel L. Jackson’s John Shaft Jr. and the mother of his child, Maya, played by Regina Hall.
For a man who followed in his father’s footsteps as being very social with women, John Shaft Jr. apparently found his romantic Achilles’ heel in Maya, as we’ll see in director Tim Story’s Shaft reboot. And during a set visit early last year, CinemaBlend was on hand with other journalists to learn just how that relationship will affect not only the story of the Shaft reboot, but also how it effects the legendary image of this character.
To start us off, here’s what we learned from Regina Hall, in terms of why Maya is so attractive to Shaft, but also why their relationship broke up at the beginning of Shaft:
She’s very good in bed. That’s how she got [John] Shaft. You know, Shaft has a lot of ‘em, but Maya came along, and he was like ‘That, right there.’ … His lifestyle is the problem, so when they have a child and she becomes a mother, and they get shot at by about 10 men, she decides that it’s probably safer for her to raise the baby away from Shaft.
While the trailer for Shaft showed audiences a lot of the set-up for three generations of John Shafts running around and fighting crime, we do get to see a little bit of Maya putting John Jr. in his place when confronting him about their son’s involvement in the film’s central case. And instead of the typical argument you would expect to ensue, we see Samuel L. Jackson’s second generation John take their encounters in stride.
It’s this fact that Regina Hall continued to elaborate on, as she further discussed the relationship between John Jr. and Maya as follows:
It’s good to see him in a position where he cares, so he’s not in a power position. And that’s the only time he’s not in the power position is when he’s with Maya. He’s like a man in love.
One of the core tenets of Shaft’s central character is that he is, in fact, a sex machine to all the chicks. But with JJ hot on the case of a murdered friend, and his father John Jr. helping him investigate, John Jr. and Maya get to bristle with energy
During that same day on the set visit for Shaft, we got to also talk to Samuel L. Jackson, as he walked into the room during our discussion with Regina Hall. And like any good partner, Jackson jumped in with further details about how John Jr. and Maya’s relationship is different from a typically conflicting romance. He laid down the following clues as to what we’ll see in their interactions during Shaft:
It’s not even a love/hate thing, it’s just a love/safety thing. She took him away from me, because my lifestyle is too dangerous. It had nothing to do with her falling out of love with me. But in the absence, people create and fill their space how they need to fill it. And she’s done that in those 25 years. … The separation is one thing. It’s like we literally don’t see each other, so all of a sudden when we see each other you can see, when they look at each other, this thing happens that’s almost irresistible. But it’s like, I’m not letting you pull me back in.
As there’s more of a careful mix between comedy and action in director Tim Story’s Shaft reboot, one of the binding agents that seems to balance those two factors out is this family reunion of John Jr., Maya and JJ; as well as the addition of Richard Roundtree’s original John. In a series primarily known for a single protagonist solving a crime, doing the legwork to find those responsible, and bringing them to justice, you need a strong hook to introduce such a dynamic this late in the game.
And the best description of just how the John Jr./Maya relationship balances those tones in Shaft is the one that both Samuel L. Jackson and Regina Hall gave as they discussed their on-screen romance:
Jackson: And generally, every time they’re together, something fucking dangerous happens.
Hall: Within six minutes, some shit pops off.
Jackson: Or I say something wrong.