Condolences to the family of beloved
Celebrated actor/comedian Ricky Harris, another person that I and countless others were fond of, also departed this life December 26, 2016. To honor his legacy, here is the reprint of a 2007 interview with Harris to discuss his role in the feature film, THIS CHRISTMAS–
Before they went on to stardom and expanded careers, today’s biggest and best stand-up comedians all passed through the Bay Area Black Comedy Competition, once the largest showcase of undiscovered talent this side of the Mississippi.
During the 90’s, one such talented comedian, Ricky Harris, brought the house down in Oakland’s historic Paramount Theatre, and today is one of the costars of the warm and entertaining family drama, THIS CHRISTMAS, opening in theaters on Nov. 21st.
In 2007, I spoke to the Long Beach, CA native about life since the comedy competition and his role in THIS CHRISTMAS–
Sandra Varner (SV): Congratulations on the film, it’s quite good. I talked to one of your costars, Regina King, who is amazing in this movie.
Ricky Harris (RH): Yeah, that’s my girl. I’ve known Regina for quite a while, since we first got in the business. I used to see her at auditions all the time. She and her sister would come to the comedy clubs…Regina is really a good person. It’s a small world for those of us in this business.
SV: Speaking of how small the world is, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw you in THIS CHRISTMAS. I remembered you from the Bay Area Black Comedy competition.
RH: Yeah (laughter), that’s how long I’ve been out here humping in this business.
SV: That’s the kind of business it is. Describe your experience as part of this talented ensemble in THIS CHRISTMAS.
RH: It was really great to be around my peers and so many people that I admire in this business like Loretta Devine and Delroy Lindo. It’s incredible because I’ve been watching that brother and admiring what he’s done in this business. They give me inspiration because they’ve been doing this for so long, and, to work with them was amazing. Plus, we had such a wide range of talent from the younger actors to the experienced ones. We all learned from each other and got along extremely well. What you see on the screen is the way it was throughout the filming of this movie; we were a family and we all had a ball. The responses we’ve been getting from the screenings are very positive.
SV: Are you still doing stand up?
About THIS CHRISTMAS:
For the first time in four years, the entire Whitfield clan is assembled for Christmas at the L.A. home of the family matriarch, affectionately known as Ma’ Dere (Loretta Devine). Ma’ Dere’s three sons and three daughters have come from all over the country for an emotional reunion that promises to be as dramatic, contentious and hilarious as it is heartwarming. As family finances cause sparks to fly, long simmering disputes boil over and closely held secrets are revealed, the rare gathering also draws the Whitfields closer together to celebrate their most unforgettable holiday yet.
A poignant drama laced with laughter, music and suspense, the film tells the story of a family that is at once utterly unique and surprisingly universal.
The ensemble cast features Delroy Lindo (The Cider House Rules), Idris Elba (“The Wire” ), Loretta Devine (Dreamgirls, “Grey’s Anatomy”), Chris Brown (Stomp the Yard), Keith Robinson (Dreamgirls), Laz Alonso (Stomp the Yard), Columbus Short (Stomp The Yard), Sharon Leal (Dreamgirls, Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married), Lauren London (ATL, “Entourage”), Mekhi Phifer (8 Mile, “ER”) and Regina King (Ray, Jerry McGuire). Preston A. Whitmore II (The Walking Dead, Crossover) wrote and directed the film and also produced along with Will Packer. Executive producers are Mekhi Phifer, Ronnie Warner, Paddy Cullen, Damon Lee and Delroy Lindo.
Christmas has always been an elaborate production at the Whitfield home, and this year is no exception. With her grown children and their significant others all present for the first time in years, Shirley “Ma’ Dere” Whitfield (Loretta Devine) is in her element. Holiday traditions and old resentments are starting to bubble up.
Oldest daughter Lisa (Regina King), also known as Sister, is trying to convince the rest of the family to sell the dry cleaning business their mother has run for years so her overly-ambitious husband Malcolm (Laz Alonso) will have the capital he needs to close an important business deal. Her sister Kelli (Sharon Leal), a high-powered business woman, is dead set against doing anything Malcolm wants. Youngest daughter Mel (Lauren London) is home from college and primarily interested in finding a private place to canoodle with her latest beau, Devean (Keith Robinson).
Ma’ Dere’s son Claude (Columbus Short), an active duty Marine, arrives with some unexpected news while his younger brother Baby (Chris Brown) has a surprise of his own for the family. When estranged eldest son Quentin (Idris Elba), a jazz musician, makes a surprise appearance, he neglects to tell the family he’s on the run from his gambling debts.
Despite her extensive preparations, Ma’ Dere’s plans for a cozy holiday soon begin to evaporate. When the siblings head out to an L.A. nightclub for some fun, an off color remark by another patron sparks a fight and Claude ends up in jail.
Later, Kelli spends the night with Gerald (Mekhi Phifer), a handsome fireman she meets at the club, Malcolm flies to New York on a last-minute “business trip” and a pair of thugs comes looking for Quentin with mayhem on their minds. Meanwhile, Ma’ Dere is harboring some secrets of her own, such as the full extent of her relationship with longtime boyfriend Joseph Black (Delroy Lindo).
With their holiday seemingly on a collision course with disaster, it will take all the humor, heart and love the Whitfields can muster to survive This Christmas.