We have patiently anticipated the big screen return of the sophisticated, successful, sexy cast of Malcolm D. Lee’s BEST MAN franchise for many years, now the wait is over! In this issue, we’ve got the goods from the cast and filmmaker of one of the most anticipated holiday films of the year!
BEST MAN HOLIDAY, opening November 15 from Universal Pictures, continues with college friends turned upwardly mobile adults: Lance (Morris Chestnut), Mia (Monica Calhoun), Harper (Taye Diggs), Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), Julian (Harold Perrineau), Candace (Regina Hall), Shelby (Melissa DeSousa), Quentin (Terrence Howard), Jordan (Nia Long), and newcomer Brian (Eddie Cibrian), reunited for a Christmas gathering to make the holidays brighter, or will they?
Since we last saw them, life has brought about significant change, mostly for the better.
For starters, new looks for Candace and Julian, in addition to their roles and responsibilities as husband and wife. Robyn is huge with child, Quentin much the same with ego. Jordan has a steady beau, Shelby has gone wild and good girl Mia is still holding down that fort.
Unlike many horror stories of money woes for professional ball players, Lance has maintained bank, big time.
A beautiful film by any measure, equally, up close they all looked spectacular during press interviews at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, ebullient with gratitude to be back for the sequel. There are surprises this time around and I’m not here to spoil them; you’ll just have to see for yourself.
Filmmaker Lee (UNDERCOVER BROTHER, ROLL BOUNCE, SOUL MEN, WELCOME HOME ROSCOE JENKINS) relies upon his fluid ability as a storyteller, providing language complimentary to a loyal cast, several of whom saw their careers spring board from the original 1999 film, THE BEST MAN.
Since the first BEST MAN, Harold Perrineau was cast in HBO’s incredibly popular prison drama OZ. His credits thereafter include THE
MATRIX franchise, 28 WEEKS LATER, ABC-TV’s Lost and HBO’s Sons of Anarchy among others.
Nia Long already beloved by legions of fans before coming to THE BEST MAN franchise continued with roles in STIGMATA, ALFIE, BIG MOMMA’S franchise, ARE WE THERE YET franchise, network TV’s Judging Amy, Third Watch, Boston Legal, The Cleveland Show and Showtime’s award-winning House of Lies.
Regina Hall has developed a penchant for comedic film roles in the SCARY MOVIE franchise, THINK LIKE A MAN franchise, MALIBU’S MOST WANTED, FIRST SUNDAY; network TV’s Ally McBeal, Second Generation Wayans along with dramatic parts in LAW ABIDING CITIZEN and TV’s Law & Order.
Sanaa Lathan has worked between film, television and stage. Her film credits include LOVE & BASKETBALL, BROWN SUGAR, OUT OF TIME, ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, SOMETHING NEW, THE FAMILY THAT PREYS, CONTAGION and HBO’s Disappearing Acts; TV’s Nip/Tuck, Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, Showtime’s Boss; Broadway’s A Raisin in the Sun and Meet Vera Stark.
Taye Diggs is too a triple threat with film, television, and stage accomplishments sitting comfortably under his belt. Prior to joining the BEST MAN franchise, he wowed and tantalized in the big screen adaptation of Terry McMillan’s HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK. Subsequent film credits include BROWN SUGAR, CHICAGO, MALIBU’S MOST WANTED, and BAGGAGE CLAIM; among his TV credits are Ally McBeal, Kevin Hill, and ABC’s Private Practice and; stage credits include Rent, Chicago and Wicked.
Oscar-nominated, multiple award-winning Terrence Howard accelerated his career’s trajectory with roles in HART’S WAR, BIKER BOYZ, CRASH, RAY, FOUR BROTHERS, PRIDE, AUGUST RUSH, IRON MAN, FIGHTING, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, RED TAILS, THE BUTLER, PRISONERS and others.
Excerpts from our BEST MAN HOLIDAY conversation follow—
What is your account of this sweet, sentimental franchise?
Sanaa Lathan (Robyn): I just marveled the whole time at the fact that nine people, 15 years ago, were kind of starting out in their career, nine black people, and 15 years later we were all thriving. We are all still in this business that we all know is risky and unpredictable for any actor let
alone a black actor. The fact that we could all come together again, we all have our health, and we’re all relatively sane (laughter), I mean it’s one thing to get like three people back together, but nine people? I think that’s amazing and I don’t look upon that lightly. This is a testament to some kind of faith in all of us in terms of pursuing this career, in terms of living life. For me, I just felt like it was a blessing to have all of these characters’ lives kind represented again. To have these stories being told again, for us, as a community.
I think one of the reasons why the first movie worked so well is because we (African Americans) rarely get to see these people; we don’t get to see ourselves reflected so well, so differently and, in such a variety of ways on film. Malcolm does that so well. It was just a great blessing to be able for this story to come together initially and to get back together.
Sanaa and Taye, is there shorthand between the two of you given your opportunity to work together on other projects over the years?
Taye Diggs (Harper): As far as the shorthand between us, speaking for myself, I feel like we were very fortunate in the first film because we had an immediate bond with each other; this is the type of film that sets the stage for great friendships, you know. When we made the first one, I didn’t know a lot of the cast members. I was familiar with Sanaa but we all became pretty tight after that and maintained relationships. When we got together for the second one, we were able to pick up right where we left off; I mean, without patting ourselves on the back, I also think that synergy comes with being experienced actors. The director did us all a favor by picking up fifteen years later with the characters so we all have matured as human beings and as actors.
Sanaa Lathan: We didn’t have to play the fifteen years because it was fifteen …
Taye Diggs: We were able to use our life experiences and put that forth toward the characters so that helped with the shorthand, and, it was just fun.
Malcolm D. Lee allowed both of you to be vulnerable in your character portrayals; it came across authentically, especially the bedroom scene when Robyn and Harper were confessing to each other their fears and expectations, your shortcomings…the on screen vulnerability was appreciably palpable.
Sanaa Lathan: Oh, I love that, that’s great feedback. I think Malcolm is a great writer; you’d be surprised that there are not a lot of good scripts in circulation. There’s a reason why there are only a handful of great movies because I think it’s hard to write something good. Malcolm did a great job with the sequel, taking all these characters with their growth, wherever they were in their lives, and inter-weaving their stories.
Did either of you have any idea this film would factor greatly in launching and establishing your careers?
Taye Diggs: Yeah, just to be working …
Will either of you return to Broadway soon?
Sanaa Lathan: Not that I know of…
Taye Diggs: Yeah, I want to…as soon as time permits.
There have been significant changes with each of you since the first BEST MAN, particularly with the way you look and more specifically, your hairstyles in the sequel—
Melissa DeSousa (Shelby): Well, I actually dyed my hair for the first one; it was brown with little blonde highlights but I thought for the
sequel I’d bump it up to Shelby 2.0, however, everyone is saying it’s 10.0 (laughter). I want Shelby to be current so to go blonde is just more fabulous than the first time around. I specifically told Malcolm I wanted to go blonde for the sequel and he loved the idea.
Harold Perrineau (Julian/Merch): I had already cut my hair a long time ago but for me it made sense that my character loses his dredlocks. He’s running a school now and he’s got to have a different image for the kids. Plus we’re doing it together and I think it’s something that they’re trying to present to these children in this particular neighborhood about professional looking adults. Certainly you can look professional with dreds but I think it made more sense that Merch has moved on a bit from there, he’s not as young and as carefree as before.
DeSousa: I told him before to get rid of them; he didn’t listen to me (said in typical Shelby fashion).
Regina Hall (Candace): Actually, changing my look was a little bit more of a struggle. Malcolm did not want me to do that particular hairstyle; he actually wanted Candace to have long hair. I thought that she is a new person, she’s a mother, she’s an educator, she’s a wife… it would made sense that she would have evolved in how she presents herself to the world even living in the same city and having been a dancer, a stripper and so forth. I thought that if she wanted to leave that lifestyle behind she would leave all of it behind so he finally acquiesced, then he liked it.
If this film does well at the box office, we could see a BEST MAN 3. What advice do you have for those who are new to the sequel experience?
Hall: Don’t sign a sequel deal; take it one movie at a time (laughter). It’s always great that an audience loves what you’re doing because that’s what creates the sequel– an audience resonating with a movie. Still, I’ve seen amazing movies that haven’t done well though I’ve loved them. The fact that an audience resonates with it enough to say we would like to see it again is an exciting thing to be a part of. It’s been 15 years since we made this initial film and the reception has been wonderful. I have people come up to me on the street telling me how excited they are for the sequel; that kind of response is what feels so amazing. People are energetically enthusiastic about this franchise as well as all of the support around the sequel feels great.
The responsibility of being the hero factors greatly in this story; do you interpret it the same way?
Morris Chestnut (Lance): Um, well, in terms of the responsibility of being the hero I didn’t really see Lance as the hero. I saw him as just doing what he was supposed to do. I mean, he was madly and passionately in love with his wife and he wanted to be there for her and their family. His mantra was ‘God Family Football’ and he stayed true to all of those things throughout the course of the movie.
As a successful actor, you loom large for many people however; you are rarely seen flaunting your celebrity…
Chestnut: Oh, thank you. Pretty much, I just stay true to my family. I’m somewhat religious, I am a staunch believer in God and I’m just really not that person that goes out there and looks for adulation. I don’t look for people to say, “We love you, love you, love you.” I’m just pretty private.
There has so much appreciation for the first film; were you aware of the impact that these characters would have on your lives and how beloved or wide spread they would be for an entire generation?
Monica Calhoun (Mia): I had no idea the impact that these characters made on anyone, it’s a good and bad balance. Yes, some people were really in love with Mia’s personality and the fact that she felt as though she needed to step out on her boyfriend because he cheated on her; so, she cheated on him. She chose the wrong person but their relationship still stood the test of time.
Chestnut: Did I have any idea that these characters would resonate this many years later? No, I didn’t. Most of the time when I’m out-and-about, many people still refer to me as “Ricky” from Boyz in the Hood. Asking me, why did I run down that alley, the same old stuff (laughter); yelling at me from across the street, “Ricky!” I’ve heard that like fifty million times. I think with this character people would reference this as that wedding movie. When the first one opened, we did well and opened up number one. At the time, we made like $30M at the box office, which was OK back then. Throughout the years, we’ve been on TV time and time and time again and we’ve found new audiences.
Why do you think this cast and these characters have resonated with audiences? Over a decade later, people are really hungry to see them again–
Malcolm D. Lee: I tend to liken this cast to the brat pack of the 80’s; this is the black pack, you know. This cast is a collection of really
talented actors who embodied their roles so thoroughly in the first movie; it was a movie that spoke to a generation of African American people who were educated, who were sophisticated, had gone to college, had experiences and didn’t define themselves as strictly black in their specificity of being African American. They were just doing every day American things and having American ideals. I think that was refreshing for audiences who hadn’t seen themselves like that on the big screen.
I think that it’s a movie that’s stood the test of time; it’s had a rotation on BET and HBO and for years. It’s very gratifying because that’s what I intended to do; I intended to make a movie that would be regarded as a classic. Over the years many people were encouraging me to do the sequel and I didn’t want to do one right away; I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as an artist, I wanted to be a story teller. I wanted to live some life; I wanted these characters to live some life. I thought there might be an audience that was ready to see these characters again 10, 12 years later and tackle some new territory. The first movie was inspired by The Big Chill in that it was a reunion of college friends.
It’s funny, even when I first watched that movie, I was very young, somewhere around 13 or 14 years old, I didn’t quite understand it. But every time I saw The Big Chill, it revealed something new about the characters and what they were going through. The Best Man brought these characters together for a wedding; it was inspired by The Big Chill.