UB Interviews: The Cast of “The Best Man Holiday” – Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan, Monica Calhoun & More

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After nearly 15 years apart, Morris Chestnut (Identity Thief), Taye Diggs (Baggage Claim), Regina Hall (Scary Movie franchise), Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Sanaa Lathan (Contagion), Nia Long (Soul Food), Harold Perrineau (Zero Dark Thirty), Monica Calhoun (Love & Basketball) and Melissa De Sousa (Miss Congeniality) reprise their career-launching roles in The Best Man Holiday (November 15th), the long-awaited next chapter to the film that ushered in a new era of comedy.

In the closing frames of The Best Man, the groundbreaking movie from then first-time writer/director Malcolm D. Lee, Lance (Chestnut) and Mia (Calhoun) had just gotten married, and Harper (Diggs) proposed to a very shocked Robyn (Lathan). Murch (Perrineau) found the nerve to break up with Shelby (De Sousa) and begin dating Candy (Hall), the fantasy girl who’d become the love of his life, while the industrious Shelby rebounded and found herself in bed with Quentin (Howard). And although Jordan (Long) was successful as a television producer, she seemed destined to stay unlucky in love. Everything has changed since that day.

Throughout the years, there have been marriages, children and divorces—not to mention all the love and heartbreak that accompany a life well lived—but the group has not been able to manage a proper get-together since Lance and Mia’s wedding. But that’s all about to be remedied. When the college friends finally reunite over the Christmas holidays, they will discover just how easy it is for long-forgotten rivalries and passionate romances to be reignited.

The Best Man” is a classic & now fans of the first film are thrilled to finally have the sequel, “The Best Man Holiday.” Danielle from UrbanBridgez.com attended the L.A. Press Day with the cast for the film & spoke with them regarding the new edition to the franchise.

Morris Chestnut & Monica Calhoun discuss their roles in the new film and why they returned, their holiday traditions, the proudest moments of their careers and Morris speaks on if he’s struggled with his sex symbol status through-out the years. Taye Diggs & Sanaa Lathan speak on how Malcolm has evolved as a director, why it’s important for people to see positive African American relationships in the media, how they felt returning with the rest of the cast, who their mentors are and more. Nia Long & Eddie Cibrian discuss the story-lines in the new film, what the atmosphere was like on set, their next roles and Eddie spoke on delivering one of the most memorable lines in the film. And last Regina Hall, Harold Perrineau & Melissa De Sousa speak on the initial table read for the film, how emotional it was at times while filming, on if they would all do a spin-off together of the film and Regina Hall speaks on not liking the title for the sequel.

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Morris Chestnut & Monica Calhoun

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UrbanBridgez.com: Monica, how was it to finally own up to your part in breaking up Lance and Harper’s friendship in the sequel?
Monica Calhoun: It was cathartic to have to go through that process, to own up to the role of possibly destroying a friendship. But it was also great because [gets emotional]…go ahead, go ahead…

Morris Chestnut: That was even something to where, I remember when we were in rehearsals, we were going through it because we rehearsed here before we went to Toronto. It’s more of the same. She and I had to deal with a lot of stuff in the movie. We just really had to take ourselves there. It started in rehearsals. It’s just revisiting that piece of it all. Just something by the way Monica is and what she says and the way she looks at me that just really affects me. [laughs] And it definitely did throughout rehearsals and throughout the scene.

UrbanBridgez.com: How did you keep a straight face throughout the entire dance sequence?
Morris Chestnut: To be honest, I was focused on Monica the whole time in the movie. Throughout this whole movie, everything was for her—everything hat my character did, everything that he was for was for her…even in that scene to where they were off camera.

Monica Calhoun: And everything that she did was for him, and to restore his friendship with his best friend.

Morris Chestnut: Right. We were really connected.

…On why it’s important for audiences to see an African American male who’s powerful as well as vulnerable on the big screen?
Morris Chestnut: I think it’s very important, especially because of the stereotypes of a lot black man being in jail or who don’t take care of their kids. It’s just not even particularly to black men, but just positive black images on screen. The one thing I love about our movie…it is a great time for black cinema. There’s a lot of black films being made: Fruitvale Station, The Butler and 12 Years a Slave are all great films. But they were actually made because they’re real people. Our movie is a remake and is fresh on the scene. I loved all of those movies, but I think our movie is going to be very refreshing.

…On how they channeled their emotions for their storylines?
Monica Calhoun: Wow…life!

Morris Chestnut: For me, it’s really tough because you have to go to that place where you really, really don’t…sometimes you just don’t want to go, you don’t want to revisit. After the first movie, when I was finally at the alter…I don’t really cry that much as a person. [laughs] And then whenever I would think about it, I would just get chills for months after the first Best Man because I would have to go to that place. And then here we are, and we’re going to that place like I don’t know how many times we went there. It’s just extremely emotional just to have to keep revisiting, but it can also be therapeutic.

Monica Calhoun: You know what I noticed? When we were working, the anger was still there. You carried a lot of the anger that I actually slept with your best friend. And so, it was difficult trying to chip away at that wall to get you to balance it out. You made me work for your warmth. You made work for wanting to be friendly around everyone for the holidays. I saw that tension. And the emotion that you’re talking about pulling and drawing for what was to come a little bit later on, just there’s so many things that we all go through in life and I pulled from that. But also, I pulled from specifically how he made me feel and knowing that I would be leaving my husband and my kids.
Morris Chestnut: We were really connected throughout the whole time, just going through all that stuff we had to go through…it was tough.

…On what made them decide to reprise their role?
Morris Chestnut: We all loved working with each other in the original. Obviously, a lot of time has passed, but we all did go to dinner. [Malcolm] talked about the storyline. That was pretty much what it was going to be.
Monica Calhoun: I showed up late. [laughs]

Morris Chestnut: He talked about where we were going to be in our lives some other years later and what we’re going to have to go through. Even at that point, we were all like, “Yea, it would be interesting. It would be great to get together and do this again.” But once we read the script, I think that just really solidified everything because the script spoke to me.

Monica Calhoun: The script spoke to me because…I mean, you gotta think about it. It’s college friends that met in college and they stayed friends and to see them years later and how their lives have developed, I thought that would be very interesting. Also, Mia’s journey and Lance’s journey what they were going through, I thought that would be interesting and, yes, challenging for me as an actress.

…On what Mia told Lance she wanted for Christmas in the film, which led to him winning the game?
Morris Chestnut: [laughs] Everyone asks that question, and we cannot reveal it. We have to keep it selfish.

Monica Calhoun: What do grown folks say?

Morris Chestnut: What she said was very motivating and it made me go out there and run over three people to get a touchdown.

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…On if he’s struggled with his sex symbol status as he’s matured as an actor?
Morris Chestnut: It was very difficult. With this particular movie, it’s 14 years later, and the character still needs to be playing football. So, it was really challenging for me physically to have to be in great shape and then Malcolm said they wanted me to take my shirt off and there were a couple of explicit scenes that we didn’t get to shoot. It was tough for me emotionally and physically because I couldn’t really eat. I lost a lot of weight for that movie just because I still had to portray a football player who was still in shape. But fortunately, Malcolm gave me enough in this movie to where I could convey how far I feel that I’ve become and I’m still growing as an actor. It was really challenging, even when I first read the script. There were so many emotional scenes. It’s really hard to do that on an ensemble movie because you’re there everyone’s talking about, “Yea! We had a good time last night and tonight we’re gonna go to the club and all that stuff.” And I had to be in my little corner kinda focusing on what I needed to do to get to that place. But Monica and I were there together, so I think it worked.

…On who was the most helpful in teaching him moves for the dance scene?
Morris Chestnut: Oh! Harold Parrineau! That dude can move. He went to Alvin Ailey, and he’s a fierce dancer. Taye’s actually a really good dancer as well. They gave us some video tapes to watch, but the choreographer didn’t come until like two days before we shot the film. We all went on like a Saturday. Terrence was late, came for about 30 minutes and left. [laughs] We did it and I was just trying to get the moves down. On that Sunday, I had to call and say, Hey, I need some more [practice.] It didn’t come easy to me—nothing came easy to me in this movie. This was some work!

…On what it was like for her to remove her wig in front of her film husband?
Monica Calhoun: That moment was really a symbolic moment for me just in terms of how we want to be everything for everybody. What Mia did was, she was the best mother, the best wife, the best friend…supportive of everyone and in this moment, she really need the support on a different level from her husband because she had been there for him in terms of keeping up the mask of it all—that I’m OK and will be OK and will always be OK and always be there. So, symbolically, when she took the wig off and said she couldn’t do it anymore, so see me as this now. To shed all of that and release all of the pain that she’s feeling, her body couldn’t take it anymore…what that was for me was symbolically letting go of all the things that we hold onto—expectations, if you will, that other people have of you. That what it was for me.

…On what starts your holiday tradition?
Monica Calhoun: Hmm…I haven’t designated a holiday tradition this year.

Morris Chestnut: My wife is big on holidays. Every year after Halloween, she puts up Christmas decorations…after Halloween! That’s the tradition. I missed the pumpkin carving this year, but Christmas decorations are already up. [laughs]

Monica Calhoun: I’m such a single lady. I don’t do Halloween. My mom called me and said, “I got some angel wings for my grandson. Please come get the angel wings.” I said, Mom, could you please take him to the school, I’m not…Halloween, no. Christmas? Psssssh. So your wife rocks.

Morris Chestnut: This is actually really, I mean this is the time of year that I actually gain a lot of weight because I’m raiding my kids whatever they got for Halloween. I’m eating all the big candies.
Monica Calhoun: Do you normall go with them?

Morris Chestnut: Sometimes I go with them. I was out of town this year, but when I get back, I will be raiding the bags again.

…On their proudest moment in their careers?
Monica Calhoun: It’s really difficult for me to answer that question because for the past twenty something-odd years, I’ve had the roller coaster affect. I’ve worked in the industry on several different levels, so the proudest moment I could say…I’ve got several because each experience is different, but I will solidify this as one of the proudest moments because to go from knowing these folks when we were just basically kids and now we’re grown and able to have…well, I’m still working on being able to have grown-up conversations. [laughs] And I’m still working on creating a different sort of family life as opposed to the family life that I have right now. You need to hook me up with a good, handsome friend.

Morris Chestnut: You don’t want none of my friends.

Monica Calhoun: Well, then, nevermind, nevermind…

Morris Chestnut: This would actually be one of my proudest moments because it was 14 years ago that we made the original. Fourteen years in Hollywood and still be able to make a film that you’re proud of and be relevant in Hollywood just really doesn’t happen. So I’m just proud and hopefully I’ll be proud when the box office numbers come out. [laughs] But even if the numbers don’t come out to what we expect, I’m just proud to be part of this film and to just have the impact and be able to do the work that we did in the movie.

…On if they signed a contract to revisit a third installment?
Monica Calhoun: I’ll come back as a ghost, whispering in his ear. I don’t know! [laughs]

Morris Chestnut: We’re not signed up. I would love to. If they want to do a third one, I would love to. It means this one did very well. People always ask me that about Boyz in the Hood. “Are you going to do a sequel?” [laughs] I can’t come back!

Monica Calhoun: You’ll come back as a ghost and say, “Don’t go down the alley.” [laughs]

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Taye Diggs & Sanaa Lathan

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UrbanBridgez.com: Sanaa, how did you handle the pregnant acting?
Sanaa Lathan: When Malcolm pitched the idea that I was nine months pregnant, from a female, vain perspective, I was like, Well, damn! Like the whole movie? It’s not like three or four where it’s cute. It’s nine months! You know what I mean? I think that energy of “well, damn!” is kind of what women feel in their ninth month so it kind of worked. I had to put on this huge belly. I did Blade where I played a vampire years ago. The same people who did the prosthetics for that did my belly. It was like a real belly—my color and it was heavy and it made me hot. I waddled. It was a drag, but it worked for the character. And I realized how sick and sadistic people are. Literally, every day, I would get about three punches in the belly.

Taye Diggs: We know the baby is not real. [laughs] I don’t know what that says about us.

Sanaa Lathan: They just got such a laugh out of it. Malcolm would do it. I mean, it was crazy!

Taye Diggs: We’re awful!

…On what made you sign on for the sequel?
Sanaa Lathan: For me, it was…a couple of years ago, Malcolm actually got us all together and we went to Boa. He hadn’t written the script yet. He literally pitched at a loud restaurant—with lots of drinks flowing—moment by moment, beat by beat, the script. In that environment, which is very challenging for a pitch, we were at the edge of our seats. And we all, in that moment, said, “If you write it, we’re going to do it.” So, for me, it was that. And then the script came much later.

Taye Diggs: And then it just became about fine tuning. But we all obviously had a great time doing the first one. Great friendships were made and bonds. We’ve all kept those friendships. At this dinner, it was great to see each other just on general principle…just great to see old friends that we hadn’t seen in a while. And then to hear…It was just different levels. To be excited, to even see each other. I think a couple of us knew what Malcolm was going to kind of come with. To actually hear him say it and then to hear the story and then to kind of get together as a group, as a collective energy and do what we needed to do to get this project done and made has been a great experience.

…On how they think Malcolm has evolved as a director?
Taye Diggs: Good is good, and Malcolm is a great writer. He’s what the community as a whole and what the African American needs when it comes to films and writers. I think we all evolved. We’re all older. We’re all more mature. We’ve all had more experience. For me, what I noticed this time around when it pertains to Malcolm was the outside pressures. I could tell, this time around, he had a lot more on his shoulders. So, I would say he has evolved in the sense that he was able to deal with a lot of pressure.

Sanaa Lathan: There’s the pressure of the first movie, too, and kind of living up to it. That’s a huge pressure.
Taye Diggs: He did it again with a lot more on his shoulders. He had a cast that was a lot more experienced, and we were all…

Sanaa Lathan: Very vocal! I know we tested him. And we had a lot of fun. We were always like, “Why are you doing that? Mhmm.” [laughs] We tested his patience, but he dealt with it well, right?

Taye Diggs: Yea. We were all new—at least, I was, for the first one, so, we weren’t nearly as vocal. But we’ve matured as actors and we look at a script differently and challenged him on character through lines and what not, story structure. So, he handled it well.

…On how fun it was to shoot the dancing scene?
Sanaa Lathan: They turned into 7-year-olds. They had dance rehearsals. It wasn’t that simple. Taye has a dance background. Harold has a dance background. Literally, in between takes for weeks, they would be like, “OK, and 5, 6, 7, 8.” [laughs] They were so excited. It was like their debut at Alvin Ailey. [laughs]

Taye Diggs: Because you know why? This is another way Malcolm was kind of brilliant…I have a stage background. I don’t know if you all know that. For me, stage is a lot more nerve-wracking than film acting because no matter what, you’re in front of people. With film acting, you have control. If you’re shooting a scene and it’s private or emotional, you can say you don’t want anybody in the room except for the cinematographer, the director. So, it’s less nerve-wracking doing film. But with this dance sequence, Malcolm said, “Be on your stuff because the girls are gonna be watching.”

Sanaa Lathan: So, basically, the first time we saw it was real-time reaction.

Taye Diggs: There was a level of performance that we had to take into account because we wanted them to think we were good. We were nervous, at least I was. I wanted to make sure we had the count and it worked and it helped. When we filmed it, seeing them and getting that live, real energy…

Sanaa Lathan: Those reactions that you see in the movie are real.

Taye Diggs: That was great.

…On why it’s important to see positive African American relationships in the media for minorities?
Sanaa Lathan: I think it’s important for us to see ourselves in all that we are instead of one genre—the over-the-top comedy. I think it’s really important for the art form of film to reflect the world that we live in and who we are. I think it hasn’t really done that for people of color. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a ways to go. I think the first Best Man resonates because people are hungry for stories that are layered, and they can recognize themselves and they’re families and the things that they’re going through…people that look like them.
…On The Best Man Holiday starting off the holiday season for many moving forward?

Taye Diggs: A couple of us fought Malcolm on the title. A couple of us didn’t like “The Best Man Holiday.”

Sanaa Lathan: I still don’t like it.

Taye Diggs: But I think it speaks to what you’re saying. [Malcolm] had a feeling it would work.

Sanaa Lathan: What was the title that we came up with?

Taye Diggs: Somebody wanted the name of the book…Unfinished Business.

Sanaa Lathan: Unfinished Business! Wouldn’t that have been great?!

…On if shooting the sequel was emotional for them given the tragedy in the film?
Taye Diggs: We had to do numerous takes, to get technical. Morris had most of the heavy lifting.

Sanaa Lathan: Speak for yourself. I had that belly. I had to lift that every day, all day, for 10 hours a day.

Taye Diggs: Not counting the pregnant acting, he had a lot to do. I really have to take my hat off to him. He was able to be present for all of the light-hearted scenes. We hung out socially. He was there for his family and his wife. But he had to maintain that emotional through line throughout the entire film and he really did his thing. So, yea, it was an emotional shoot as well.

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…On what the holidays are like at their house?
Taye Diggs: Crazy, fun. There’s always a little tension with those couple of those family members. They always bring some surprises. But growing up, I always look forward to the holidays. Now, I got my own little boy so there’s that level of joy and excitement. This Halloween was the first Halloween where he understood what was going on.

Sanaa Lathan: What was he?

Taye Diggs: He was a—and he chose this—zombie Michael Jackson from “Thriller.”

Sanaa Lathan: [laughs] Zombies are so in!

Taye Diggs: And he was into it! Halloween took on a completely different…I had a different take this time. I was just loving living through him.

Sanaa Lathan: What were you?

Taye Diggs: I wasn’t anybody because I was so focused on him, which is something different. Usually, I’m worried about what I’m going to be and leaving him with the sitter and partying myself. Now it’s all about Halloween for him. It’s fun. The holidays are fun.

…On if and how their characters mirrored their real lives?
Sanaa Lathan: I try to be a glass half full person and I think Robyn has always been that, especially for Harper. He’s kind of the glass half empty. She’s the glass half full. A lot of my friends call me a hippie. I cultivate that mindset to see the brighter side. I come from a family of artists and Bohemians. There’s that aspect, and I’m a foodie.

Taye Diggs: We’ve all been through our ups and downs and that has affected us as people, as actors. We were lucky that we could apply that to these characters.

…On what being reunited on set felt like?
The reunion was great. It was so fun. It didn’t feel like work. We had so much fun in between takes.
Taye Diggs: I think it shows. You can choose to act it or it can just be real. Obviously, it always helps when it’s real. Just being able to hang out socially and look forward to the time when the cameras aren’t rolling as well as to the time when the camera are rolling. Like Sanaa said, it just makes the entire experience truly enjoyable. When you spend all day on set and you can’t wait to hang out afterwards…

Sanaa Lathan: We all lived like within a block of each other. For some reason, on our TVs, the only thing that would show was The Voice. So, we’d have Voice parties. Everybody would come over and we’d watch The Voice.

Taye Diggs: It just worked out. I think we were just blessed, lucky, fortunate, however you want to term it. This experience where we even got everybody together in the first place I think was miraculous and then to have that type of script and then to have everybody mature the way that they did and bring…we all brought out life experiences to these roles.

…On if having a director for a father affected her approach to film and if she’s ever worked with her dad?
Sanaa Lathan: I’m about to work with my dad and do a cameo thing on Real Husbands of Hollywood.

Taye Diggs: Tell him I want to be on that show!

Sanaa Lathan: I will! I will! It’ll be perfect because you are a real husband of Hollywood. It’s a fake reality show. Regina is going to do it, too! I wasn’t really around on set with my dad coming up. He and my mother broke up when I was five. It was kind of like I didn’t see him. He was always in my life, but he was always so busy. The sets that I remember going to were Sesame Street when I was really young. I don’t even know. I just didn’t go to a lot of sets. And I never worked him. For me, it’s been my own experience. The great thing that I have in having parents that have been in the business is that they understand. I think that’s a very special thing. I’ve realized with a lot of my peers, they don’t have parents who really get what they’re going through. It’s great to have parents you can kind of lean on.

Sanaa Lathan: You probably were blessed that you weren’t raised on set because a lot of the times, kids have that early exposure end up going down the wrong avenue. And you’re fairly sane.

…On who their mentors are?
Taye Diggs: Sanaa! Like she said, she’s a glass half full person.

Sanaa Lathan: I need to bill you! [laughs]

Taye Diggs: This was a very emotional shoot for me. Sanaa has always been in my life, someone I can bounce stuff off of. She always has really, really great and positive things to say. In the business, outside…acting teachers from the past. I have a best friend, who’s not an actor, but we’ve been close since high school and no one knows me better than him. He has perspective. A lot of times, you don’t want to go to someone who knows the business. You want a more accurate kind of view—real-life view. He doesn’t give you the excuses that ta lot of people in the business do.

Sanna Lathan: I get it from everybody from my parents to…I have great girlfriends. I feel that having really close black actress friends is actually great because it’s such a unique road that we travel with so many blessings and so many challenges. It’s great to have that community because there are days where you don’t want to do it anymore. And it’s great to have that person who’s in the trenches with you saying, “Get up! You’re gonna do this.”

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Nia Long & Eddie Cibrian

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UrbanBridgez.com: Were you surprised at all at any of the storylines in the sequel?
Nia Long: I don’t know that I was surprised. I think I was a little bit shocked with what happens to Mia. I was like, “Oh! How are people going to feel about his?” But you gotta switch it up, you know?

UrbanBridgez.com: Did any part of you want Jordan and Harper to end up together?
Nia Long: I guess I wished that there was a little bit more resolution to that love triangle, but this is a film and it is 15 years later. You can’t really go into each B storyline. I mean, look what I got [pointing to Eddie]. Who wants Harper when you can have Brian? [laughs]

UrbanBridgez.com: It is 15 years later and you still look amazing on the big screen as you did in the first movie. What are some of your beauty secrets?
Nia Long: Thank you! Oh my gosh…should I tell them?

Eddie Cibrian: I don’t know!

Nia Long: He saw everything that went on in the trailer.

Eddie Cibrian: She’s got some beauty secrets. Natural beauty. That’s her secret! And that’s the truth.

Nia Long: Thank you! You know what it is? I just take care of myself, and when I’m not working, I’m with my kids. In mommy mode, you’re in sneakers with no makeup and your hair is rarely combed. That’s really how it is. You guys just don’t see me out there all the time! So, when I do come out, it’s like, “Oh! OK! You’re back!”

UrbanBridgez.com: Eddie, you deliver one of the more memorable lines in the film: “You’d have to be a bitch to be concerned with your woman’s past.” What are your thoughts on that sentiment?
Eddie Cibrian: You can thank Malcolm for that! I wasn’t clever enough to come up with that. That was obviously intended for Murch and what was going on with his situation. He found out how that his wife was an exotic dancer and he was worried about the past. It was really flustering him and he didn’t know how to handle it. I think Malcolm’s intention was to [communicate] that everyone has a past; everyone’s made stupid mistakes; everyone’s done things that they’re probably not proud of. That’s in the past and that’s made them who they are now and they’re a different person. If you fell in love with who they are now and what they’re truth is now, then who cares what their past is? They weren’t just born. They’ve had life experiences.

Nia Long: Who wants a virgin? [laughs] Murch should be lucky that Candy can have some fun in the bedroom.

Eddie Cibrian: And then I think it made him kind of realize—and all of the other guys kind of look at him like, “Yo! If this dude is saying it, listen because that’s the truth.”

…On getting back into character after so long?
Nia Long: Getting back into character wasn’t so difficult. What was difficult was determining what [Jordan’s] emotional journey has been like for the last 15 years. For me, that was pretty much the motivation and the most important thing.

…On what made her sign on for the sequel?
Nia Long: We all decided that before Malcolm really finished the script. He kind of came to each one of us and said, “Would you guys be interested in doing a sequel?” We all just decided that if the script was great, and the story is there, and the characters have grown, why not? That’s basically what happened. It’s pretty easy.

…On if it was daunting joining a cast that already had so much chemistry?
Nia Long: He was so scared. [laughs]

Eddie Cibrian: I’m still scared now! [laughs] They’re very, very intimidating! As a character, I think what Malcolm was looking for was someone who could feel at ease in any environment. I’m kind of that way, personally, as well. For me, I’ve worked with a handful of them before, so I already knew them. It wasn’t like I was meeting this team for the first time. Nia worked again in passing while we were doing a show called Third Watch in New York. I’ve worked with [Morris] a handful of times. So, I kinda already knew some people, which made it easier for me. But I think what Malcolm wanted was somebody who didn’t feel intimidated in the situation. And I hope that came across: somebody who feels at ease with himself and with the environment.

…On why it’s important that audiences see strong, diverse females, like those in the movie?
Nia Long: Well, I’m all about girl power, so…

Eddie Cibrian: Yes, she is! [laughs]

Nia Long: I am, right?! I love my girlfriends. I think sisterhood is so important. I think learning from one another culturally is really important, no matter where you’re from or what you look like. If we can come together as women, I think we are just so much more powerful when we stand in a group. Listen, I’m not afraid to say it, I’m a bit of a feminist. I think we are incredible. That’s what’s so great about Malcolm’s writing. He does give each character a very specific voice. And the reason why we have so many women who love The Best Man brand is because they can look at the film and almost point themselves out or at least say, “I am a combination of Jordan and Shelby or Robin and Mia or whatever it is.” As an actor, you don’t get those opportunities to really work alongside other great women. That’s such a blessing. When’s the last time you saw a film where there were five African American women who are actually all in the same movie? It doesn’t happen all the time, so you gotta take the ball and run when you get it and get that touchdown.

…On what the atmosphere was like coming back together after so many years?
Nia Long: We would have these round table discussions where they would always put our chairs all together. The girls would be grouped together, and the guys would be grouped together. We would have some pretty intense conversations, right?

Eddie Cibrian: We would. Yea!

Nia Long: About everything! And we’d get into debates…love, relationships, um, a lot of…I don’t want to be inappropriate, but we were like college kids sometimes!

Eddie Cibrian: This was in between takes!

Nia Long: Yes, in between takes. We were like bad children. That’s what we were like, but we got it done.

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…On what has been the key to her staying so relevant?
Nia Long: I mean, I don’t know that I’m so relevant. Um, dealing with my life and truth. Dealing with my career and truth. Saying no. And I’m never really motivated by money. I’m motivated by the creative. Well, that’s not totally true. Let’s not get too carried away. [laughs] We all have bills to pay.

Eddie Cibrian: Sometimes, money is OK.

Nia Long: Sometimes, money is OK! I think just staying true to myself. My dear brother, who I miss every single day, Heavy D said to me, “This is not a race. It’s a marathon.” Whenever I get frustrated or unsure about what to do next, I always think about him saying that to me because it’s very true and if you just take it in stride…don’t you feel like when one door closes, something else opens and it’s like, “Whoa! I didn’t expect that.” You just go with it—if it’s right in your heart.

Eddie Cibrian: Plus, you’re very good at what you do. That helps!

Nia Long: Thank you! [laughs]

…On their mentors?
Nia Long: I remember my very first moment where I thought, What is she talking about? I was doing a film called Made in America with Whoopie Goldberg and I did not have any idea what I was doing. I was just like a little deer in headlights and Whoopie Goldberg said to me, “This business is tough and you’re going to have to develop a second layer of skin.” And I kept looking at her like, Huh? And now when I think back at that, I know exactly what she means because as an actor, you want to keep your heart open so you can do good work. The only place that good work comes from is by being vulnerable. But for the business side of this, you can’t really be vulnerable. You have to separate the two, and it took me a long time to understand that. Naturally, I’m just an emotional being. That’s just kind of who I am. So, I would [count] Whoopie [as a mentor]. Heavy—I think about him every day. That was one of my best besties. My brother. And my grandmother. She said, “You know what? When they stop talking about you, that’s when you should worry.” We love Nana.

Eddie Cibrian: When I was first getting into this business, my dad would take me around to auditions, doing commercials and stuff like that. I was an athlete and I just wanted to play sports, but he was like, “Nah! You can do this!” I’m like, I don’t really want to do this. He was like, “You can do this!”

Nia Long: Aww! [laughs]

Eddie Cibrian: In a year, we did 100, 200 auditions and I would get four or five of those. But every single time I would get a “no,” I’d wonder why I wasn’t get that audition. He said,” Well, look, you don’t have to get a “yes” every single time. You just gotta get the right “yes.”

Nia Long: Aww! That’s a good answer!

Eddie Cibrian: That’s kind of how this business is. We go out on a bunch of different things. We wish we can get a bunch of different things. We wish we can get every thing that we go out on, but we don’t because there’s thousands of thousands of people out there. The ones that you do get—the ones that they say “yes” to—those are the ones that you have to make something out of. Those are the important ones. I thank my God for that.

…On what’s next for them?
Nia Long: We’re actually in another movie together. We don’t have a scene together. It’s called Single Moms Club. I think it comes out Mother’s Day weekend in May. Tyler Perry is the most interesting, fast like lightening…Wouldn’t you agree?

Eddie Cibrian: Yea!

Nia Long: This man’s process is a combination of hectic, brilliant and so freeing as an actor because he just lets you go. And I had a great experience. I did not know what to expect. The rumor around town is that he shoots so fast that I was just worried that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up. You get there and you just go, and then you look up and he’s like, “That was so great! It’s a wrap!” And you’re like, “Whaaaaat? Did we just make a movie?”It was a really good time.

Eddie Cibrian: He’s incredibly efficient. Like Nia said, it’s very freeing because you don’t think about it because you can’t. You can’t think. You just have to do. {Tyler] is one of a kind, for sure.

Nia Long: It’s a movie for all the single mamas who need some inspiring.

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Regina Hall, Harold Perrineau & Melissa De Sousa

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UrbanBridgez.com: Taye and Sanaa mentioned they were more vocal this time around. Did you relay any suggestions regarding your roles to Malcolm?
Melissa De Sousa: I did because I really wanted to see another side of Shelby. Everyone’s like, “She’s a bitch.” I didn’t want to see one note. I wanted you to see her grow and go through changes and emotions, and see that she’s a human. She’s not just for the comedy and laughs. She actually has problems. She has a real life going on. I think you saw a different side. She had the fight, and the kid. She’s still Shelby, but I did ask [Malcolm] to at least show a different color, and I think I did that.

Regina Hall: I fought for the hair. He did not want a short bob. He wanted long hair like [Candy] had in the first movie and I said, No! You can’t be a hoe in the same movie and not try to change your look up. I still live in New York. I’m married. I don’t want people going, “Candy?” I told him, Just trust me please. Just let me just go shorter.

Harold Perrineau: That was a good idea. I said less this movie because in the first one, I was more opinionated. After the first one, I was like, I’m just going to trust Malcolm. I’m just going to trust his genius and let him do his thing.

UrbanBridgez.com: Would you like to see Shelby and Quentin end up together if there is a third movie?
Regina Hall: Oh, what a couple they would be!

Melissa De Sousa: If we had some Valium or alcohol…[laughs] We need a sedative for that. It would be interesting to say the least.

…On what it was like working on Malcolm’s set after so long?
Harold Perrineau: It was a lot of fun, a lot of comedy. Malcolm was so short-handed. That part was really good.

Regina Hall: He needed a lot of help for wrangling us in, especially for the group scenes.

…On the table read being crucial to the development of the film?
Regina Hall: I stripped…to show them where it could go.

Harold Perrineau: Oddly, it didn’t go that route. [laughs]

Regina Hall: They decided to keep it out. We showed up and we acted like we really wanted to get this movie made. I think everybody came with their A game.

Harold Perrineau: I didn’t make the reading.

Regina Hall: Oh, right! Once again, the diva was working!

Melissa De Sousa: So was I! But I flew out.

Harold Perrineau: I was in India.

Melissa De Sousa: I was in Atlanta! That’s like the country, too! [laughs]

Regina Hall: We read the whole script. For Melissa and I, it was actually harder because we didn’t have Harold. He wasn’t at that table reading. It was not the same. Harold is Murch.

Melissa De Sousa: We did one of the table reads and there was a reader for Harold. Me and my big mouth—I always say the wrong thing! My mother always told me to be careful what I say—and so the guy who was reading his part…he was a good actor, but I turned to Regina and said, I miss Harold. He’s Murch. He embodied this character.

Regina Hall: To have a voice that doesn’t resonate what you know Harold would do, it was, for us, we probably had the hardest time.

Melissa De Sousa: There’s just something that he brings to that character that just can’t be replaced. No one can really fill that shoe.

…On how emotional it was to shoot the film?
Regina Hall: The movie did have a lot of emotional levels. For them, even more. For me, crafting the character, Mia was not my friend. She was my friend because of my husband. They all had their separate relationships, so they had separate emotions going. She [pointing to Melissa] just was making my ass itch for the entire weekend. I was like, Shelby’s at it again! We all had different journeys that we were going through emotionally.

Melissa De Sousa: We still had fun, but those scenes were tough, but it was so easy to get through for some reason. I think it’s because we are such good friends behind the scenes and we’ve known each other for over 15 years now, so we actually feel a bond. And just Monica, we’ve known Monica since then. It’s almost like we were losing a part of us in a way even though it was just a movie. But still, we can all go there because we all are really close even off set. And then the emotional work between Regina and I, that was a lot of fun to do. But we really worked hard on that scene. We didn’t want to look like just some ghetto madness. We didn’t want it to look like it didn’t come from some place real. We didn’t want it to be like the Housewives for real. It was a lot. We wanted to layer it up and really make it believable that we really would go there—not just for no reason. We had rehearsals, stunt doubles and everything. Behind the scenes, we were laughing. I’m like, Regina! I’m supposed to hate you. Stop making me laugh.
Harold Perrineau: It’s a testament to how good they are as actresses because your really have to trust each other in order to be able to go that far and feel those things, and then be able to let them go. And you can see that, they really trust each other; they work well together. They’re just amazing actresses.

Regina Hall: And this one, it was easy to fall in love with him. This man…I was like, He’s not your husband. Let it go. He was my husband the whole time.

Harold Perrineau: Even when my wife was there. [laughs]

Regina Hall: She was loving it. He has two beautiful kids and I saw them and said they look like me and they do. But he was an easy man to love, and I think loving him—even for our storyline—and the disappointment of him seeing that part of me…just for myself, too, and maybe not trusting him enough as a partner…although I didn’t think it would come back to haunt me. Like he said, it’s like a lot of trust that we had with each other.

Melissa De Sousa: I was tired of them because they really were like a married couple. I was starting to feel like some kind of way. [laughs] I was first and uhh…we actually got kinda weird because I’ve known Harold since high school like on the real and Regina just really took him from me. And he really went. You know how some guys still kind of like have that…he just forgot about me completely.

Regina Hall: We were in love.

Melissa De Sousa: In the moment, I was really kind hurt. We’d go out to dinner and they would just be really chatty.
Regina Hall: Sometimes if he was chatty with her, it’s because he’s compassionate, which is why I was in love with him as a man. He’d be over there giving this one talks and attention and I’m like, She’ll be fine! You need to step into the present. We are here.

…On what starts their holiday?
Melissa De Sousa: A Charlie Brown Christmas. I love it! I mean, I know it’s not a movie, but…I literally just watched The Great Pumpkin, too. I just love Charlie Brown. I watched The Great Pumpkin the other day when it came on for Halloween. But I have to watch that and I like to watch The Nutcracker, the ballet, actually. The one with Baryshnikov because I use to be a dancer. A Charlie Brown Christmas just warms my heart. I even have the soundtrack. I also like the movie with Vince Vaughn, Fred Claus. That movie is so funny!

Harold Perrineau: Because I have the girls now, one of the things is The Nutcracker. My oldest daughter and I would go to Lincoln Center in New York and watch it. That would start it off for us. My younger one is older now so we’re going to start that with her this year. But we always start it with all those cartoons because the girls like those things…The Grinch and Rudolph.

Regina Hall: It’s weird for me. Christmas is a hard time. It’s an emotional time. When I hear Nat King, it’s like a happy and a sad feeling that comes over me with Christmas and I think it’s because I don’t have children. [laughs] But I do have my nieces. There’s something about Christmas that’s really tender. I used to feel it more when I lived in New York because I’d walk and smell the nuts roasting. It’s a strong smell. It’s an emotional time for me.
Melissa De Sousa: You get a little suicidal sometimes.

Regina Hall: Yea, it’s very homicidal. It’s the end of the year and you’re thinking, Damn! This year wasn’t that much different than the last! It starts to snowball. You’re eating…there’s a birthday that comes in December. It’s kind of um…but a joyful time. [laughs]

…On doing his character without the dreads this time around?
Harold Perrineau: It made sense actually that he didn’t have the dreads because he’s grown up and doing different things and now they have the charter school. Not that the dreads are a bad image or anything but it made sense for me to move on to something else. Melissa De Sousa: I love his hair like this. One of my favorite movies is Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and I remember you in that white shirt. The cinematography was just stunning. I love Shakespeare and that’s one of my favorite movies and Harold was just amazing in that.

Regina Hall: Here in lies the problem. She’s over there watching these movies still. [laughs]

…On if just the three of them would consider doing a spin-off?
Melissa De Sousa: We need all of us. We really do. One missing, you’ll feel it.

…On not liking the title, The Best Man Holiday?
Regina Hall: We wanted Best Man Unfinished Business, which is the name of Taye’s book. We thought it would’ve been a nice play on words that we’d come back and there was unfinished business.

———————————————–

About The Production!

The Best Man Holiday

Feels So Good:
The Cast Is Reunited

In 1999, when The Best Man topped the box office on its opening weekend, audiences fell hard for a group of college friends named Harper, Lance, Mia, Shelby, Murch, Robyn, Jordan, Quentin and Candy. Writer/director/producer Malcolm D. Lee explains that when he created these roles, he wasn’t thinking about a renaissance of African-American cinema, he simply wanted to watch his world represented on the big screen. He says: “The impetus of making the first movie was that I didn’t see myself or people I knew represented on screen. I wanted to write characters who spoke to the people that I could relate to. We all know somebody who is a Harper, Quentin, Lance, Shelby or a Mia; that’s what’s great about the relatability of the characters.”

As moviegoers grew attached to The Best Man during its theatrical run and subsequent life in home entertainment, Lee grew to understand just how identifiable and beloved the characters he dreamt up were becoming. The filmmaker admits that he thinks of these friends as an amalgam of archetypes that he’s encountered, not specific persons whom he’s met. “I know these people, and I love these people,” he says. “They’re certainly influenced by friends I went to college with and people who I grew up with, but they take on a life of their own.”

Harold Perrineau, who plays Julian (better known to his friends as Murch), discusses why the film struck such a nerve among audiences and grew to become such a classic: “It resonated with the African-American community because it feels real. The characters and circumstances all feel relatable and genuine, and they hit home with the audience.”
Morris Chestnut, who portrays Lance, was not surprised that the relatively small comedy has grown in popularity over the years—adopted by audiences who viewed the players as both relatable and aspirational. He reflects: “Malcolm wrote some great characters, and he directed one hell of a movie. It’s a film that people can watch over and over again and see characters with the same issues that they are dealing with in their own lives. There’s a lot of heart to it.”
While audiences were entertained by the college friends’ romantic escapades, the strong bonds that held this group together are what endure. Regina Hall, who plays Candy, reflects: “One of the greatest things that the movie talks about is friendship. Friends sustain, and they support you through the most joyous and most difficult times. True friendships hold you up when you want to fall.”

In the almost 15 years since the comedy was shot and released, the nine principal performers have gone on to build enviable careers, yet there has long been talk of returning to these beloved characters for a sequel. Taye Diggs, who plays Harper, shares why they all felt so passionate about the film: “What we did was different at the time, and people were hungry for that.”

The discussions began in earnest four years ago, when Diggs and Lee were on a flight from New York to California. During the trip, Lee revealed that he wanted to revisit the story. Although the performer was receptive to the idea, at the time it was just a conversation between two old friends. Still, the spark was lit.

Fast forward a few years, and Lee reached out to his former collaborators with a concrete proposition. “I called everybody up in late 2011 and said, ‘I’ve got an idea for a sequel to The Best Man, but I want us all to get in the same room again. It’s been a long time,” Lee recollects. “I told them, ‘If you like it, great, and if you don’t, then at least we will have seen each other and caught up.’ So we all got together, and they were all excited about the idea.”

Diggs was happy he’d been paying attention: “Now, 15 years later, we were attracted to Malcolm’s idea of these characters simply experiencing life. They are all adults, and the idea of family has entered the picture. I thought Malcolm had an interesting take on the material, as opposed to some crazy, zany events that happen—like a road trip or a caper.”

After years of honing his craft as a comic writer and director, working on films like Undercover Brother, Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins and Soul Men, Lee was ready to revisit this world, but he knew that a sequel would work only if the entire original cast agreed to return. He explains his rationale for waiting for more than a decade to create the second chapter: “I always meant to return to these characters, but first I wanted them—and me—to gain some life experience.”

Sanaa Lathan, who plays Robyn, recalls that night: “Malcolm wanted to know we were all on board before he did all the work. The pitch had us riveted, and by the end, we said: ‘We’re on board. Write it!’”

The cast was eager for an on-screen reunion, and Lee set to work on a draft script. Still, he needed a commitment from Universal Pictures to greenlight the film. Therefore, he rallied the troupe once again with an odd request. “I told Universal, ‘Let me get my cast together and do a read-through for you,’” Lee remembers. “I told the actors, ‘Guys, this movie is going to sink or swim based on what you do in the room that day.’ They took me very seriously and came to perform, and we sold it as a unit. Once the studio saw these great actors performing, they immediately understood what the movie was.”

Nerves aside, The Best Man cast knew that it was showtime. Lathan discusses the pivotal day: “We did a table read in person for all the studio executives. By the time we got to our cars, we knew they would sign on—that’s how well it went. It was thrilling.”

The Best Man Holiday

The cast’s confidence in its read-through performance was well-placed. Universal signed on and immediately set to work assembling the behind-the-scenes team to bring Lee’s story to the big screen, including Lee’s new production partner, Sean Daniel, who has had a long relationship with the studio. In fact, in 1985, Daniel became its youngest president of production. The films he supervised for Universal include Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Breakfast Club, Do the Right Thing and Field of Dreams.

Now an independent producer with an impressive list of films to his credit—from comedy favorites such as Dazed and Confused, Michael, Rat Race and CB4 to blockbusters including The Mummy trilogy and Tombstone—Daniel was quick to accept the offer to work with Lee. He enthuses: “I loved the first movie. It was a wonderful film full of heart and character and great values, and I have followed Malcolm as a filmmaker and have loved what he’s done since then. I was honored to be invited on board.”

Once they got the greenlight, Daniel and Lee spent time developing the script, perfecting the mix of comedy and heart. Daniel shares: “Malcolm is a brilliant writer with a great vision for this movie. I became a sounding board and a collaborator. The studio had one condition, which was that everybody had to be back in the film. So Malcolm reached out again to the actors and said, ‘Okay, it’s time to get real.’”

Daniel sees The Best Man Holiday as much more than a sequel. He says, “It is its own story. It brings the characters back together several years later. They have all had busy lives and have gone on to accomplish things. They have all had struggles, but the characters that people loved are as powerful, funny, emotional and opinionated as everybody remembers them.” He predicts the sequel will join the ranks of holiday films to remember: “This is a different kind of holiday film in that it is about so much of life. I cannot wait to be in a crowded theater as people take this in. It will make them laugh, and it will move them. In that holiday spirit, it is incredibly affirmative.”

For Lee, it was always about telling audiences a new story that was more sophisticated. He reflects: “Our concerns as 20 year olds are different from the ones that we have at 30 and 40. Our careers, lives and technology are different. There are children, mortgages. There’re all kinds of things we think about when we’re at a certain age. To make it more sophisticated, you have to bring more things to the table. In this case, we’re bringing an element that’s very different from the first one.”

The filmmakers took care to make sure audiences would be just as engaged in the characters this time around. Continues Lee: “The first one was a gathering of college friends for a wedding. This is a holiday celebration, and they end up finding out that it’s more than that. They were brought together for a bigger purpose—not just to get together for a typical reunion. The film is ultimately about a group of friends who reunite over the Christmas holidays and find out not only what they’re missing from each other, but the true meaning of Christmas. It’s a journey with a lot of emotions, laughter and drama; there will be a fair amount of tears as well.”

Best Man Holiday

Moving Forward:
Characters Then and Now

When last we saw Lance, he had forgiven Harper for his indiscretions and married Mia, the love of his young life. Now a successful football player, Lance is on the verge of breaking the NFL’s all-time rushing record in his final season with the league. He is also a proud husband and father to four children: L J (LINDEN LILES MCCURDY), August (RICHIE LAWRENCE), Faith (RIELE DOWNS) and Hope (MILLIE DAVIS).

According to Chestnut, Lance’s priorities have changed considerably now that he has settled down with Mia and has children. The actor explains: “Lance has matured. Now, it’s God first in his life, then his family, then football. Those are the three things that are most important to him, in that order.”

It didn’t take long for Chestnut to access the right frame of mind to play a more mature Lance. Even so, the football player had one stumbling block that was a challenge for the actor portraying him. Chestnut shares: “I try to find certain elements in me and pull them to the forefront. I relate to Lance, but the emotional aspect is always the hardest part. I don’t show my emotions too often, and Lance goes through the whole gamut of emotions in this movie. It was tough to go there.”

In the holiday spirit, the soft-spoken Mia, played by Monica Calhoun, invites the entire group to spend Christmas at her family’s home, with the intent to open the door to reconciliation among the friends. Calhoun delves into Mia’s intentions: “Mia has her own family now. She has maintained the relationships, though her friends have their own lives. One purpose of the holiday season is to strengthen friendships, learning the value of love and maturing in a relationship. Mia really just wants everyone to be together in harmony.”

When last we saw them, Lance and Harper’s friendship was tenuous at best, due to Harper “loosely” basing two lovers in his best-selling book upon Mia and himself. After Lance found out about their tryst, he and Harper had a knockdown, drag-out fight at Lance’s bachelor party, which Quentin had to break up. Even today, those tensions reverberate among the tight-knit group. Chestnut explains: “We try to resolve our issues, and then things happen again. It’s going to be tough.”

For the sake of story, Diggs appreciates that this long-brewing rivalry is far from over. He says: “That’s another facet that I enjoy about this script. It’s realistic that they’re still dealing with the fallout. Lance and Harper still keep in touch, but it’s not forgotten.”

Unfortunately, Harper’s troubles are not confined to his shaky fraternal relationship with Lance. His life has become complicated. His writing has stalled, and due to budget cuts, the Harlem resident has lost his university teaching position. Diggs welcomed the challenges, appreciating that Harper’s issues are grounded in reality: “These characters are just experiencing life. Careers have dipped, and there are peaks and valleys. You pick up on what their lives are like now.”

Our story begins as Harper and Robyn are finally expecting their first child, after a long series of fertility treatments and heartbreaks. Lathan reflects on her character’s evolution: “Look at me now. I got my little bun in the oven!” Robyn has evolved and grown, yet there are glimpses of her younger self. “Robyn’s a successful chef now, but there’s still a part of her that’s a little unsure. She is a strong woman, but she puts a lot of her self-worth in her man. If he’s going through something, she’s going to go through it as well.”

Given the Jordan-Robyn dilemma in which Harper found himself the last go-around, Diggs believes his character chose well when he decided to marry Robyn rather than continue to pursue Jordan. The performer notes: “Jordan and Harper are driven, competitive and cerebral. All of that aside, Jordan is not the type of person that Harper could settle down with. Robyn calms Harper, which is why he adores her and ends up with her.”

Lathan adds that the characters’ admitted duality has strengthened their marriage over the years: “Robyn always looks on the bright side, and Harper needs that. They’re opposites, but she lifts him up.”

The storied history between Harper and Jordan is a classic case of timing never being right. They have realized that, although sometimes the chemistry is spot-on, they are just not right for one another for the long haul. Nia Long, who plays Jordan, describes the complex relationship: “Jordan and Harper constantly challenge one another, but there is mutual respect. Sometimes they act like brother and sister, and sometimes they bicker like husband and wife. Ultimately, the little spark between them never dies. Jordan’s wish is for Robyn and him to live happily ever after, even if it hurts…just a little bit.”

The Best Man Holiday

When we last saw Jordan, she was a hotshot producer for BET whose career was No. 1 in her life, but all of that came at a big cost. She focused so much on her job, but she had no one with whom to share her life. Although, Jordan seems to have it all, Long describes where her character is at both in work and in love: “Jordan is the director of programming at MSNBC, but realizes there is something still missing in her life. She’s the last to commit to sharing her life with someone from their group. The events in the movie catapult her into doing so. Jordan realizes there’s more to life than her BlackBerry, powerful position and Prada bag.”

Jordan finds love with someone who shocks even her: a man named Brian, who just happens to be white. This is yet another demonstration of how her character has evolved over the past 15 years. In The Best Man, she was very judgmental of anyone dating outside his or her own racial group. “Jordan widened her net and is dating outside the race,” says Diggs. “That’s a fun and contemporary way to demonstrate how we’ve progressed. It’s not a big issue in this movie…beyond a little ribbing.”

Long offers that as time has gone by, her character has become much wiser: “Love is colorless and ageless. Love should be genuine and balanced. When Jordan introduces Brian to the group, she is reluctant at first, but soon realizes that he fits right in. Jordan is finally vulnerable to ‘love’ and finds Brian’s presence comforting.”

Fortunately for fans, Jordan, Harper and Robyn’s love triangle isn’t the only one explored in the sequel. Discussing his arrested-adolescent character of Quentin, Terrence Howard admits that he considered this to be a definitive role. He states: “Malcolm gave me the freedom to be Quentin, and Quentin has been so quintessential in my entire career.” Coming back to the part of the man-child, Howard observes: “The fact that Quentin’s in his 40s and he doesn’t have a family, and everyone else around him has a family, says something about his underdevelopment. Yet, he still hasn’t found himself. Somewhere in this movie, he figures out his place in life.”

Much to audiences’ delight, the fractious relationship between Quentin and the pot-stirring Shelby continues in this chapter. Howard explains: “Quentin loves Shelby and hates her at the same time. He is always afraid that Shelby is about to ‘Murch’ him—meaning, Murch used to be the man in college, and somehow he got with Shelby and lost all his manhood. Our relationship is on and off, but it’s a beautiful thing. We balance each other.”

Reflecting on the odd couple’s pairing, Melissa De Sousa, Shelby herself, sums: “They are two of a kind. They are both strong personalities who come together because they understand each other. It’s weird how sometimes the person you least expect is the one you usually go to in the end.”

Since the humiliation of being dumped by Murch for an exotic dancer, Shelby has reinvented herself as a successful businesswoman in a popular housewives television franchise. Shelby juggles between a lucrative career and being a mother to Kennedy (ISIS MOORE). De Sousa reflects on her character’s evolution: “In the first movie, Shelby needed Murch to define her. She needed that perfect picture. But when she comes back this go-around, she is her own woman and standing strong on her own. She’s now a force to be reckoned with.”

The Best Man Holiday

Lee admits that because Shelby is so unpredictable and hotheaded, she is one of his favorite characters to write. He laughs: “I love Shelby. She’s still a little bitter about being taken out by what she calls ‘the stripper.’ Still, what’s interesting about her character is that she’s got all these fabulous things and is a television star, but she’s not happy in her own life.”

Perrineau’s Julian (aka Murch) has also changed since the first film. He is now happily married to Candace, formerly known as Candy, and together they are raising two daughters—Keisha (ALLISON AUGUSTIN) and Kelly (SHAI PIERRE-DIXON)—and running a charter school. Like the rest of the cast, Perrineau has embraced his character and his director. He praises: “Malcolm embodies a lot of what he has written for Julian, so I just watch him for inspiration. The chance to work with him again has been an absolute honor. He’s a true collaborator, and I’m in awe of the way he works with people.”

Perrineau susses out the differences between Julian’s past relationship with Shelby and his current relationship with Candace. He shares: “Julian and Candace are having the great romance that most people dream of. When you see them you’ll see how much they love each other, even when there is strife. The first relationship was about Shelby and her insecurities, and this one is about these two people and the family that they’re creating.”

Reprising her role—now as Candace—Hall relished the opportunity to join the other cast members for further exploration of their signature roles. She shares: “Being reunited with this ensemble is so exciting because we had a lot of fun in the first movie. I didn’t get to work with everyone the way I do now, and getting to see each other another time and relive our characters has been an amazing experience.”

Among the group, Hall’s character transformation since we saw her last may take the proverbial cake. As Hall explains, her character has gone from Candy the exotic dancer to Candace the educator: “Candace was a stripper, but she was also in school. Educating young girls and boys from disadvantaged homes so they can succeed is her new focus. She is learning from her mistakes, and she’s inspired by what she’s able to give people. Her daughters and her husband inspire her, too. So she’s got quite a few motivations.”

As they were in The Best Man, friendships are once again tested in The Best Man Holiday. When the truth is revealed about Candace’s past, Harper’s career difficulties and the real reason that Mia invited everyone to her home for Christmas, drama and comedy arrive in abundance among our friends.

Lathan shares her thoughts on why audiences relate so well to the characters’ journey, through good times and bad: “The film is about true friendship and no matter what challenges friends go through, the love that you have for your friend will get you through to the other side. That’s depicted so well in the first film and again in this one.”
New to the franchise are John Michael Higgins and Eddie Cibrian, who portray, respectively, Harper’s literary agent, Stan, and Jordan’s boyfriend, Brian. In particular, the character of Brian was a flash of genius for Lee. He shares: “When we cast the part of Brian, we had to make sure that we had somebody who could fulfill both of those roles: somebody that both women and men would like. It’s very easy to put the token white guy in a role where he is the token white guy, and it’s not that way because Brian’s just a guys’ guy and a ladies’ man.”

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Even though he’s the new kid on the block, Cibrian wasn’t worried about fitting in; he had worked previously with Long and Chestnut. Indeed, that flexibility is a trait he shares with his character. Cibrian explains: “Brian is very comfortable in his own skin, comfortable in any environment. During the read-through at Universal, I think Malcolm saw something in me that was very similar to Brian: that I’m at ease in any environment. That’s what he wanted for this character.”

Cibrian finds the interracial relationship between Jordan and Brian to be very realistic. He says: “Yes, there are still probably some people who view it as taboo, but we’ve come a very long way. I’m Cuban and playing a white guy. Everybody comes from a different background. I love that this movie is able to express the reality that love can be between anyone, any race.”

As his ensemble gave its all to the performances, Lee couldn’t have been happier with their work. He sums up what his actors have brought to the film: “This cast is a very talented bunch who has grown as artists and as actors. I knew they’d be able to embody the roles. I had to write something that was going to be up to par with them and was going to challenge them. I had to give them the direction that I thought would match my vision. The good thing about their getting better is that they were able to step up to the plate and embody the roles and the emotions that it took to deliver drama and emotion and humor.”

The Best Man Holiday

Winter Wonderland:
Setting the Scene

While love, family and friendships are at the core of the film, nothing would be complete without a perfect house to welcome everyone for the holidays. To make sure that occurred, The Best Man Holiday was shot on location in Toronto and Buffalo, NY.

As the Sullivan mansion is a critical element of the movie, the team knew it had to find just the right place. “Since we left him, Lance has had a fantastic career as a football player and has raised a big, beautiful family,” explains producer Daniel. “He and Mia have made a fully realized, compassionate, expensively wonderful life for themselves, and they take care of their friends. Lance is very philanthropic, and they live in a big house…so we had to find just the right one.”

Production designer Keith Burns set about looking for the right home, and after weeks of searching he found it in Toronto’s most prestigious neighborhood, the Bridle Path. Daniel offers: “The mansion was just as Malcolm had imagined. It’s very much where the Sullivans would be living.”

The 30,000-sq-ft. home, set on 2.5 acres of manicured grounds, with an indoor pool, high-end fixtures and impressive layout, certainly fit the filmmakers’ requirements. It had one other requirement they hoped they’d find: Although it fit the bill in terms of its grandeur, it was also in its final stages of being built. Because the house wasn’t fully furnished, the art department had complete freedom to dress it—according to what Lee and Burns saw for the characters.
As the majority of the events of The Best Man Holiday occur at or around Lance and Mia’s mansion, the production designer and Lee knew it had to be perfect. Shares Lee: “Once we found the place on the Bridle Path, it was a no-brainer. We looked around, and all the rooms were such a great height and size. They were perfect not only for the technical aspects of the film—shooting, lighting, etc.—they were appropriate for guest rooms that any of Mia and Lance’s college friends were going to stay in. The house was very production-friendly and suited our needs—not only the interior of the house, but the grounds and exterior were ideal as well. We were able to have that yard, an indoor pool and a man cave…as well as the huge kitchen.”

Best Man Holiday

The filmmakers credit Burns and his team for the attention to detail, making sure every part of the home reflected the personality of the Sullivan family by turning the enormous mansion into a warm and comfortable place, filled with holiday cheer. Lee felt it was just what he wanted to portray Christmastime in New York. He says, “If you dress up a fancy house, it can really evoke those magical feelings. We have a majestic and magical setting, and everybody looking great and dressed in their Sunday best.”

Other key settings included the Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, where the Bills play—and, for the purpose of our film, where Lance attempts to break the rushing record during his final season with the New York Giants. On Lee: “I have to thank the Buffalo Bills organization for allowing us to desecrate their arena. It’s one of the oldest organizations and football fields in the NFL, and we were very fortunate to use the stadium. They worked very well with us and were tremendous in helping us out.”

The Best Man Holiday

Take It to Church:
Music and Choreography

It wouldn’t be a Best Man movie without a signature soundtrack and killer moves. To make sure the cast was ready, the filmmakers chose seasoned choreographer JAMAL SIMS (Footloose, Step Up Revolution) to prepare the male castmembers for a scene in which Harper, Lance, Murch and Quentin entertain Robyn, Jordan, Mia, Candace and Shelby by dancing to New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain.”

Lee sets up the scene that has its roots in his lip-synching days at Georgetown: “After dinner, Mia tells the guys that they’re not going to have dessert until they do ‘air band.’ This catches them by surprise. She has the jackets, hats and outfits they had circa 1991, and they’re going to perform this number they did back in college. It’s a great thrill for them, as well as for the wives who never saw their husbands in this light.”

For the stage-trained Diggs, learning the choreography was worth the effort. He shares: “It was not easy for any of us, so we were just so proud of ourselves when we got it down. It was one of the best shooting days for me. There was so much energy, and nobody had to act. We were sweating; the girls were screaming. It was a good time.”
For his part, Chestnut laughs that he could’ve used just a few more days: “I wanted a month of rehearsals because I wanted to get the moves down pat.”

According to Lathan, he had no reason to worry about his performance. She tells: “We were crying with laughter and joy! First of all, the guys can dance. All the girls were saying, ‘I’m glad we didn’t have a dance scene,’ because we wouldn’t have been able to do it. They really went for it. I can’t wait to be in the audience when this scene comes on because people are going to go crazy.”

Best Man Holiday

The cast and crew got to experience another scene that will undoubtedly be the topic of much discussion. The day featured hundreds of extras, multiple cameras and singers ANTHONY HAMILTON and MARSHA AMBROSIUS with their take of Stevie Wonder’s iconic song “As.” Lee explains that this was an intentional, full-circle moment: “In The Best Man, we featured Stevie Wonder’s ‘As,’ which is one of the greatest love songs made, but it’s an up-tempo song, celebratory. We used it with Harper and Jordan, and it became very much associated with the film.”

While Lee had partnered with the multitalented Hamilton for the soundtrack of Soul Men, this was his first time working with Ambrosius, whose voice he describes as “incredible and soaring.” The day proved extremely busy and emotional, as each department exerted maximum effort to honor this critical aspect of the story.

Being on a film set was relatively new for Hamilton and Ambrosius. However, they agree that it was a welcome challenge. Shares Ambrosius: “Just watching the reaction of the characters during the scene makes you feel the emotion that much more. Singing a song like ‘As’ meant so much.”

Between the singing and the heightened emotions, there wasn’t a dry eye on set. The whole crew was extremely focused, and the entire cast was moved by the performance, which made it a day to remember. Perrineau shares: “Anthony and Marsha were astounding. They both have really well-crafted voices. We were just amazed that those sounds could come out of them. They were there the whole day and being great take after take. This is going to be one of those scenes that you won’t easily forget.”

His director agrees with the actor’s assessment. Adds Lee: “I knew that when we got to this scene that I wanted to have something that was going to be emotional and strip that song down. These two tremendous voices made it very simple, just with strings and a piano. I have to say, I’ve never been on a set where crew members are crying during the performance of a song. They took it to church with their rendition of ‘As.’”

In addition to the work of Ambrosius and Hamilton, the soundtrack to The Best Man Holiday is filled with re-imaginings of old favorites and new ones, just in time for the season. With holiday-themed tunes from Mary J. Blige’s “This Christmas,” Monica’s rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” Mario’s “Someday at Christmas,” Fantasia’s “What Christmas Means to Me” and Jordin Sparks’ “Christmastime to Me,” not to mention Emeli Sandé’s take on “Winter Wonderland,” Ne-Yo’s “I Want to Come Home for Christmas” and Jayda Brown & Jasmine Watkins’ version of “O Holy Night,” the soundtrack offers up platinum-selling and award-winning artists who bring their signature vocals to beloved songs.

“I am a firm believer that music is essential to the entirety of a filmgoing experience. The Best Man Holiday soundtrack is no exception,” ends Lee. “The songs listed here not only make up the fabric of the movie, but many served as inspiration to the creation of the screenplay. With a combination of new R&B tunes and Christmas classics by contemporary artists, this is the soundtrack I heard accompanying this movie. I hope audiences enjoy it this holiday season and every year.”

IN THEATERS NOVEMBER 15TH!

4 Comments
  1. Date night movie tomorrow. The first one is still one of my all time favorites. I’m happy there all in the new one.

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