The Best Man Holiday director Malcolm D. Lee and actress Monica Calhoun stopped through the Ritz Carlton in Georgetown on Wednesday for a D.C. press tour with media insiders. In a roundtable discussion where they talked about all things pertaining to the film, DC Fab was on hand to catch up with the Georgetown alum Lee and the beautiful Calhoun to talk about the state of Black film, having longevity in Hollywood and reuniting with the cast after 15 years for the highly anticipated sequel.
DC Fab: How do you think the Hollywood industry has changed since your filmed the original Best Man? Do you think Hollywood has done a better job of telling African American stories or do you think there’s still a long way to go?
Malcolm D. Lee: Here’s the thing, Hollywood will make anything if it makes money. If it doesn’t make money they say forget it. There was a time around 2008-2011 where there were a couple of so called “Black movies” that didn’t work. People were not supporting them and they said, “Well Black people don’t want to see these movies so there’s no need for us to make it. We can get this actor and that actor to get our Black audience in.” So they didn’t seem to be interested in making them, unless it was a Tyler Perry’s movie. And Tyler Perry has his own lane and his own fans who aren’t even really movie-goers. So we were all kind of in trouble there for a second. We were like, “Wait a minute. Are we going to be extinct in a minute?”
But truthfully once I pitched the story to the cast they were all in. Morris [Chesnut] was like, “What’s the next step?” I said “Well I’m going to wait until Jumping the Broom comes out.” And he said, “Why?” I said, “Because if that movie hits then they will be more open to making it.” So, I can’t say if it’s better or worst. I can say that this year has been a better year for African American movies and it’s been a great diversity of story content, and the story quality is good and different. So that’s refreshing to see and to be a part of and I hope that continues.
DC Fab: What do you think is the key to having a longstanding career in Hollywood because you’ve been in the business for a while?
Monica Calhoun: Patience and focus, and defining what your focus is. You know, each project that comes to me may not be the best thing since slice bread, but taking that project and applying that same 100% or 250% effort across the board from developing the character to the promotion process. That’s all a state of longevity, and selecting the stories that have a sense of longevity.
Some of the projects that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of were like Civil Rights stories (The Ernest Green Story). They’re stories you’re going to see again because they’re a part of history. So to answer your question about longevity, it’s about picking the projects that give you that sense of longevity and that live beyond the time they were originally made.
Lee: That’s an ideal situation because sometimes you just need a job, and I can say that Scary Movie 5 was one of those situations. You just take a job sometimes because you need the work and work breeds other work in this industry. Sometimes in this business you’ll consider doing things that you would never consider. For instance, in that dry period that I was telling you about where they weren’t making Black movies and the movies that they wanted to make you’re like, “They want to make this?” It’s mind blowing, but you will consider it because you want to keep working.
DC Fab: I don’t know how close you guys are with the other cast mates outside of work, but what was it like reuniting on set after 15 years?
Lee: I hated them (Laughs). No, but for me I had seen everybody at least once or twice throughout the years, and even when I was toying with the idea of doing a sequel and we all got together for dinner in 2011 it was pretty magical. It was like the chemistry was immediate. There were a lot of laughs and sharing of stories. We were all genuinely happy to be in each other’s presence. So that was really special and when we finally got down to making the movie they were all there because what I told everyone was that there has to be a trust between myself and the actors and that you also have to trust each other. Not only to be there for one another to support one another, but also challenge one another.
Catch The Best Man Holiday in theaters this Friday, Nov. 15. We at DC Fab definitely rate it as a must-see film!