The Best Man Holiday comes 14 years after its predecessor The Best Man arrived in theaters. For the sequel, the whole cast has returned to reprise their roles as the characters reunite for Christmas at Lance (Morris Chestnut) and Mia’s (Monica Calhoun) giant mansion. It’s not long though before old rivalries and romances get re-awakened and threaten to derail the entire experience.
Last week we had the chance to catch up with Morris Chestnut and Monica Calhoun at The Best Man Holiday press junket, which was held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles, California. Cheerful and eager to speak with journalists, the two actors spoke about how this has been a great year for African American films, how emotionally draining their roles were, what they consider to be the proudest moments in their careers so far and much more.
Check it out below and enjoy!
This year has been really great for black filmmakers and we’ve seen a lot of really good films, like The Best Man Holiday and Fruitvale Station, releasing into theatres. African American men in these movies are portrayed as powerful but still vulnerable. Why do you feel that it’s important that we see these kinds of characters?
Morris Chestnut: I think it’s very important especially because sometimes the stereotypes that a lot of people have are of black men in jail or who don’t take care of their kids, so I think it’s always important to have that. This is a great time for black cinema because there are 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 were about real people. Our movie is just a remake and it’s kind of refreshing to see.
Both of you have really emotional storylines in this film. How did you channel those emotions?
Morris Chestnut: For me it’s really tough because you have to go to that place where you really, really don’t want to go to or revisit. After the first movie when I was crying at the altar, whenever I would think about it I would get chills for months after the first Best Man because I had to go to that place. And then here we are with this one and we are going to that place again. It’s just extremely emotional to just have to keep revisiting it, but it can also be therapeutic.
Monica Calhoun: You know what I noticed? When we were working, that anger was still there. You carried a lot of the anger that I slept with your best friend, and so it was difficult trying to chip away at that wall that gets you to balance it out. You made me work for your warmth. You made me work for wanting to be friendly around everyone for the holidays. I saw that tension and the emotion that you are talking about, pulling and driving for what was to come a little bit later on. There’s so many things that we all go through in our lives that are pulled from that.
Morris Chestnut: We really connected throughout the whole time. Just going to all those places we had to go to was tough.
At what point did you decide that you wanted to come back and reprise your roles?
Morris Chestnut: We all loved working with each other on the original. Obviously a lot of time has passed, but we all went to dinner with our director, Malcom Lee, and talked about the storylines. He talked about where we were going to be in our lives, you know, X amount of years later and what we were going to have to go through. Even at that point we were all like, “Yeah it would be interesting, it would be great to get back 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 too because you’ve got to think about it. The college friends that met in college have stayed friends, and to see them years later and how their lives have developed I thought would be very interesting. Also, Mia’s and Lance’s journey and what they were going through, I thought that would be interesting and challenging for me as an actress.
Morris Chestnut: Very challenging.
Monica you had your big scene where you kind of had to own up to your part in breaking up the friendship between Lance and Harper. How is that for you as a woman and for your role?
Monica Calhoun: It was cathartic to go through that process, to own up for the role of possibly or potentially destroying a friendship.
Morris Chestnut: I remember when we were in rehearsals and we were going through it because we rehearsed before we went to Toronto, and it’s more of the same. She and I had to deal with a lot of stuff in this movie and we really have to take ourselves there. It actually started in rehearsals, and just revisiting that piece of it all. Just the way Monica is and what she says and the way she looks at me, it really affects me throughout rehearsals and throughout the scenes.Next
Morris, you have been known as a ladies’ man around Hollywood. As you’ve matured in your career, do you have to clear that stuff out of the way so you can work?
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. Then Malcolm said that he wanted me to take my shirt off, and there were a couple of other explicit scenes that we didn’t get to shoot. So it was tough for me emotionally and physically because I really couldn’t eat. I lost a lot of weight for that movie just because I still had to portray the football player who is still in shape. But fortunately Malcolm gave me enough in this movie to where I could convey how far that I feel that I’ve come, and I’m still growing as an actor in a lot of those scenes. It was really challenging. Even when I first read the script I said, “Oh man. He’s really emotional and there are so many emotional things.” It’s really hard to do that in an ensemble movie because you’re there and everybody’s talking about, “Yeah we had a good time last night, and tonight were going to the club” and all that stuff, and I had to be over in my little corner just kind of focusing on what I needed to do to get to that place. But Monica and I were there together so I think it worked.
We all heard that the dance scene you guys did in the movie was a quick study. Who was the most helpful in teaching you your dance movies.
Morris Chestnut: Harold Perrineau, that dude can move! He went to Alvin Ailey (American Dance Theater in New York City) and he’s a fierce dancer. Taye (Diggs) is actually a really good dancer as well. They gave us some videotapes to watch, but the choreographer didn’t come until two days before we shot the film so we all went in to practice. Terrence was late, came for about 30 minutes and left (laughs). I was just trying to get the moves down, and then on that Sunday I had to call and say I needed some more help because it just doesn’t come easy to me. Nothing in this movie came easy to me. This was some tough work!
How did you keep a straight face throughout that whole choreography?
Morris Chestnut: To be honest, I was focused on Monica the whole time in the movie because throughout my performance everything was for her. Everything that my character did, everything that he was, was for her.
Monica Calhoun: And everything that she did was for him and to restore his friendship with his best friend.
Some people think that watching this film will become part of many holiday traditions. What starts your holiday traditions?
Monica Calhoun: I haven’t designated a holiday tradition this year.
Morris Chestnut: With me, my wife is big on holidays. Believe it or not, every year after Halloween she puts up Christmas decorations. That’s the tradition. I missed the pumpkin carving this year, but Christmas decorations are already up.
What has been your proudest moment in your career so far?
Monica Calhoun: It’s really difficult for me to answer that question because the past 20 something odd years I’ve had a roller coaster effect. I’ve worked in the industry on several different levels, so the proudest moment I could say… I got several because each experience is different, but I will solidify this film as one of the proudest moments because to go from knowing these folks when we were just basically kids and now we are grown and we’re able to have… Well, I’m still working on having 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 have to hook me up with the traditions and a good handsome friend.
Morris Chestnut: (laughs) You’ll want none of my friends.
Monica Calhoun: Okay then never mind (laughs).
Morris Chestnut: I think that this is definitely one of the proudest moments because it was 14 years ago that we made the original in Hollywood, and to still be able to make a film that you’re proud of and be relevant in Hollywood really doesn’t happen too often. Hopefully I’ll be proud when the box office numbers come out, but even if the numbers don’t come out to what we expect, I’m just proud to be able to be a part of this film and just to have the impact and be able to do the work that we did in the movie.
Malcolm has dropped hints that he has an idea for a third movie. Have you all signed up to do a third movie, or is that contingent on how this one does at the box office?
Monica Calhoun: I’ll come back as a ghost and whisper in everybody’s ears (laughs).
Morris Chestnut: No we are not signed up. If they want to do a third one I would love to. That means this one did very well for us to do it. It’s also kind of funny because people asked me that question about Boyz n The Hood, “Are you going to do a sequel?” I mean, how do I come back?
Monica Calhoun: You can come back as a ghost and say, “Don’t go down the alley” (laughs).
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Monica and Morris for their time. Be sure to check out The Best Man Holiday when it hits theatres this Friday!Previous