Best Man Holiday Set Visit – Sanaa Lathan and Regina Hall

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The Best Man Holiday Set Visit
Sanaa Lathan and Regina Hall

By Wilson Morales

July 17, 2013

On a cold evening in Toronto this past May,, and a handful of other colleagues, got a chance to visit the set of the upcoming ‘The Best Man Holiday,’ the sequel to the 1999 hit film directed by Malcolm D. Lee.

After nearly 15 years, the whole cast (Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Terrence Howard, Morris Chestnut, Harold Perrineau, Regina Hall, Melissa De Sousa, and Monica Calhoun) is back in a new story that reunites the characters we have all come to love.

We haven’t been told much of the plot except that “when the college friends finally reunite over the Christmas holidays, they will discover just how easy it is for long-forgotten rivalries and romances to be ignited.”

Universal Pictures had us come up when the entire cast would be shooting a scene together. Standing behind director Malcolm Lee, we saw several takes of Nia (playing Jordan) and Eddie Cibrian first arriving at the house owned by Lance Sullivan (played by Chestnut), while the group is gathered in the living room catching up.

Cibrian is playing Jordan’s boyfriend judging from the trailer that went online recently.

For Lathan, who played Robin, Harper’s then-girlfried-now-wife, the first film was her breakout role. Prior to that, the New York City native had been seen opposite Wesley Snipes in the first ‘Blade’ film. She has since become the lead in many black romantic classics such as ‘Love and Basketball,’ ‘Disappearing Acts,’ and ‘Brown Sugar.’ She’s also done Broadway with roles in ’A Raisin in the Sun’ with Phylicia Rashad and ‘By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,’ which she won a Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actress. While voicing the character of Donna Tubbs on now-cancelled animated series, ‘The Cleveland Show,’ Lathan also starred opposite Kelsey Grammer on the series ‘Boss.’

As for Hall, who plays Candy, the former stripper now married to Julian Murch (played by Harold Perrineau), ‘The Best Man’ was her film debut. She and Lathan would also be featured in ‘Love and Basketball,’ before Hall found fame playing the lead role of Brenda Meeks in the four of the five Scary Movie films. Ironically, Malcolm Lee directed the fifth film which she didn’t appear in. Her flair for comedy would land her roles in ‘First Sunday’ with Ice Cube and ‘Death at a Funeral’ with Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan before nabbing the dramatic role of D.D.A. Evelyn Price on TV’s ‘Law & Order: LA.’ Last year, Hall was part of the ensemble hit film, ‘Think Like a Man,’ and will be reprising the role again in the sequel, ‘Think Like a Man Too.’

Lathan, who returns as the very pregnant Robin, and Hall, both talked about reuniting with the cast, and revisiting their characters.

When did you get the call that this film was probably going to happen after all these years?

Sanaa Lathan: Did you hear about our dinner where Malcolm pitched the story? We all came together about two years ago and he pitched us the idea and the idea was so great we said, “Write it.” The studio was actually a little hesitant about it so we came together and did a table read for the studio in-person and gave it our all. By the time we got home we knew they loved it. So it was right after the table read.

Were you excited when you found out?

SL: I was like, damn, I get to work with Regina. I was like “s**t!”

Regina Hall: I was like, “Is Sanaa attached?” We were excited.

Was there anything about the development of your characters that kicked you back a little bit?

RH: Malcolm was good, he allowed us to have input from the inception. You get first draft, second draft, studio had notes. It was a process.

We noticed you’re both wearing wedding rings. Everything is tight-lipped, but we saw in the trailer…

SL: But you know what, it’s not. I think YBF did a whole thing, there were some pictures.

Your social media is kind of showing us some scenes.

SL: It’s not really, though. It’s all very much approved by the studio. I get bored on the set, I’ve been having fun with the pictures but I’ve been very specific about what I’m posting. It’s funny to see the comments because they say, “You’re spoiling the movie!” I’m not giving anything away.

RH: It is but it isn’t. There’s so much in the movie that they’re just finding out small bits.

SL: They ain’t seen nothing yet.

So now how are you guys different as married?

RH: I’m still a ho. (laughs) We’re married, I have kids I’m a mother, not a dancer anymore. I’m in education, Murch works in education. Robin’s about to be a mother. We’re close friends in the movie.

SL: It’s a lot of work. And Robin was really searching, she was a caterer. Now she’s working for Marcus Samuelson at his Harlem restaurant and she’s a very dedicated chef. I think that’s a little bit of a point of contention between her and Harper because she’s very pregnant and he wants her to take it easy but she’s passionate about her cooking.

Have you guys noticed the growth among you guys as far as your craft goes versus the first time?

SL: What I do notice is we all are…. We feel for Malcolm because we’ve all been working the whole time, which is amazing that with nine people that nobody has gone crazy, nobody has died or moved to another country. The fact that all of us are still here in the business and doing it is amazing. I just think we test Malcolm a little bit, like “Why are you doing that shot?” When we did the first one, and it was one of my first movies, we were excited to be there.

RH: My first movie! Now I’m like, “Malcolm can I go to my trailer?” He’s like, “No.”

SL: Exactly. He’s going to have to take a little vacation after this.

He said the first time it had to be a certain way, boom boom boom.

RH: I don’t remember him being like that the first time. The first time you’re creating a character, this time the character is created. We’re also coming with our own ideas of these characters. It’s not the same as characters the audience hasn’t seen before. We have them inside of us and we know what they are.

What does it feel like emotionally to survive to be back on set with friends with people that you’ve grown to love in real life? We asked Monica (Calhoun) and she cried.

SL: Oh she did? It’s been like summer camp, a real reunion.

RH: Instead of crying I have to make sure and try not to laugh.

SL: It’s just all of us! We all pretty much live in the same building or if not, a block away. They’ll come over and watch “American Idol” and “The Voice” and it’s like there’s a whole other life outside of shooting that’s been really fun.

RH: Yeah, it is, it’s fun. When we come to work we know we have to be serious.

SL: It’s funny also when you’re doing scenes and you’re friends with somebody. We do movies, but to look at somebody and be like, “Oh she’s acting,” it’s weird! I’m friends with Taye, she’s friends with Nia, we all pretty much kept in touch socially so it’s a real treat.

Can you talk about how the first movie changed your life?

RH: It was my first job. I had a honey wagon and I thought it was the biggest trailer in the world. “I got a whole honey wagon!” (laughs) It was great for me, and I was working with people whose work I loved. I didn’t see a whole script for the first film. I didn’t even know who was in it until I got the job.

SL: She just got the sides. There’s a fun story: (the casting director) Robi Reed called me in for Candy. When you’re an actress in this business you don’t think you have any kind of power, but it was the first time I asked, “Can I audition for Robin?” They said yes, and that was a really big moment for me in terms of my destiny of having a voice as an actor.

RH: And she didn’t want me to get Candy. I didn’t know her.

SL: I didn’t want her to get it. My cousin who’s a great actress, I thought she’s going get it, and then when Regina got it I was like, “Who is she?”

RH: I went to wardrobe and saw a dress and they were like, “Sanaa’s going to wear that dress, she’s going to be gorgeous,” I was like, “Sanaa who?” (laughs)

Speaking of wardrobe, who has the best wardrobe?

SL: It depends. Definitely not me!

RH: You wear gorgeous stuff. Everyone’s in character.

SL: Mia is always the flyest.

RH: Shelby is always the sexiest.

SL: We’ve been pretty lucky with the wardrobe on this. Their wardrobe budget was definitely.

RH: It was ample!

Why do you think this film resonates with so many people over a decade later?

SL: I just think there’s a reason movies become classics and this is a new classic because it doesn’t matter if you’re black, what socioeconomic background you have, no matter who you are you can relate to these characters. I think Malcolm did such a great job with the cast, all of the elements came together so beautifully. We all got together and watched it in the screening room at the apartments where we’re staying and we didn’t want to watch it, but we were all excited. We forgot.

RH: Also a lot of times, especially with black movies, they allow one type of movie at a time and I think this came at a time when this was the first romantic comedy and it set a bar and it was a proud moment on screen. There was a genre of gangster movies, then after “Best Man” there were a bunch of romantic comedies, but this one was fresh.

SL: It was also good, it was well written!

RH: I read a romantic comedy. I’d seen so many white romantic comedies, and here was a dramedy. Wow. The idea was fresh and the actors were fresh too.

SL: It really stands up today.

Did you guys play any fun practical jokes on set? Is there like a guys vs girls thing going on?

SL: No, we don’t have to with some of the characters in the cast. (laughs) It’s just life! I won’t say. You can probably guess.

How was it like working with Taye, ’cause you did this, you did “Brown Sugar”?

SL: I know! We have this whole life onscreen. It’s great, we’re buddies. Me and Taye probably hang out every couple months in LA. We like to go out and it’s fun;, like hanging out with your family.

How does one kiss your family?

RH: You know what’s weird is all the men in the film are married and we’re all single so we’re kissing married men and it’s fine. You meet their wives and you’re like, “HEY!” (laughs) Gonna kiss your husband.

What is it about black female actresses that get introduced as a stripper? That seems like a rite of passage.

RH: I’m offended I’ve never been asked to strip again, I don’t know how to take it. I was praying to be typecast but apparently I didn’t do a good job ’cause everyone is like “Keep your clothes on!”

SL: I’m waiting to strip, I said I would do a striptease.

RH: It was my first movie, and at that point, I really wanted to work. The way Malcolm had written the script I didn’t find it to be degrading at all. I was excited. My momma was probably shocked, “I’m playing a dancer.” That’s what they call themselves. (laughs)

What do you have coming up after this?

SL: I’m still looking for a job.

RH: I’m going right to “Think Like a Man 2”. Then I’ll be looking for a job.

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