Exclusive: Director Malcolm D. Lee Talks ‘Girls Trip’ & Shooting During Essence Fest

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Brothers With A Franchise
Director Malcolm Lee and Producer Will Packer join forces to bring star studded film Girls Trip to the big screen.
Posted by Dominga Martin

July 18, 2017

Hollywood is a small town.  Black Hollywood is even smaller. However, when it comes to making great movies that have a lasting impression and box office value, there’s no such thing as color, just 1 word: Franchise.

Having a franchise in Hollywood means that you’re bankable.  That you can make more than 1 film, centered on 1 theme and keep blowing it up.  While franchise films used to be synonymous with big blockbusters like a series of superhero movies, the context has changed—audiences are now flocking to the theater to see themselves, predominately people of color who will see part 1, and part 2 of an entertaining film if it reflects the nuances of their true life experiences.

Malcolm Lee obtained his first franchise title after the follow up to his 1998 hit “The Best Man” (which made approximately $34M in the box office), while the follow up “The Best Man Holiday”, although 15 years later took in almost $80M worldwide.  Will Packer, who started his humble career in Atlanta, with the independent film Chocolate City, with partner Rob Hardy has made a name for himself with hits “Think Like a Man” and “Ride Along”, each having a follow up to the first—with Ride Along 1 and 2 pulling in a quarter billion worldwide.

These brothers are doing it.  With class, style and images that resonate with the African American community; and together they are celebrating black women in all their glory with their new film GIRLS TRIP—centering around 4 life long friends: “Sasha” (Queen Latifah), “Dina” (Tiffany Haddish), “Lisa” (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and leading lady Regina Hall (“Ryan”).  Back in the day, the 4 women referred to their crew as the “Flossy Posse” and have hopes to reconnect and catch up over a long overdue “girl’s trip” to New Orleans.

The ladies plan to let loose and to accompany Ryan who is a successful author, on her book tour stop which happens to be at the ESSENCE festival in New Orleans; together they begin to reconnect and unpack their friendship as new secrets emerge and their friendship is tested.  Over the course of this week-end the viewer is on a roller coaster ride of wild fun with Lisa, the single mom who has lost all her swag—yet discovers her inner wild child with a sexy boy toy encounter, portrayed by Kofi Siriboe (Queen Sugar).  Sasha is confronted with the truth that she is broke and has a gossip blog that does not feed her soul.  While Dina, the ride or die chick of the crew “keeps it 100” in every setting, and Ryan…holds it together as her picture perfect marriage to has-been NFL star “Stewart” (Mike Colter) falls apart—yet, she has a slow fire burning with an old college friend, portrayed by Larenz Tate.

If #blackboyjoy and #blackgirlmagic had a baby it would be Girls Trip.  Sizzling.  Sexy.  Fun.  Magical and hella funny!

I sat down with Director Malcolm Lee, in New Orleans to discuss the project, and although he doesn’t think he’s a franchise director yet, here’s what he had to say:

What was your biggest challenge in shooting GIRLS TRIP, in real time at the ESSENCE Music Festival?

Oh gosh, it was a logistical nightmare.  It was logistically the most difficult movie that I’ve ever been a part of.  What you don’t think about is the fact that you have a huge festival, 1/2 a million people coming down here (NOLA) to watch artists as big as Mariah Carey, Diddy and New Edition and that festival is going to go on with or without my movie—-but the movie was quite a production itself, and we had to put our productionwithin that production and I had stars in my movie that are recognizable and so I’m trying to shoot scenes with Queen Latifah playing the role of “Sasha” in GIRLS TRIP; [and well] I’ve got Queen Latifah walking around ESSENCE, so you’ve got a lot of people going: “Queen Latifah!!! Can I get a picture?!” So it was tough, and that was a challenge, but we overcame it and having the ability to shoot at the ESSENCE festival gave us scope, gave us production value, gave us a back drop that was really incredible that we took full advantage of.

With the Diddy performance scene and Dina, was this a one take shot?

What was interesting about that scene is it was really an impromptu moment.  Diddy decided that he would engage with the actor.  So that moment when Dina (Tiffany Haddish) climbed on stage was not written in the script, it happened and we were rolling and decided to go with it.  Queen Latifah stepped in and pushed her up, so when she turns around and you see that expression on her face, that was real.

I hear that it took some convincing having you incorporate the peeing scene.  Why did you have reservations?

Well, I just didn’t know if it was realistic.  Would this really happen?  Would we be able to convince the actor to do this?  And I thought about it and thought…lets go for it, and it worked.

You and Will have both worked with Regina Hall, so was she the nucleus when it came to casting the ensemble?

That’s exactly what it was, we called her first.  The next two were Latifah and Jada and then Tiffany.  Regina can do comedy, she can do drama, she is just so talented, and we needed someone to anchor this project that could be funny, yet you could invest in and believe in their struggle and challenges they have to overcome.  You needed someone who can make you believe that [and that] was Regina.

Regina Hall and Malcom Lee have come a long way since her role as “Candy” in his first film The Best Man.  One can say that the magic ingredient in these franchise films that Will Packer and Malcolm Lee is Ms. Hall.  An actor constantly evolving, with range and talent that is bankable at the box office.

Next up for Malcolm and Will is the film “Night School” starring Kevin Hart.  This duo will keep cranking out hits worth watching.

GIRLS TRIP opens July 21st in theaters nationwide.

Restricted Trailer

Trailer 2

Clip – Lisa meets Malik in the hotel lobby

Clip – Ryan gives her agent some advice

Clip – Dina explains where she hides her drugs

Clip – Lisa shows the girls the vests she made

Clip – The absinthe starts to kick in at the club

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