(The Root) — The Best Man Holiday is one of the most anticipated films of the 2013 holiday movie season. Building on the success and storylines of audience favorite The Best Man, director Malcolm Lee reassembled an all-star cast to take another shot at creating cinematic magic with the sequel to the 1999 smash hit. The Best Man Holiday picks up 15 years after the wedding that almost isn't because of Harper's (Taye Diggs) tell-all book masquerading as a novel. Proving that what's done in the dark will come to light, the college friends stumble through the wedding weekend learning more about each other than anyone could have imagined.
The long-awaited sequel demonstrates that sometimes old habits die hard when the friends come together again, this time for the holidays. The Root had an opportunity to catch up with some cast members — Sanaa Lathan (Robyn), Morris Chestnut (Lance) and Nia Long (Jordan) — and find out what it was like taking on their roles after 15 years, if there's any added pressure to pulling off a sequel to a much-loved film and why this group decided to make the sequel.
The Root: What was it like getting back into character after 15 years since you made The Best Man?
Morris Chestnut: The one thing that really did help, the first week we got together, we watched the film as a group. It was a fun experience and also just having genuinely good chemistry.
Sanaa Lathan: Yes, we're all friends, so it was like a reunion.
Nia Long: We're like family. We're happy to see each other and work together, so the chemistry is always there.
TR: As actors, you have been able to move successfully between television and film projects — and even Broadway. Why do you think that is?
SL: I feel like it's because there is a certain level of God-given gifts that you come into this life. The thing that I notice in all of my peers who continue to thrive in this business after so many years is not giving up. Perseverance. The business is no joke. It may look effortless, but it is no joke. It can be emotional warfare at times. Sometimes you're on the ground, but the common denominator is that we keep getting up and keep going for it.
NL: Material, I always look at the material. If it speaks to me, I do it. In some sort of way, I feel that the performance resonates with the audience, when you stay true to the voice of the character. I can't do something that I don't feel, and I get up when I fall. (Group laughs.)
Sometimes you have to lay there for a little bit; we have to call each other, come over. I need some therapy. We've created a nice group of friendships here where we can have really open conversations about the struggles or throwing ideas off of each other or "Did you hear about this project?" I think that communication is really important. Even though we're constantly competing against each other, I do feel genuinely happy for my peers when they get the job. It's like, great! One more black girl on T.V. Great!
TR: Why did you decide to make the sequel?
SL: Malcolm invited us — the entire cast — to a lovely dinner. He pitched the movie to us, and we fell in love with the story. We wanted to do this film.
NL: We had to convince the studio to make this movie. There was no green light. [Malcolm] had a very unique way of approaching this. It was completely unorthodox. Usually it's the other way around — the director has the green light with the script, and then we're the last to know. He actually came to us and we became a part of championing the process, which was completely different from anything we'd ever done before.
TR: You have all been part of game-changing films like Love and Basketball, Boyz in the Hood and Love Jones. Does that add pressure to doing a sequel to a film that is so beloved, like The Best Man?
SL: You're just so happy to be working on something you're passionate about and excited about, you don't think about pressure.
NL: You can't think about that or it will drive you crazy.
SL: Once I'm doing something, I don't think about the pressure. It is going to be what it is. We put our all into it, and I have faith that it's going to come out good, don't you? (gestures to the group)
MC: I definitely think it's going to play well. Also, it's pressure when you're not working. Once you get the job, you can relax a bit and focus (on the performance). You never know how a film is going to be received. Audiences control that. All we can control is what we do at work. After that, it's up to the gods.
NL: Then after that, pray for the next job.
The Best Man Holiday arrives in theaters Nov. 15.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large at The Root. She is also editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire, a blog dedicated to world news related to the African Diaspora and global culture. Follow her on Twitter.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., a media scholar, is digital editor in chief at Grady Newsource and a faculty member of the Cox Institute of Journalism, Innovation, Management & Leadership at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She is founder and editor in chief of the award-winning news blog the Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter here or here.