Morris Chestnut Returns To The Spotlight In 'The Best Man Holiday'
By JESSICA HERNDON
11/14/13 09:25 AM ET EST
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Back in 2012, while filming
"The Best Man Holiday," Morris Chestnut and Nia Long became increasingly
It had been 14 years since the release of Malcolm D. Lee's 1999 hit,
"The Best Man," and 21 years since the actors were first-time co-stars
in John Singleton's street-life classic "Boyz n the Hood."
"There was a moment when we were shooting in a limo and Nia
looked at me and said, 'You are a man now!'" recalled Chestnut with a
chuckle during a recent interview. "We are in such different places in
our lives and careers now. We're fortunate to still be here."
Chestnut, Long and the entire original cast of "The Best Man" — Taye
Diggs, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Harold Perrineau, Regina Hall,
Monica Calhoun and Melissa De Sousa — return in the Christmas-themed
"The Best Man Holiday," opening Friday.
Although other follow-up films have come years after their originals —
September's "Riddick," for example — the long-awaited "Best Man"
reunion is a relatively rare feat, especially for a predominantly
"When the DVD market went down (in 2009), there were less and less
urban movies getting made," said Chestnut of the lack of black ensemble
films. "Tyler Perry was the only one really making (these) movies."
Lee, "The Best Man Holiday's" writer-director, struggled to get his
sequel backed by a studio. The heartbreaking nature of the story-line,
which was far from the jolly tale distributors were expecting, didn't
help his cause.
Still, Universal Pictures went for the film, but only after the entire cast came to the studio for a reading.
"They understood what the movie was and what it could be," said Lee
of the studio's response to the reading. "However, we know it's hard to
get people to go see a film with a primarily black cast that doesn't
star Will Smith or Denzel Washington."
When Chestnut portrayed Ricky Baker in 1991's "Boyz n the Hood," he
became a talked-about young actor on the rise. After landing a few
supporting parts in films like "The Inkwell" and "G.I. Jane," he won
leading roles in "The Brothers" and "Two Can Play That Game" and was
soon type-cast as the heartthrob.
"At the time, I didn't realize I was doing all romantic comedies,"
said Chestnut. "But I'd go to set and not really respect what I was
doing. I didn't see it as a challenge. It was like, 'Go sit there and
kiss Vivica Fox. Go sit there and joke with Gabrielle Union.'"
Though he became a household name among African-Americans, Chestnut didn't have the box office draw of a Smith or Washington.
"I woke up one day and was like, 'OK, I had fun, but I didn't really
fit anything meaningful in there," Chestnut said. "It was a lesson
He's since appeared in films like "Think Like a Man," ''Identity
Thief" and "Ladder 49," and on TV shows such as "V," ''American Horror
Story" and "Nurse Jackie." But he still fights for roles.
"It's a never-ending story," said Chestnut, who admires the talent of "Best Man" co-star Howard.
"He's a different cat," Chestnut said of the Oscar-nominated actor.
"We call Terrence the beautiful mind because sometimes a person can be
so brilliant that it is hard for them to stay focused. ... When you say
'action' he is so phenomenally present, but when you say 'cut,' he is
As Lance, the devoted football star in "The Best Man Holiday,"
Chestnut "had to have his poker face on and cracks in the armor," said
Lee. "He played all of that beautifully. He was extremely serious."
Yet he couldn't evade his hunky habits. The 44-year-old, who lost 30 pounds for the part, goes shirtless in the film.
"We didn't shoot that scene until the second to last week of
production!" said Chestnut. "Maintaining a diet and exercise routine at
my age is a lot. I couldn't cheat."
But it was all in a day's work. "This movie was fun and emotional,"
said Chestnut. "To be able to go deep into this character and see my
development as an actor at this stage in my career — 20 years in — I'm
very fortunate for that."
Follow AP Film Writer Jessica Herndon on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/SomeKind
Bring tissues I guess