Morris Chestnut was more than surprised when he got the call to meet his The Best Man director Malcolm D. Lee over dinner and drinks with the film’s entire cast. Lee had an idea that was 14 years in the making for a sequel to the immensely popular hit.
Chestnut met us for an exclusive interview to take us through the process of how the cast went from a fateful dinner to working on the film that picks up where the popular characters have been after a decade and a half.
The actor, most recently seen in Kick-Ass 2, was thrilled with where his character was, but also knew the daunting challenge of portraying the spectrum of emotion. See, a certain character is deathly ill, and that is what gets the gang back together.
At the same time, his character Lance is on the verge of setting the rushing record in the NFL, as previewed in The Best Man Holiday trailer. For Chestnut, both elements were taxing. However, running plays as a pro footballer was a dream come true for this lifelong football fan who calls the sport his “first love.”
Movie Fanatic: When the cast gathered for that dinner with director Malcolm D. Lee and was told that there might be a sequel, was it a total surprise?
Morris Chestnut: It was so many years later, it was out of left field. We shot the first movie so long ago and it has been so many years. It wasn’t like when the movie came out and we landed at number one and three weeks after that they announced a sequel. I heard people had been asking Malcolm about it, I just never thought it would come to pass.
Movie Fanatic: What struck you about Malcolm as a filmmaker, after he has grown in the fourteen years since you first worked with him?
Morris Chestnut: With this film, there was more pressure because we had to jump through a lot of hoops to get this film made and Malcolm had been living with these characters for so long in his head that now that the moment is finally here, you want to take advantage of the moment and not leave anything to chance. And dealing with all of our different personalities, we’re all at different stages of our lives and our careers, so that was a primary challenge.
Movie Fanatic: When you did first hear that there might even be a chance at a second movie, what were your expectations for where your character was and what he was doing?
Morris Chestnut: I had no clue! That was the purpose of the dinner was to discuss with Malcolm where the characters were in their life. When he told me that Lance was going for the rushing record and he was dealing with certain types of illnesses, I thought it would be challenging. Then, I read the script and I was like, “Oh, my God. He did it.” I just had to focus quite a bit. It was tough to come to work some days.
Movie Fanatic: Those football scenes, that had to be so much fun for you as a football fan.
Morris Chestnut: That was a blast! I love football. That is my first love. Before I loved girls, I loved football. I loved being out on the field. They had this big old picture of me on the Jumbotron in the uniform. Just being out there and being with the ballplayers, it was a dream. The main thing was putting the pads on and going through the motions of being an actual football player. Getting hit a little bit, pulling my hamstring on one of the runs -- that was a lot of fun.
Movie Fanatic: Watching The Best Man Holiday, it was like not a day had gone by with you guys as characters, but also as actors. Was it like that from the first read through?
Morris Chestnut: What set the tone was when we started rehearsing. We’ve seen each other throughout the years and I really hadn’t hung out with anybody. So, when we started rehearsing, it was about getting back into these characters. Where are we? What has gone on with them? What has gone on between myself and Harper? Have we had a discussion? Are we good friends now? I asked Malcolm all of this. Going through the rehearsal process and getting to know each other again, what really did it was when we watched the first movie like a week before we started filming. For me, emotionally seeing those relationships again… there were scenes I had forgotten about. It really brought it all back.
Movie Fanatic: Since the first movie debuted, the fan base for these characters has only grown. Have you been surprised by the resonance these characters have had with audiences?
Morris Chestnut: I’m glad that people are excited that we’re back together. This film, it’s crazy, when you think about 14 years later… there are going to be some kids who were three years old that saw the original on TV that couldn’t even talk when the first movie came out and now they could be on their way to college, it blows my mind. But, finding a whole new audience after all this time and having a sequel after all of this time is exciting to be a part of that. This is exciting for me because I know this is a movie that a lot of people want to see, but I knew it would be a daunting task because the character was so demanding of me, physically, emotionally.
Movie Fanatic: You run the gamut of emotions in this movie. You have the highest of joys and the deepest of sorrows, were there times where it was tough to leave it? Or, did it help that you had your castmates around?
Morris Chestnut: There was one scene in the first one where I was at the altar and I had a flashback to what Mia had done, sleeping with Harper. I was crying on the altar. Having to get to that place in the first one bothered me for months after the movie was released. It wasn’t as bad this time. I was able to deal with it. We shot the funeral scene toward the beginning of the movie. That was emotional. Then, there was that scene where Monica reveals herself and takes off her wig, and then by the time we shot the scene where I come back after the game, I was so drained. I was able to do it in a couple of takes. But, Malcolm said he needed one more. Once it was over, it was over and I was glad to put it behind me.
Movie Fanatic: The dance scene is going to go down as a moment in movies, I swear. You are in that scene with a couple of pros, like Taye and Harold. How hard was it for you to get those moves down?
Morris Chestnut: I just wanted to be good. I didn’t want to get up there and look like I had two left feet [laughs]! I have to work at everything I do. There is nothing I think of as easy. I knew I had to practice, practice, practice. Women like to see a dude who can dance, you know [laughs]!