To us ol’ heads, it may not SEEM like Director Malcolm D. Lee made his directorial debut over 20 years ago, but he sure did.
Way back in 1999, “The Best Man” debuted to the delight of a generation.
Recently, I got on the horn with Lee to discuss his upcoming projects, the longevity of “The Best Man”, as well as why he is so excited by the ABFF presents “The Best Man: Hollywood Homecoming” reunion show on IMDB, a unique series that features the cast discussing Black humanity via the cinematic experience.
READ MORE: SCREEN TIME: The Best Man Holiday
Featured in the reunion will be Monica Calhoun, Melissa De Sousa, Taye Diggs, Terrence Howard, Harold Perrineau, and Malcolm himself.
The 20th anniversary of ‘The Best Man’ passed two years ago, but many of us can still recall the cultural shift that occurred when this film debuted, and how we all wanted and expected a sequel sooner rather than much later.
“I didn’t want to be viewed as a one-trick pony,” said Lee when asked why he didn’t do a Best Man sequel early on. “I wanted other stories to tell, and I wanted to revisit these characters after they had a chance to live some life, and after I got to live some life.
It was fantastic that they were all actors who were all successful, with careers that were launched and boosted off of the same movie and they were all available to do ‘Best Man Holiday’, which did wonders for the industry as well as them as actors. We were at the point in our careers where ‘Best Man Holiday’ was the right movie to make and at the right time.
“As a matter of fact,” Lee told The Shadow League, “Best Man was the right movie at the right time as well.”
The Shadow League: Tell me about “Best Man: Hollywood Homecoming” and why it’s so important to you.
Malcolm D. Lee: “The American Black Film Festival has always been very supportive of me and my films. Before the pandemic, they wanted to honor the cast of Best Man, as well as myself at the festival. It was the 20th anniversary. Best Man: Hollywood Homecoming is a way of getting us in a safe space again and talking about what that experience was like. “
“We had a really great time doing it. A lot of smiles and laughter and stories that came out of our time together. We had been talking about doing The Best Man series as well, but when we were going to tape, that hadn’t been finalized yet.”
The Best Man series of which Lee speaks is of the limited variety and will be titled “The Best Man: Final Chapters” and is slated to air on Peacock.
The Shadow League: What has bonded you all together so steadfastly over the years?
Malcolm D. Lee: “This camaraderie still exists among us. It was my first movie, and it was an experience that we all enjoyed having together. We felt like it was an experience that was going to be something special. To be reunited 20 years later, to get our flowers, would be a great thing.”
“My movie was really an opportunity for me to see myself onscreen, myself and people like me, real Black people. Particularly educated Black people,” he continued. “They’re usually very, very stiff and devoid of their blackness, speaking the King’s English all the time, and I’m like ‘that’s not how educated black people behave’. And to tell a universal story about love and reunion and friendship and regret and requited love and meeting commitment.
“All of those things are universal stories. My career goal has been to make these African American movies, which is not a genre, by the way, that have these predominantly Black casts to be mainstream, to be normalized. For people to say ‘Hey, those characters are just like me!’ Because guess what? They are! We may have cultural specificity that I try to bring out in the movies that I do, but anybody could be these characters.”
Whether you’re talking about ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ or ‘In the Heights’, these are very universal stories with cultural specificity.
Right now, I’m doing ‘Space Jam 2’, a film with a mostly Black cast, if you don’t count the Looney Tunes, that just may just be, knock on wood, one of the biggest movies of the year!
The Shadow League: Speaking of Space Jam 2, what has that experience been like? We’ve been waiting on this movie seemingly forever.
Malcolm D. Lee: “It was daunting, but it was very rewarding. By the way, had I been handed this movie ten years ago, I don’t know if I would have been prepared for it. My experience in telling stories and working with actors and setting tones for movies helped me prepare for this big visual effects, animated thing that I had no experience in doing.”
“But when you’ve had the experience that I’ve had, and I have had a modicum of success when it comes to bankability, I know what I’m doing is far as direct actors and getting coverage and figuring out what’s the north star of our story, trying to balance the laughter and the tension. So, when you have all those tools at your disposal, adding on the animation and though I had no experience in doing it, it felt pretty natural to have these things at my disposal.”
“Best Man: Final Chapters is something I am very excited about. But it is just that, the final chapters. After this, I don’t have any more stories about these characters. That’s it. We are blessed to be able to tell these stories in a longer form. So, I am very excited about that. The big thing I want everyone to tune in for is the reunion show. It’s a fun discussion.”