Special to ColeSmithey.com By Wilson Morales
April 13, 2016
Coming out this week is Barbershop: The Next Cut, the third installment of the Barbershop franchise.
Directed by Malcolm D. Lee from a script by Kenya Barris and Tracy Oliver, the film features the return of cast members Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Anthony Anderson, Jazsmin Lewis, Troy Garity and Sean Patrick Thomas.
New cast members include Oscar winner Common, Regina Hall, Nicki Minaj, Chyna Layne, Michael Rainey Jr., Deon Cole, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lamorne Morris, J.B. Smoove, Tyga, Margot Bingham, Diallo Thompson and Isaiah John.
For Lee, who’s done plenty of ensemble films in the past with The Best Man, Roll Bounce, Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins, Soul Men, The Best Man Holiday, this is somewhat new territory. He’s being brought on to another franchise, after Scary Movie 5, where’s he only the director. What helps is that he’s worked with some of the cast and has a good team of producers and screenwriters to make a good film.
In speaking with Blackfilm.com, Lee talks about coming onboard to an established franchise, working with the cast and whether there will be another Best Man film in the future.
Malcolm D. Lee: I don’t know what people are looking for. I wanted to make it culturally relevant. I wanted to make it funny. I didn’t want anything silly happening like, you know there’s a whole thing in the first one with the whole ATM stealing scene that was a little bit much. What I wanted was just to make it feel authentic and up to date, again, funny, it all comes down to tone for me.
Fortunately the content was already there with the environment that was set, with Chicago and gang violence. I always wanted to have this kind of foreboding danger that could invade upon the safe space of the barbershop. The neighborhood could invade that space, the safe house so to speak, and I think we achieved that largely, but still managed to keep the movie very funny.
With a big cast from original cast members and newcomers and different story lines, how do you weave it all in there and bring it all together? Was it the direction or editing?
Malcolm D. Lee: I think a lot of movies are made in the editing room. I feel like, even with Best Man Holiday, there were lots of great scenes that we had to take out of the movie just for the length of time and best for story. That was certainly the case here, but I felt like even more so, because we had so much footage and so many jokes that had to be told. Even as funny as stuff is on set, it doesn’t always translate to the cut. Then it’s like, you’ve got to figure out what’s going to be funniest overall for the movie.
So it’s a lot of things. Yes, in that sense, we did, I did feel, it was one of the first movies that I’ve done where I felt like, okay, this is going to get made in the editing room. Not that I didn’t know what I was doing on set, but I said, we’re going to gather a whole bunch of stuff and then I’ll figure it out.
Malcolm D. Lee: A lot. I think that’s why you cast funny people. That’s why you cast people like J.B. Smoove and Deon Cole and Lamorne Morris, who are going to come up. Comedians, they have a different way of approaching material. They’ll take what’s there and they’ll make that funny, but they’ll also riff on that. I knew that was going to happen and I encourage it, because having done a number of comedies with different comedians you definitely want to give them the leeway to do it. When they’re performing, they’re in the room. They got the feel of the room and that’s what informs what they’re doing a lot of times. That’s best, because it’s fresh and it’s in the moment and it’s authentic and it’s real.
Eve made her film debut in the first Barbershop. With this movie, you have Nicki Minaj. People are going to seeing this and wonder if this is stunt casting? How much did you work with her? Even though she’s done music videos, now she’s on a different platform here. Is this going to be a one-off for her or is can we see her do something else down the road that doesn’t have anything to do with her persona?
Malcolm D. Lee: She was in The Other Woman with Cameron Diaz, and when I saw her do that, I thought she was good. You know, it’s funny, when she first came out, I was like, I think I would like to work with her. I think she can act and it’s not anything other than me seeing what she does and how creative she is, to make me think that. Was it a little bit of stunt casting? I suppose, but when I read the part of Draya, I was like, “Oh my God, Nicki Minaj would be great for this.” Honestly, once she was interested, nobody else even registered in my mind. I was like, “it’s got to be her.”
Malcolm D. Lee: Primarily hers. A couple times I had to tell her, “Nicki, can you put on a jacket or something.” She’s like, “Why you want me in a jacket?” I’m like, “All right.” I wasn’t going to fight her on that. I mean, there are certain things that I wanted her to be a little bit more covered in, but that’s Nicki and that’s how she felt she was going to be and her character would. Listen, there are girls out there who are like that.
In a barbershop?
Malcolm D. Lee: Sexually provocative, whatever, that’s just how they get down. That’s just how they want to present themselves to the world. So it’s like okay, I’m not totally opposed to it.
With this film you have actors you’ve worked with before. Is it old hat when you direct people who know you, and they know your style of directing like Regina Hall?
Malcolm D. Lee: Regina, she’s great regardless. She has no ego about things. I think that it’s a different character. I think that overall the whole cast was extremely respectful. I think they’ve seen my work in the past and they respect that. So everyone very much trusted me whether I worked with them before or I was working with them for the first time. So Cedric and Regina certainly we’ve done it, but I’d never done the Barbershop movie before. So there had to be a lot of trust placed in me, in order for me to do my job. So I was very grateful that they all trusted me to do my best work. It’s never old hat because every movie is a different challenge.
What works best for you? On a film like this, where it’s not a new film and, like you said, there are layers that have already been established. You’re coming in here and you’re asked to bring your stuff. It’s the same thing like, Scary Movie 5. You’re coming on board into something that’s already in place. What does that do for your psyche? Even though you’re being thrust upon, we’re now handing the reins to you, bring it home.
Malcolm D. Lee: For me personally, I prefer to write and direct, because that’s the way I know I can bring it to its greatest fruition. When I haven’t written something, I just need to work with the writers and get into the mindset of the writers and why he made this choice. This is how I interpreted it, is this how you saw it? Read it in a way that makes the script a place that fits my vision of the movie. When it comes to Barbershop, I thought the two previous movies were good, but I always wanted to put my own spin on it. I wanted to make it, the best of the three. It’ll be up to the fans to decide if it is.
I feel like we’ve had an opportunity to be the funniest of the three. We have a lot more funny people to work with, than they did. Cedric was pretty much the only go to funny person that they had. We’ve got an abundance of them, from Utkarsh to Lamorne, to J.B. Smoove, Deon Cole, Regina Hall. We’ve got lots of funny people that we can count on and of course, we still have Cedric, who is still the king. He still gives you stuff that you don’t think about. So I felt very comfortable in the environment. It’s funny too, because Cedric in the beginning, at the start we did a whole cast dinner. Everybody’s making toasts and Cedric was like, now look here, all you newcomers, we got a good franchise here, we welcome aboard. Don’t fuck it up.
He wasn’t talking to me directly but I heard him, and I’m like yeah, we have to give the fans what they expect, but potentially elevate it. With the script that was there, dealing with gang violence in Chicago, and be very socially relevant as well as something that was going to be really funny. I felt I could do something and bring something to the table with it.
We seem to be coming across this common theme where everything old is new again. This is a movie that’s going back 10 plus years. Best Man Holiday came 10 plus years later. Why is it that Hollywood is now all of a sudden green lighting sequels that the fans wanted to see years ago?
Malcolm D. Lee: I think because of timing. I think that everyone’s always doing remakes. If they’re not doing remakes, they’re doing sequels, and if they’re not doing sequels, they’re doing reinventions or rebooting. There are things that have worked in the past. New franchises don’t always occur, so when something works they want to keep making money. So I get it. Yes, it was 10 plus years later for Best Man but I always had it in the back of my head to do. Yeah, because that was successful they could revisit Barbershop 10 years later, 12 years later, because of where Ice Cube is in his career. People want to see him again. He’s been very successful for a very long time. Okay, with Stright Out of Compton and Ride Along, it was like, “okay, this is a good timing to do another Barbershop movie.” Let’s get the right team together to do that. Fortunately Kenya (Barris) and Tracy (Oliver), they came up with a great script. They were asking me to be aboard, and like I said, “I can bring something to the table.”
What are you doing next and will it be a Best Man 3?
Malcolm D. Lee: I’m eyeing a number of projects including Girls Trip with Will Packer.
What’s "Girls Trip"?
Malcolm D. Lee: "Girls Trip" is a ensemble comedy about 40-plus women who are go on a trip and behave badly. R-rated, Bridesmaids, Hangover type of thing. So there’s that possibility. There’s also the possibility of a couple other things that I’m juggling. I’m starting to think about TV a little bit. As far as Best Man’s concerned, I hope sometime soon, but it’s a scheduling thing right now. There’s a desire on the studio’s part to do it, the actors’ part, my part. It’s really more about, because my actors are all on television shows, it’s hard to schedule a "Best Man" movie, so we’ll see what happens.