Director Malcolm D. Lee on his new limited series 'The Best Man: The Final Chapters'
AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:
Weddings are what memories are made of, and sometimes not for the reasons that you want, like that time when the bride-to-be maybe secretly had a one night stand with the best man. That's the plot of the now classic romantic comedy "The Best Man."
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BEST MAN")
MONICA CALHOUN: (As Mia Morgan) Lance, as I stand beside you this day, I offer you the very heart of me filled with sacred love, pure...
RASCOE: Released back in 1999, the film follows a group of Black college classmates who reunite when two of them tie the knot. There was a sequel in 2013 that was well-received, and now the franchise returns with a series on Peacock called "The Best Man: The Final Chapters."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BEST MAN: THE FINAL CHAPTERS")
TAYE DIGGS: (As Harper Stewart) When I was younger, I thought money was everything. Good career, get married, nice crib, kids - the dream, right? But it's so much more complicated than that.
RASCOE: Malcolm D. Lee wrote and directed both movies and also this limited series, and he joins us now. Welcome to the program.
MALCOLM D LEE: Thank you very much. Glad to be here.
RASCOE: I got to start with the obvious. This series is, like - it's a who's who of Black Hollywood. It's - Nia Long is in there, Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard, Regina Hall, Melissa De Sousa. And all of them were in the original. Was it difficult to get them all back again?
LEE: I hypnotized them.
LEE: No. I mean, look, I think that the truth of the matter is the first "Best Man" movie was very meaningful and integral to their careers. A worthy follow-up with "Best Man Holiday" was something I think that they all wanted and needed at the time, including myself. And then with "The Best Man: Final Chapters," I thought it was appropriate to give the fans the answer to the question, what's this group of friends doing with their lives? You know, with streaming services and limited series being kind of ubiquitous and much more in the zeitgeist, I was like, well, maybe we can do this as a limited series and be more expansive in our storytelling and tell the movies that I wanted to tell, plus some more.
RASCOE: How did you approach making that shift to this very long, expansive series?
LEE: Well, I think people want to see these characters. You know, I think we have a lot to say in our - the themes that we're covering. It's about midlife metamorphosis, midlife renaissance. You know, there's a lot of challenges happening - right? - whether they're health challenges or raising kids or parenting your parents or career crossroads or balancing work-life. You know, am I fulfilled in my marriage? Are my relationships changing? We told the story, and I'm very satisfied and gratified that we were able to bring this group of actors back together and re-embody these characters.
RASCOE: Obviously, one thing about making movies or shows dealing with Black life, there will often be a pushback. No one show or movie can represent all of the Black experience. But there will be criticism like, well, these are very wealthy professionals. This is a certain type of Black person. Is that something that you grapple with?
LEE: Not really. I mean, you know, I try to stay current and I try to speak to the characters that I thought were going to speak to me and my generation and my experience. I wasn't seeing myself reflected on the big screen or even the small screen - very little. I mean, "Cosby Show," somewhat "The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air." Certainly, these are aspirational Black folks. Certainly, "The Best Man" is - you know, they are good-looking people.
RASCOE: They are good-looking (laughter).
LEE: Yeah, and there's an aspiration around, you know, what they want. But that's - but nothing wrong with that. Like, you know, people are ambitious. People want better for themselves. People want things in their lives. People want to have the good life. And I think for a lot of people, when they saw "The Best Man," who were - not people who were post-graduate, but those folks certainly, but even people that - who were younger were like, wow, like, that kind of life, those kinds of friends - that kind of success is possible.
RASCOE: Nia Long's character talks about dealing with this idea of, like, what they owe to the community.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BEST MAN: THE FINAL CHAPTERS")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Intense?
NIA LONG: (As Jordan) I'm just saying that Black women are always judged for being direct and ambitious. I deal with [expletive] every day. So if you're going to represent us, I want you to represent us properly.
RASCOE: Not to give no spoilers, but she gets called out - I mean, almost like, you know, the term of, like, a sellout type thing. What do you think about those type of tinges that come with success as not just being successful, but you're also successful and you're representing the Black community?
LEE: Right. Yeah. I mean, like, that's the kind of the blessing and the curse of being Black and conscious in America, right? It's not about just you. It's about who else that you represent. It's about the larger community of who you come from because, you know, it's like, we have been so vilified and so demonized in society and in media, popular culture. It's very real that you have these kinds of conversations. And, like, at the same time, it's like, yeah, but, you know, I got to make money. And I want the American dream, and I want everything that that affords me. And both can be correct, and both can be, you know, worthy of defending. Can you balance? How is that going to manifest itself?
RASCOE: I want to talk about the end. This is called "The Final Chapters" in the title. I mean, you spent so much of your career writing these characters. Why say goodbye to them?
LEE: Well, I think you just said it. You know, I spent so much time doing it. It's time to do something else.
RASCOE: (Laughter) I know, but we may want to see them all again. We may want these - more.
LEE: Well, you know, listen, that's fair. That's definitely fair to want more. And I think we should demand more - you know? - not necessarily of these characters, but these types of stories. I've gone as far as I can go, in my mind, with these characters. I don't want, you know, people to ever look at this and say, oh - or look at the next iteration and say, why'd they do that? Like, I never want to be, why'd they do that? I'd rather leave well enough alone, have people feeling like that was complete. I wonder about those characters. I love those characters. Let your imagination go with it. But at this point, "The Final Chapters" means the final chapters. That's it.
RASCOE: That's Malcolm D. Lee. His series "The Best Man: The Final Chapters" is streaming on Peacock now. Thank you for speaking with us.
LEE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.