From A Script To The Big Screen: David Talbert & Will Packer Talk 'A Meyers Christmas'
VIBE visited the Atlanta-based set on their 23rd day of filming to talk with Talbert and Packer about the forthcoming release.
Playwright and filmmaker David E. Talbert and film producer Will Packer are ready to bring holiday cheer to the big screen for 2016.
The dynamic duo have combined their creative geniuses for Universal's A Meyers Christmas, a heartfelt family flick centered around an estranged family that is brought together during Christmas after their mother passes away, starring a slate of thespians from the legendary Danny Glover to Gabrielle Union to Omar Epps to Mo'Nique to Jessie Usher.
VIBE visited the Atlanta-based set on their 23rd day of filming to talk with Talbert and Packer about the forthcoming release. "It’s a totally different movie and it is very relevant and it feels like a movie of today," Packer says. "It feels like a movie that is touching on themes that are important today. So what I liked about this Christmas is the fact that for that time, for what it was, it was a good cast, and a good solid family story that happened to be around a black family."
Continue scrolling as the duo details what they have in store next holiday season.
On choosing to work together:
David Talbert: All the number one movies, back to back to back. I don’t like Will [Packer]. But the fact that every movie goes number one, what the hell? [Laughs]
Will Packer: Nobody likes me. I just make them work with me. They pretend.
DT: I met Packer when we did Stomp the Yard. Our paths hadn’t really crossed creatively before, but I’d always been a fan of what he does. Always quality, always presents our people in the best light, and I wanted to be a part of that. The script got to Pack and he called me up and said, “We have to do this in Universal.” Pack is the ultimate salesperson, so it doesn’t take but a moment to get pulled in. So he said, “I want to give you everything you want to have for this film. We’re going to have a great cast, we want to have a great soundtrack, and I want to present the movie the way your work should be presented.” And that was the most important for me, was someone who says I want to see this piece of art you’ve created, you’ve labored over presented in its best, possible light.
WP: The timing was really so perfect. I was with my development team saying we need another great Christmas family movie. Whenever I say that, I say this like honestly, I really believe the last good one was This Christmas. Why haven’t we had something with an amazing cast, a heartfelt story, and bring a family together around the holidays? And that’s such a great time for families to come together and do things together. It is about food, it is about family, and whether your family is the worst family ever or the best family—or like most of us, somewhere in between—it’s all we got. It’s family. So when I read this script, the timing of it was so perfect and he really nailed it. He nailed the tone. He nailed that heartfelt, around the holidays, love everybody, even if you hate them, you love them around the holidays. You will know somebody in this family, I guarantee you. And if you don’t, you are the person.
On the basis of the film:
WP: David’s script portrayed a narrative about a powerful black man, a black father figure, holding a family together at a time of grief, stress and dysfunction. They’ve lost their mom, it’s the holidays, and he’s the heartbeat of the family holding it together.
DT: That’s really the movie. Danny Glover’s character is like we’ve got five days till Christmas. Can we all act like we’ve got the good sense that your mother raised you with for five days? Can we do that? And that’s really what the movie is: can they make it to five days, five days with all the history and backstory and all that stuff with four children and an aunt, husbands and wives, and grandkids. Can they make it inside this house in five days?
On the star-studded cast and on-set chemistry:
DT: Pack said to me, "In a perfect world who do you want to play these roles?" He delivered most of the people that I wanted in this movie. I mean Danny Glover is a icon. He kills every frame, it’s like a master class of acting when he’s on and everybody is like mesmerized. And Mo’Nique, I mean we’ve seen her dramatically for maybe the past what, five years or whatever. People forget she is a master of comedy as well. This movie gives her a chance to mix in her comedy with her drama. She just grounds the movie, and Gabrielle Union brightens it up. And we wanted Omar Epps to being a bit of that Love and Basketball swag. Kimberley Elise, who is one of the finest actors in our community, was just such a pleasure to work with her and what’s she’s doing is going to surprise a lot of people. That chick is so bad. And from Romany Malco, who I’ve been a fan of. So, I could go on… You’re going to see a different side of them. You’re going to see what you love from them but you’re going to see different layers. That’s what Pack and I talked about before doing this movie. We didn’t want to just do a movie where you say, oh, I know what that movie is because of the cast. You don’t know what this movie is and you’re going to get more than what you expect with all these people together.
WP: And I like the new mix of people because there have been, the black ensemble comedy, that’s a genre to itself. I’ve made them, Dave’s made them. And you haven’t seen this collection of actors together, though.
On the soundtrack being an important element of the film:
DT: That was all Packer. Packer laughs at me because there are no songs recorded after 1985 on my iPod.
WP: Dave ‘Old Soul’ Talbert. All this new ratchet stuff, he doesn't know. Don’t bring up Meek Mill, Drake, Silento. He doesn’t know anything about none of that stuff.
DT: It's a wonderful balance though because he's got his ear to the streets and he knows what’s hot and we come from two different perspectives and it’s the marriage of the two that’s making the magic in this movie because I bring everything I know to the table with passion and so does he.
Table read magic #MeyersChristmas A photo posted by Will Packer (@willpowerpacker) on
On elevating the black experience through film:
WP: It’s a totally different movie and it is very relevant and it feels like a movie of today. It feels like a movie that is touching on themes that are important today. So what I liked about This Christmas is the fact that for that time, for what it was, it was a good cast, and a good solid family story that happened to be around a black family. This one elevates it. This one takes it to the next level and that’s what we have to do with content. We can’t continue to make the same movie; the audiences wouldn’t come. This is not This Christmas 2. This is a whole new thing. But I love the fact that it resonates with audience, not in just the same way, but even more. There are levels to this and there’s depth to this that I just haven’t seen in a film with actors that look like these actors, and I’m proud to be apart of that. I make no pause about it. It’s a universal story, where you could switch these actors and you could have a Latino family, you could have an Asian family, you could have a white family. It would still work. The fact that they are black actors and the fact that it does have the sensibility that it has behind the camera, gives it a whole other element of flavor that I love, that I think audiences are really going to resonate with.
DT: And those movies stand on their own. I think This Christmas stands on its own. Soul Food stands on its own. Those are still iconic movies. And so my thing was to look at those movies and see what was the magic that those movies had and then I went and said, okay, okay, what’s my magic? Because both of those movies had great magic in them. This Christmas was a very big hit and it had some magical moments all through it with some great performances. So I said okay, what am I going to do to step up to the table?
On having a black patriarch:
WP: It’s one of the things that attracted me to the script originally because when you see these scripts, nine times out of ten, it is about that matriarch – that woman holding the family together. And to read a script that was about a powerful black man, a black father figure, holding a family together at a time of grief, stress and dysfunction, and he’s the heartbeat of the family holding it together. I had not seen that.
DT: It just really occurred to me that we don't see images like that promoted as much. I wanted to make sure on screen that we honored that, and Danny Glover is the absolute best choice we could’ve had and he grounds it very well. Great image, great image for my son.
On their goal with the film:
DT: I can’t wait for when we start screening it. Our goal was to make a classic. Packer’s made so many of those in his career, and our goal coming together was to make a classic that people would watch, not just watch on the holidays, but watch forever and ever and ever. And knock on wood, we got 12 more days, but we’re doing that thing. And at the end of the day, this story is a story and if people believe in it and are touched by it and are moved by it, then that’s what really matters the most at the end of the day. You put a few cameras up a few places just to capture that life, that love, this experience, and I’m thankful.
WP: This is going to be a huge release, as it’s the 2016 holiday release for Universal. You know, they don’t have another Christmas movie, or another holiday movie. This is the one. And I love the fact that it’s a Dave Talbert movie that stars Danny Glover, Mo’Nique, Gabrielle Union and all these other great actors. I love the fact that you have these beautiful brown faces that are going to be on the screen for the world to see. I think people will be able to relate whether or not you look like these characters or not because family is family.