Taye Diggs is best known for his roles in the Broadway musical RENT, the film How Stella Got Her Groove Back, The Best Man, and the TV series Private Practice. Now the 42 year-old reprises his Best Man role as Harper Stewart in in The Best Man Holiday.
This time, the college friends reuniting once again, this time for the Christmas season. We talked about how the film genuinely made us laugh and cry.
“Well, that’s great,” Diggs replies, That’s all you can really hope for as an actor in this business. I get so used to being cautiously optimistic and feeling lucky and blessed that you’re even working in the first place, trying to be in the moment when you shoot a film and not think about the future, and then afterwards, just crossing your fingers and hoping it does well and moving onto the next.”
“I’m hoping this is one of those ones that really resonates with people,” he adds, “I hope it does well, because I’m hearing really good things. I know we worked really hard. We worked really hard on it, so it would be great to see the positive results, the fruits of our labor.”
In praising the broad appeal for the film, we asked Diggs how he plans to prove that in the promotion for The Best Man Holiday.
“I’ve always been a fan of the saying, ‘The proof is in the pudding,’ and, ‘The cream rises to the top,’ so we’ll see in this case,” he says, “We’ll see in this case. I’m just really proud of the cast. I think we all did really great work and I try to just move on with that. I’m very proud of Malcolm [D. Lee], the fact that he got this thing done.”
“I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been just to get the entire cast together,” Taye adds, “I’m proud that we all got together and we just kind of picked up where we left off and made something that we can be proud of.”
In recent years, the landscape of African American cinema has been mostly dominated by “chitlin circuit” playwright-turned-filmmaker Tyler Perry whose works include adaptations of his plays like Diary Of A Mad Black Woman, the Why Did I Get Married? series, and the Madea series. While Perry movies have achieved success almost entirely by African American viewership, we asked Taye how he plans to explain to audiences outside of the community that this film is far more universal in target audience by comparison.
“I think when you speak from your own perspective, no one can argue that,” he says, “We just have to sit back and wait and see, because obviously, the strand, the common thread is African Americans, but one doesn’t want to make the mistake and just assume that every African American is going to see every movie that has African Americans in it. And you feel silly having to explain this to certain people, but just like white people, there’s more than one kind of white person. There’s not just one type of romantic comedy that all white people go to see.”
“You got Judd Apatow’s flavor, there’s just different kinds of movies because there’s different kinds of people,” Diggs adds, “And we as African Americans are waiting and trying and working all together at the same time to just catch up, so that black people don’t just have to go see a Tyler Perry movie, because that’s the only movie that has more than two black people in it, when we want to see ourselves reflected accurately or just reflected period, so it can get dicey and stuff. Obviously, a subject matter, it’s very complicated, it can be, especially with the industry that still considers race when they are doing with the projects that deal with people coming from different backgrounds. So that’s what I’m saying, that we kind of have to wait and then, we have to work and bust doors down and make statements and make movies like this. We have to bust our asses to get people to see these movies, because that’s the only way the industry is going to pay attention. You can have a really great movie that’s amazing, and the industry will even say that it’s amazing, but then, they won’t make more of them unless the movie makes a gajillion dollars, so it’s an ongoing battle.”
We asked Diggs where he feels the African American community in film and TV are in wanting to shed the labeling of their accomplishments as a cultural marker.
“That is the question,” he replies, “Because at the same time, I long for that day when we will all be treated equally, but then at the same time, the question for me is if that day comes, are people going to miss being able to claim being a part of a certain group. There’s a certain pride that also goes along with recognizing, ‘This is a black actor.’ So when people say, ‘This is a black actor,’ I forget about myself because I am black. There are some people out there that they still want that to be recognized, so another question, yeah, yeah, how can we strive for equality, then also still keep the pride that exists in being able to connect yourself to a larger group. You look at Ebony magazine and Jet magazine and tons of people that are saying, ‘Why does there have to be a magazine that’s just for black people?’ And the black people say, ‘It’s because we don’t have magazines where we can look at ourselves and see ourselves.’ And then, you say, ‘Well, wouldn’t it be great if we got to a point where we wouldn’t need that?’”
“But then, they’re like, ‘But then, I want to have somebody I can connect to. I want to be able to feel a part of a group,’” Taye continues, “So I think that’s going to be the interesting journey. We as humans, not to get all philosophical, there’s always going to be some struggle. If we get to a point where we’re all treated equally, I guarantee you as humans, we’re going to find something else to differentiate ourselves, so that’s the struggle, trying to get it as close as possible. I think that we’re at a point today where we can say that. It’s tough and I commend anybody out there for recognizing that there is an issue there, and that there is a weird area, it can be if you pay attention. Or you can do what too many other people are saying, ‘It’s a black movie, go see it. It’s a black movie and I enjoyed myself.’ If you just gloss over like that, it doesn’t amount to anything, but I definitely commend the care that anyone would give this.”
Taye talked with us about what we feel is one of the standout scenes in The Best Man Holiday is a scene where his character and the other boys dance in impeccably dressed fashion a la Boyz II Men.
“Easily one of the favorite days on set,” he says, “Harold and I, we have dance backgrounds, but Morris and Terrence, I don’t think did, and they learned that choreography. I mean, Morris was serious. I thought it looked great, it felt great, and for me, it just cemented how much I love the performing arts.”
“And to be able to see it on the screen, I got really, really excited when they started playing it,” Diggs continues, “I forgot for a minute when I was watching the movie, but the music played and I got goosebumps, and it was just fun. It’s a good time.”
We pointed out to Diggs that it’s rare for an actor to get to show all their talent and skills like that.
“Love,” Taye says, “It’s exactly that. We couldn’t do that. I wanted to keep doing it. That day flew by. We were looking forward to it for so long and rehearsed, and then, before you know it, it’s over. But yeah, I got to find more stuff where I can have that kind of fun. It’s great to be making the money, it’s an embarrassment of riches where you end up, not to be corny, but getting what you want. It seems to be almost the dream of the journey. You get to Broadway, then you get into a show that gets enough attention that the Hollywood agents come out and they scoop you up out of New York and take you to L.A., then you get a show.”
“But you end up doing a show in L.A. that doesn’t enable you to use all the talents that got you there in the first place, and you end up being massively overqualified,” he adds, “And the key is to try, for me, personally, is to try to keep your foot and your toes dipped in all of those little pools. When you have time, come back to Broadway, come back to an off-Broadway play, and find some theatre in L.A., just to exercise in all those muscles. But that was just a little taste that made me remember, ‘OK, you still want to do this. This is still fun. We got to figure out a way to keep this in the vocabulary.'”
We mentioned to Taye that TV is a particularly good avenue right now considering the golden age it’s entered into right now with many high-quality hit series on the premium channels and FX.
“I love it.” Diggs says, “I love the idea of being in one place for a certain amount of time, not having to travel to different hotels, hotel rooms, staying close to home, staying close to the kid. The better writing is definitely on television, so we’ll see. It’s just a matter of getting people to watch and giving these shows a shot, an actual shot.”
We asked Diggs to tell us what are the three words that mean most to him.
“I just said ‘friendship’, that’s huge with me, ‘humor’, and ‘loyalty’,” Taye says, “I have folks that are loyal. Those are tenants of mine. And dance, too. Sounds a little corny, but it says a lot.”