Grammy-nominated singer Keri Hilson and award-winning playwright, author, and filmmaker David E. Talbert make a visit to Howard University homecoming, and add to the excitement.
While we are sure time was made to join in on the fun and festivities, Hilson and Talbert both found time to sit down with me and give HBCU Buzz the scoop on upcoming holiday film “Almost Christmas” — in which Hilson is cast, and Talbert along with Will Packer are producers.
Almost Christmas is a holiday drama where an entire African-American family makes its way back together for the first time since the passing of its matriarch. The widowed father, played by Danny Glover, makes one request, being for his family to survive a few days under the same roof without killing one another. The film shows the funny, electric, typical tendencies of the African American home and the underlines the importance of black community. The star-studded cast featuring Danny Glover, Gabrielle Union, Nicole Air Parker, Kimberly Elise, Mo’Nique, Omar Epps, Jessie Usher, J.B. Smoke, Romany Malco, Keri Hilson, and DC Young Fly is one reason to have you running to theaters. I will also be running to theaters because two HBCU grads wrote and produced the film.
Writer and director David E. Talbert is a graduate of Morgan State University, producer Will Packer is a graduate of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. David E. Talbert is the mastermind behind films including First Sunday and Baggage Claim and 14 touring stage plays that have received an unprecedented 24 NAACP theatre nominations. Will Packer of Will Packer Productions is an emmy-nominated producer responsible for eight films all opening number one at the box office. If you enjoyed Ride Along, Ride Along 2, Think Like A Man, Think Like A Man Too No Good Deed, Takers, or Stomp They Yard, you can thank him!
Having the opportunity to sit down with Talbert, one of the masterminds behind this production and Keri Hilson, one of the celebrity actresses, was an absolute pleasure.
B = Brittany
K= Keri Hilson
D = David E. Talbert
B: How did your HBCU experience shape the film?
D: “Well first of all, my HBCU experience taught me to do WHATEVER to survive and to make it happen. A professor told me you can make it happen, watch it happen, or ask: what happened?” Talbert shared that at HBCUs, he enjoyed being surrounded by others who genuinely want to see you win. He recalls showing his very first play to a professor by the name Clinton Holmes, and after received positive feedback that was such an encouragement for him at the time, as he was venturing into a new space with his first play.
B: Just for fun, if you had to attend any HBCU do you have an idea which you’d enjoy the most?
D: Talbert playfully screams “Morgan State!!!”
K: “I’d say Spelman.” Keri shares how she grew up not too far in Decatur and has of coursed heard of the one-of-a-kind Atlanta University Center (AUC containing Superman College, Morehouse College, and Clark Atlanta University) experience.
B: How did you come up with the idea for the movie?
D: “It was important for me to show the life of an African American family with a strong patriarch. There are no films with black fathers holding it together, showing his vulnerability and pushing through.
B: How did you cast Keri Hilson?
D: Talbert explained that while in a meeting in his office Keri was playing with a basketball net and he jokingly told Keri if she made a shot, she would have a role waiting for her in the movie. “Before I could stop her, she slam dunked the basket! No no, really though, Keri showed me she was serious. She followed up with me, called me the next day, showed up the day after that! I’ve been a fan though forever..”
B: What was your favorite part about this experience ?
K: I enjoyed all of the learning. I appreciate any opportunity to be a student. Literally sitting there at the table, witnessing creative genuises — I was a sponge!
B: Has this increased your acting interest? Can we expect any upcoming roles or to see you in more films?
K: “Yes, yes,and yes!” she shares that this experience has encouraged and inspired her career.
B: David if you had to be one character, who would you choose?
D: “J.B. Smoove. For Sure. He is up to no good and is a train wreck really. I gravitated toward his role and had a lot of fun”
B: What is your favorite message in the film?
K: Time is of the essence. Appreciate each person in your family and love them no matter what”
B: What is something you try to include in each film. Is there one message?
D: “There isn’t one message but all have to have purpose. For this film, the message is as crazy as family is, they are family, and you can’t choose them. Love them.”
B: Keri is there anything else you’s like to share with your fans?
D: blurts out “she has an album coming!”
K: “Yes, I do actually! I want to say to my fans, thanks so much for your patience and anticipating me on the airways again, it is coming. Be sure to check out this film!”
B: As a successful HBCU grad, is there something you’d like to say to HBCU students?
D: “Yeah! Everything you think about, and all of your dreams.. I had! Had all of the struggles! I remind them (HBCU students) when I go back that I am you, you are me. You see my achievements, they can be yours. I am just a cat who was eating Top Ramen (noodles) in the dorms who made it through college because of my friends and professors.