Nearly 25 years after we were introduced to The Best Man, and almost a decade after The Best Man Holiday, Malcolm D. Lee is saying goodbye to his beloved franchise. The Best Man: The Final Chapters catches up with Harper (Taye Diggs), Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), Jordan (Nia Long), Lance (Morris Chestnut), Quentin (Terrence Howard), Shelby (Melissa De Sousa), Candace (Regina Hall), and Murch (Harold Perrineau).
Picking up shortly after the events of The Best Man Holiday and closing in 2024, Peacock’s The Best Man: The Final Chapters will examine the close-knit friend group as they navigate relationships, past grievances, mid-life revelations, and crossroads. Ahead of The Final Chapters‘ eight-episode debut, Shadow and Act sat down to speak with Lee, co-showrunner Dayna Lynne North and the cast members about finishing the story, the evolution of the cast and saying goodbye.
For Lee, who has been with these characters the longest, a limited series wasn’t the first thing he had in mind. “The intention was to make a third movie, and I wrote the script for it, and I had a fourth one in my head,” he explained. “I knew how I wanted to close out the series, but, as fate would have it, actor schedules are very difficult, and we couldn’t get a budget commensurate with what I wanted to do with a third movie. So it stayed dormant until I decided, ‘What if we did this as a limited series?’ Because limited series were ubiquitous and streaming services were on the rise.”
North, who has worked on everything from Insecure to Veronica Mars, has long been a fan of The Best Man, and she made the perfect partner for Lee. “The goal here was letting the past meet the present moment,” North explained. “There’s this exciting moment to bring these characters forward into the here and now and all that’s going on in 2022. And so, for me, adapting this iconic franchise to a series was looking at what we are dealing with and what we want to confront these characters with. How do we want to see them grow and evolve at this moment?”
It was also crucial for North that the series didn’t open a decade after The Best Man Holiday, but instead that we met our character shortly after Mia’s (Monica Calhoun) passing. “I think it was important, Malcolm and I, for both of us, to bridge that gap,” she explained. “I think it would have felt too jarring just to go, here we are in 2022, and you last saw them in 2014, I was a fan before I was one of the creators of the franchise, and so I think there would have been a lot of unanswered questions.”
Throughout eight episodes, fans will watch their favorite characters expand and grow. Some of their choices will undoubtedly shock fans. However, Lee has always known where everyone would land. “The specificity of, for instance, the [Harper’s] book being a further engine for the series being turned into a movie was an idea that Dana had hatched,” he said. “But in terms of what I wanted to happen with the characters, I definitely knew where I wanted to go. Again, having written one movie and had an idea for the fourth, I knew what I wanted to do.”
For Diggs, whose character Harper stands at the center of this friend group, returning to the franchise has been effortless. “There aren’t many Black franchises like ours, so it’s been really great watching each other grow with each segment of this franchise and seeing the new members of the family, the new relationships, the ups, and the downs,” he explained. “It’s been a great experience that has ended up lending itself to the work, especially in this last iteration.”
For Long, whose character Jordan has been the quintessential Black woman boss for more than two decades, watching a woman expand beyond the typical trope of “having at all” has been a breath of fresh air.
“I think she’s a true representation of the woman who has chosen to put her career before everything,” Long said. “And I think to a certain extent, you have to do that when trying to be that boss. But I also think she’s teaching us how to have all the things, all the success, all of the accolades. But you can’t avoid getting to know yourself. I don’t care how successful you are; there’s always going to be that one moment in your life that forces you to stop and reevaluate. Whether it’s a health thing, a situation, a child, or a marriage, there’s always something that forces you to reevaluate how you’re living. And I think for Jordan, in this series, you see a woman who is ready to slow down, to get to know herself because she’s already accomplished all the other things. And so this is where that sense of spirituality, faith, and grace comes in and where you get to start exploring all the good stuff.”
Looking back at where everyone began in the original film back in 1999, Howard’s Quentin has had one of the most significant transformations out of all of the characters in the series. For the Empire actor, experiencing the growth of his character has been a blessing. “Now looking at where we came from and who we ultimately became and who we became real friends with and who we learned to love and appreciate and realize, ‘Wow, a quarter of a century has passed,’ and we don’t know how much time we’ve got in front of us,” he reflected. “And we’re hoping that it inspires others to appreciate their friendships with their family, especially during these holiday seasons. Look deep into the hearts of those you love because they’re not promised tomorrow.”
Moreover, for De Sousa, though Shelby was always a part of The Best Man, seeing her incorporated as a true member of the core group has been such a gift. “I requested it,” she said. “I just said, ‘Listen, you’ve got to show Shelby as a real person. I don’t want her to end up as a caricature. You have to end it where she is a real person with feelings and emotions and different sides.’ And they incorporated it. And you got to see her heart, which was also important to me. So it was exciting. It was intimidating too, because [Terrence] is a beast.”
Speaking of transformations, Chestnut’s Lance has had the most expansive character arch in the franchise. In The Best Man, we watched him transition from life as a single man to a loving husband. In The Best Man Holiday, Lance grappled with his retirement from professional football and the tragic loss of his wife Mia from cancer. When fans meet Lance in The Best Man: The Final Chapters, he is still in a state of grief.
“The thing about grief is no one really knows how they’re going to deal with it until it comes,” Chestnut said. “And unfortunately, it’s something we don’t anticipate but can’t escape. So when the show opens up, Lance is dealing with his grief and the only way he knows how, and he reverts to probably, I would say, the worst form of himself before him being married to Mia’s character in the past. And we’ll see him struggle with that for a little while, and then he’s going to get through that, and then a couple of episodes down, he’s going to be hit with another challenge that will test his faith.”
Looking back on the two films and now the series, Lee feels as if this magical part of his career is finally complete. “My intention in making the first Best Man was to make a classic, to make something that was evergreen, that stood the test of time,” he reflected. “I did not expect we’d make a sequel and then a limited series. But it’s gratifying to know that people are still engaged with these characters, as a testament to the actors, a testament to the material that they’ve had a chance to embody that makes people want to keep coming back and see a reflection of themselves and to see their friends on the big, and now, the small-screen.”
All episodes of The Best Man: The Final Chapters will premiere on Dec. 22 on Peacock.
Watch the interviews in full below: