Arts + Culture
Almost Christmas: An Instant Holiday Classic
Almost Christmas follows the story of a retired automotive engineer who decides on inviting his four grown children and the rest of their family to his house for a traditional holiday celebration after losing the love of his life a year earlier. It’s a big ensemble, Black holiday film from David Talbert, that’s spirited and lively enough to become a holiday staple. DC Weekly sat down with both David and one of the stars of the film, Keri Hilson, to discuss the movie, Washington D.C. and the creative Black resurgence.
First, how did this movie come about? What was the genesis of the script?
David Talbert: “Well I’m a fan of Holiday movies and we hadn’t had one in almost a decade–not since This Christmas–so it’s been a little over 8 years. So I said, you know, it’s overdue so I wrote the script on spec and then my agent sent it over to Will Packer and he called me up and said let’s do it.
It’s also a big ensemble film as well, which allows a lot of different actors to bounce off each other.
DT: Well there was a movie that I saw called This Is Where I Leave You. It’s a great ensemble film and so I wanted to do an ensemble movie that more mirrored families that I knew growing up and populate it with singers like Keri [Hilson] and comedians and young comedians like DC Young Fly
Keri, you act opposite JB Smoove. A really talented and funny comedian. How was it to be saddled with such an eclectic character in a film?
Keri Hilson: Someone like him, you gotta really find the balance between staying present and letting him have the shine. People like him, you never know what they’re going to say –he’s constantly improvising so I have to stay present and allow him to go. Same with Monique: you’re not gonna talk over them or win that competition. You just gotta stay present and be ready to react.
David, as a DC native, what are your go to spots whenever you come back in the city?
DT: It’s usually my mother’s house (laughs) but it used to be my great grandmother’s house: first stop, last stop and every stop in-between. When she passed, coming here didn’t feel the same because I would go to hers first. That was destination central for me and I don’t really know what it is now and it feels strange coming here because her spirit looms so large in D.C. and I didn’t realize it as much until she passed, like wow, that was pretty much what was driving me here.
To make this film during a time of a seeming “Black Creative Renaissance” how does it feel to be a contributor to this and what is your feeling about the Black art being made right now?
DT: It’s like Star Trek: “to boldly go where no one has gone before”. I think this is a bold time for storytellers, songwriters, for people that have the opportunity to reshape perspective or reposition images –I think it’s a bold time. I think that’s why all races are gravitating to certain stories like Atlanta and Issa Rae’s Insecure and Luke Cage and Shonda Rhimes’ shows. I think it’s just a bold time and I think filmmakers have a responsibility to push the envelope forward.
KH: I wish I could see more of it in music to be honest. You have other genres dabbling in soul and doing R&B music and receiving higher praise for it and more accolades for something that I feel belongs to us. I could see that happening more. I’m hoping that what is happening in films and TV will allow for a wider spectrum of creativity musically. I’d love for storytelling to come back over, it’s all really party and fun right now. I’d love the stories to come back and what’s happening in this society be reflected in our music. I praise Kendrick Lamar and J Cole for their socially conscious music.
Do you see yourself moving into that direction with your music?
KH: Absolutely, and I’ve done a couple records that my heart just lead me to do. Waking up and hearing about the things happening in Nigeria forced me into the studio, you know, there’s been a number of records I’ve made from my heart and I can’t wait for people to hear them.
Almost Christmas is playing nationwide. Check your local movie theaters for dates and showtimes.