In what has become something of a holiday specialty for Will Packer, Almost Christmas is a family-friendly cinematic offering infused with spirituality that boasts top-level black talent.
Recently, The Shadow League was able to speak Packer, the film's Executive Producer, and actress Kimberly Elise about the merits of the film, as well as the heart and soul that went into making it.
Packer's name is synonymous with light-hearted, situational and contemporary black movies. Responsible for such offerings as Stomp the Yard, Takers and Think Like a Man, he knows the exact formula that brings black folks out to the box office. Name recognition is one of them. With a cast that includes Danny Glover, Kimberly Elise, Mo'Nique, Gabrielle Union and Omar Epps, he has that base covered.
And with all that's going on in the world, a funny Black movie with a message of family and love can't hurt.
"The thing I really dig about this is, it is about the Dad, who is trying for the first time without the heart and soul, without the Mom, to hold this family together," said Packer. "This family is totally ill-equipped to survive without her. I've always felt like, if you watch this movie, you're going to feel better about your own family. Because this family is way more dysfunctional than most."
"I think many of us know the power of matriarchs in the family and how she is the life force so often," said Elise. "And it's really interesting to explore what happens. Not only to the husband but to the children, from Cheryl, who is the oldest, down to our little brother, when that energy is gone. I think David (E. Talbert) did a really good job exploring that, and in bringing fun and drama into one. So, I was excited about it."
Equally mixing comedy and drama is a delicate alchemy. Kimberly told me that the mood on set remained light even during intense moments.
"It was really non-stop laughter," she said. "Whether it was a dramatic scene, or comedic scene, whether the camera was rolling or not, we were having the time of our lives. When it came down to business, everybody got focused and did what we had to do to remain true to that moment. But all of our energy was jovial and light and fun. We really knew we were doing something special. So, it was exciting."
I asked her about once again working with Danny Glover.
"This is Danny and I's fourth movie together," said Elise. "So, for me, it was like coming home to visit an old friend. It was just nice to catch up and reflect back on all of our experiences together. I was really happy he was there. I've worked with him so much and it's always good to have that familiar face, that person. Now we have a new relationship as father and daughter."
The laughs keeping coming in Almost Christmas, many of them powered by Mo'Nique.
"I love Monique," said Elise. "She's the real deal. First of all, she's gracious, and kind, and generous and warm. She's the one that comes on the set and gives everybody a hug. She just brings so much positivity and good energy. Then, yes, she certainly is brilliant to watch. She's so hysterical, we can barely hold it together. And every take is different."
To see what all the fuss is about, check out Almost Christmas in theaters November 11.