Four lifelong friends who travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival and rediscover their sisterhoods and wild sides – enough dancing, drinking, brawling and romancing to make the Big Easy blush
Release date: July 21, 2017
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director: Malcolm Lee
MPAA Rating: R (for crude and sexual content throughout, pervasive language, brief graphic nudity, and drug material)
Screenwriters: Kenya Barris, Tracy Oliver
Starring: Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, Larenz Tate
PREMIERE (28 Min)
RED BAND (28 Min)
Girls Trip, the new comedy from director/producer MALCOLM D. LEE (The Best Man franchise, Barbershop: The Next Cut) and producer WILL PACKER (Ride Along and Think Like a Man franchises) follows four lifelong friends––Ryan, Dina, Lisa and Sasha—as they travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, where sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered and there’s enough dancing, drinking, brawling and romancing to make The Big Easy blush.
The all-star cast is led by REGINA HALL (When the Bough Breaks) as Ryan Pierce, a successful author at the crossroads in her marriage; TIFFANY HADDISH (Keanu) as the hotheaded, free-spirited and fiercely loyal Dina; JADA PINKETT SMITH (Bad Moms) as Lisa Cooper, a conservative nurse and mother of two children who desperately needs a weekend getaway; and QUEEN LATIFAH (Miracles from Heaven) as Sasha Franklin, a gossip blogger who is circling a life reset of her own.
The film co-stars an array of talented supporting cast, including LARENZ TATE (Love Jones) as Julian Stevens, the ladies’ friend from their university days; KOFI SIRIBOE (TV’s Queen Sugar) as Malik, a charming festival-goer who captures Lisa’s attention; MIKE COLTER (Netflix’s Luke Cage) as Stewart Pierce, a retired NFL player and Ryan’s charismatic husband; KATE WALSH (TV’s Private Practice) as Elizabeth Davelli, Ryan’s all-too-eager agent; and DEBORAH AYORINDE (Luke Cage) as Simone, an acquaintance of Stewart’s who proves distracting to the weekend.
Lee and Packer are joined behind the scenes by a seasoned crew of longtime collaborators, one led by director of photography GREG GARDINER (The Best Man Holiday, Elf), production designer KEITH BRIAN BURNS (The Best Man Holiday, Hustle & Flow), editor PAUL MILLSPAUGH (The Best Man Holiday, Barbershop: The Next Cut), costume designer DANIELLE HOLLOWELL (The Best Man series, Undercover Brother) and composer DAVID NEWMAN (Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins, Nutty Professor series).
The screenplay for Girls Trip is by KENYA BARRIS (creator of TV’s Black-ish) & TRACY OLIVER (Barbershop: The Next Cut), from a story by ERICA RIVINOJA (TV’s The Last Man on Earth) and Barris & Oliver.
JAMES LOPEZ (The Perfect Guy), head of motion pictures for Will Packer Productions, and PRESTON HOLMES (Birth of a Nation) executive produce.
Girls Trip was shot in New Orleans.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Pack Your Bags:
Girls Trip Begins
Ensemble comedy is synonymous with producer Will Packer, who has brought to the screen the films in the Think Like a Man and Ride Along series, as well as a number of additional comedies and beloved dramas. When pondering ideas for his next project, he decided he wanted to bring black women to the big screen in a way that they are seldom seen—in a no-holds-barred, R-rated comedy. “There is this perception or stigma among some that women don’t have that kind of fun,” says Packer. The producer wanted to change all that and reflect the reality of a long overdue ladies getaway…with some heightened comedy thrown in for good measure.
As he began to brainstorm, Packer reached out to a friend and actress with whom he has worked on several films to discuss a brewing premise. “When I was thinking of the idea for Girls Trip, one of the first people I talked to was Regina Hall––even before I spoke with the studio. I said, ‘What if we had four women who go to the Essence Festival, have a bunch of fun, behave badly, get away with it and rekindle their sisterhood?’ She said, ‘That sounds awesome!’ Then I knew I had something.”
His very next call was to filmmaker Malcolm D. Lee, whose work he had long admired and who has shaped the genre of dramatic comedy as the writer/director of such landmark films as those in The Best Man series as well as Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins. Additionally, as the director of fare from Undercover Brother to Barbershop: The Next Cut, his film voice is quite unique. “When it came to thinking about a director for Girls Trip, I immediately thought of Malcolm. I had just watched The Best Man Holiday, and I loved how he incorporated drama, heart and comedy and molded it all together seamlessly,” lauds Packer. “I pitched him this idea for Girls Trip, and he responded right away. I was excited because I knew I needed somebody who could give us raucous comedy and could get actors to infuse our movie with heart. That’s something that Malcolm does very, very well.”
Lee responded to his fellow producer’s idea. “We’ve all seen the paradigm of men behaving badly and going away on a weekend doing terrible things and getting away with it…and their wives are none the wiser,” he offers. “Will said, ‘Let’s do that with women and set it at Essence.’ I told him, ‘I’m 100 percent in.’ This is the perfect place to set the story because it is a celebration of black womanhood and all of its forms.”
The director admits that he very much connected to Packer’s sensibility and imagery. “Will is passionate about African-American images on screen and wanting those to change the narrative and be dynamic and be real.”
The next step was crafting the story beats and screenplay, filled with characters on a fun, flirty and delightfully raunchy getaway. Their five-year-overdue celebration would not only test the deep bonds of long-lasting friendship, it would force them all to come away deeply changed. While the screenplay’s four friends are lifelong ones, they haven’t hung out in a meaningful way in forever. This long weekend at Essence Festival there will be no kids or rules. Their baggage and their beefs will be hauled out into the opening, and everyone is fair game.
Throughout the development of the script—from screenwriters Kenya Barris & Tracy Oliver, based on a story by Erica Rivinoja and Barris & Oliver—Packer and Lee aimed to tell the story of these four girlfriends just as they were…blemishes and all. While some might appear to have the perfect existence, and others look like they’re the perfect mess, the filmmakers honored the blurry lines that brought the characters together and bonded them for life. That comedy and the drama is the most enjoyable to mine.
The director/producer introduced us to the story of this “Flossy Posse,” characters he feels all of us can see ourselves in: “We have this group of women who went to college together and are best friends. They’ve become a little estranged in the past couple of years because life has happened to them—whether it is career, friendships, babies or family time.
“They used to go to Essence Festival annually, but in the past couple of years they haven’t, and it’s time to reconnect,” Lee continues. “Due to a couple fractures in their relationships, there are unspoken words that get revealed at this particular time—in the midst of all the chaos, fun and debauchery that ensues. I believe everybody, especially women, are going to recognize themselves in these characters.”
Lee appreciated the relatability of these protagonists, who represent so many adults struggling to hold on to the best parts of their youth, while letting go of the past and fully embracing the next chapter in their lives. “We all know a Sasha, who is very fashion-forward and at a crossroads in their career, as well as a Ryan, somebody who is wildly successful and independent, but may be hiding something,” he surmises. “Similarly, we all know a Dina, who’s going to have your back. The one who can turn up the party and make some mayhem happen. You want her around but you’re also thinking, ‘oh, boy, she might get us into some trouble. Then there’s Lisa, who has lost her way and has to rediscover her womanhood. She once was this fierce, sexual creature who is now trapped in mom jeans.”
Ryan, Sasha, Dina and Lisa—better known as the “Flossy Posse”—all head to New Orleans for the Essence Festival, with plans to stay up late, drink, dance, unwind, get wild and crazy and make memories. With the nonstop energy of Bourbon Street as the backdrop, they’ll deal with some long-lasting issues that explode into the open. Lisa herself, Jada Pinkett Smith, explains the origin of the term: “It’s that young girl phrase when you name your clique.”
Meet the Flossy Posse:
Cast of the Comedy
Ryan Pierce, an author and self-help entrepreneur who knows you can have it all—if you just work hard enough for it—is trying to save her unraveling marriage to Stewart. Sasha Franklin runs a gossip blog and is at the point in her career where she’s wondering if the decisions she has made to try and get to the top have been worth it. For her part, Dina is quick-tempered, goes from 0 to 100 quickly and will say whatever she wants. She’s basically the person you secretly wish you could be and fiercely loyal to her girls. Lisa Cooper is a conservative nurse and divorcée with two kids who needs this weekend more than anyone else in New Orleans ever dreamed of needing it.
To capture the whirlwind energy of this group of disparate, delightful women, Packer and Lee searched the world of standup, comedy and film. Fortunately, the combination of actresses they found proved delightful as the Flossy Posse.
As the filmmakers envisioned the women who would become their characters, they thought about who could capture the essence of each. By approaching both longtime friend––and new ones––they found the distinct voices of the characters. Both Packer and Lee have worked with Regina Hall and knew she was perfect to play Ryan. Packer shares why he chose the performer: “Regina: has such layers that she’s able to bring to a character. She’s so charismatic, extremely funny and witty, but then also gives you such depth.”
Lee, who actually selected Hall for her very first on-screen debut (as the scene-stealing Candy, a stripper with a heart of gold in The Best Man), agrees with what audiences have long demanded: “I wanted to see Regina make that transition from character- and supporting-actor to leading lady. She’s extremely funny and talented. I was certain that she would be able to bring a humor to the role that a lot of actors aren’t able to do. Even though Ryan is the emotional spine of the film, I knew that Regina specifically would bring a lot to the table.”
The respect is mutual from Hall. She reflects: “This is my fourth time working with Malcolm. We’re like family. It’s good to have a rapport with your director because you can talk to him about what you feel your character is and explore it together. I was with Malcolm in my very first movie and I was probably number 10 on the call sheet back then. Still, he valued me just as much 18 years ago as he does today. That’s a pretty amazing thing to be able to say.”
Although Hall was one of the first people with whom Packer brainstormed the comedy, she loved seeing how the film’s writers brought such life to her character and the other members of the Flossy Posse. The actress reflects: “I thought the story was very funny but also had a lot of heart. There are terrific messages of sisterhood and support and lifelong bonds.” Mindful of the point of view that Packer and Lee have brought to the world of film, Hall appreciated that Girls Trip takes their work to another level. “What I loved most is to see four black women get to have this much fun onscreen; these characters are just so multidimensional.”
The only married member of the Flossy Posse, Ryan appears to have everything that the girls dreamed of when they were co-eds. Hall reflects, however, it’s anything but that. “Ryan got married in college and became an archetype of what a couple is. She and Stewart have bought into that reality. They’ve bought into the dream that they sold, and it became part of her identity. I don’t think Ryan knows how to be without it.”
The next of the four leads who were cast in Girls Trip were the inimitable Jada Pinkett Smith as Lisa Cooper and multifaceted Queen Latifah as Sasha Franklin, who first so brilliantly appeared onscreen together in F. Gary Gray’s endlessly watchable Set It Off.
Packer admits he’s thrilled about putting the two global stars in another movie: “This is the first time in 20 years that you see Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith on screen together. When we were casting the movie that was actually an afterthought. Queen Latifah was right for Sasha, as Jada Pinkett Smith was perfect for Lisa. Then we realized how great it would be if we got them both and put them together. Once we discovered that they were both interested—and they talked to each other because they have maintained a great friendship throughout the years—we knew we could have something special. It could get no better.”
Of the production’s Lisa, Packer raves: “I’ve been a fan of Jada’s for years. She’s somebody who I admire as an actress. This was a role that I thought she would really respond to, so I sent it to her to consider. She immediately loved the part and had some thoughts about what we could do to make the character even better.”
Pinkett Smith discusses her interest in joining the Girls Trip production, and in one word, it is “cast.” She reflects: “I wanted the opportunity to work with Latifah again. I’d never worked with Regina Hall, and she’s absolutely hilarious. That and, of course, I’ve had the blessing of meeting Tiffany Haddish and working with her.”
The veteran performer gravitated to her character because she saw such a light in her, albeit one that had dimmed over the years but was still a part of her. “Lisa’s been caught up in the mother game,” Pinkett Smith offers. “When she was in college she used to be a wild child, but now she’s so domesticated. She doesn’t have much of a style anymore because it’s just about her kids and about work. This trip that she’s going on with her girlfriends will help her get her groove back.”
When it came to casting Latifah, Packer was as happy as anyone in the cast or crew to reunite Smith and her former co-star. “Queen Latifah is somebody who we know can do comedy, drama and we know she can act,” he says. “So it was a role that we took and wrapped it around her to make it fit her persona.”
Queen Latifah punctuates the connection of family in the film, saying: “This movie is all about sisterhood. We step in at different times, and we all supply what the others need. Sometimes you just need a hug. Sometimes you need to be checked. Sometimes you need to be snapped out of something or a shoulder to cry on. The bottom line is we’re always there for each other; it doesn’t matter what’s going on. We will shut everything down to be there, and women can relate to that. They need to see that, so we are going to show it to them in more ways than they probably even thought.”
The actress appreciated that she had to go to darker places with her character, as Sasha is perhaps experiencing the biggest life change among the four friends. She explains: “Sasha is currently a blogger, but that’s not what she wants to be doing. She’s a journalist by training, and she always expected that she and Ryan would do that together. But that went another direction when Ryan started her own thing with her husband and left Sasha in the dark trying to figure out what to do next. She drifted into writing salacious stories that her heart is not into. She’s also not in best place financially —living high post on low ink, fronting a little bit.”
The last lead role cast was Dina, who is undoubtedly the comic relief of the group. After auditioning several actresses, the filmmakers chose Tiffany Haddish, who has her roots in stand-up. Lee recalls the process, saying: “We auditioned quite a few people for Dina. I had just seen Tiffany on The Carmichael Show and knew there’s something about her that is kinetic. She makes other people react. When it came down to looking at audition tapes, one thing came to mind: ‘Who makes me laugh the most?’ Consistently, it was Tiffany. She’s the Energizer Bunny; she’s always on and always funny. She’s always got something smart to say, and I love her for that.”
There was no bigger fan of Haddish on the production than executive producer James Lopez. “When Tiffany joined our cast, we knew we were in for a wild ride. The woman is crazy, hilarious and the life of the party,” Lopez says. “This is going to be a great breakout for her. She’s done some features in the past, but I feel that this particular piece is really going to showcase her talent.”
The actress appreciated her big break, and she dove into her character. Describing the down-on-her-luck but never-out-of-the-game Dina as “a firecracker,” she offers: “Dina is in a place where she just wants to have a good time. She’s stressed out, and she just lost her job. She hasn’t told anyone yet but when it comes to releasing some stress, she’s down for that. This is her chance to forget about what’s going on in the real world, and to be with her friends who always make her happy. She doesn’t have to think about how these bills are going to be paid.”
Haddish has the best response for why the group is known as the “Flossy Posse.” In her signature style, she laughs: “They were all in college, looking good, flossing on these hoes and staying fresh. The girls had the best dance moves, best hairdos and outfits. They were flossy, and they were a posse—like apostles. That’s where the word ‘posse’ comes from, because the apostles kicked it with Jesus.” She pauses, “Who knows? Dina might be the Jesus of this group! That’s why. Flossy Posse.”
Husbands, Agents and Lovers:
Other players in the girls’ world include Stewart Pierce, played by Mike Colter, who has exploded onto the scene with his riveting work on Netflix’s Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. Ryan’s charismatic husband and a retired football player, Stewart just wants the business enterprise he shares with his wife to continue to flourish. Still, he senses that he is growing more distant from her. “He’s got the great wife by his side, but really he’s by her side because now she is taking all the spotlight that he was used to getting as a football player,” explains the actor.
Packer explains how the performer is crucial to the story: “Mike plays Stewart with a level of depth that’s needed for this character: a guy with a supersized ego, Stewart’s ego has been badly bruised. He tries to offset that through his interactions with another woman. Stewart is that perfect guy who you love, but you love to hate. He’s got the perfect wife, but that’s not enough for him.”
Simone, played by Deborah Ayorinde, also of Luke Cage fame, is the other woman—caught between being in love with Stewart and figuring out what she wants out of her life.
Elizabeth Davelli, played by Private Practice and Bad Judge’s Kate Walsh, works as Ryan and Stewart’s agent. This weekend is pivotal for all three of them, as Elizabeth must convince investors that the couple is the definitive authority on love and relationships. Unfortunately for her…things don’t go quite so smoothly. “My character is trying to get them this big deal and all sorts of madness ensues,” says Walsh.
Larenz Tate, who exploded onto the scene as O-Dog in Menace II Society and currently stars in TV’s Power, portrays the ladies’ university friend Julian Stevens, as well as an unexpected flirtation for Ryan. A talented musician who works as bass player for R&B artist Ne-Yo, Julian appears to be everything Ryan never knew she needed.
Tate describes how his character fits into the story: “Julian is a guy who has a cool vibe. He’s an old college friend of the girls, and his bond with Ryan has always been a little stronger. They’ve always had this unspoken, mental, physical attraction; they just never crossed that line. For whatever reason, circumstances did not see it for them to be together. He’s a guy who doesn’t have any hidden agendas and he’s someone who Ryan can really trust—and vice versa.”
Last but not least, Kofi Siriboe, who currently stars as Ralph Angel Bordelon on the wildly successful series Queen Sugar, is the rookie on the all-star team. He plays Malik, the handsome younger guy who wakes Lisa up to the fact she’s been living in her head for too long…and helps her realize it’s time to follow her passions. “Malik is a young man from New Orleans,” explains the actor. “He’s a frat dude enjoying his weekend, and his boys are out on Bourbon Street and run into these ladies. He and Lisa hit it off––just energetically at first––then next thing you know it progresses from there.”
Vegas of the South:
Shooting in New Orleans
The comedy was shot on location during the Essence Festival’s annual weekend of fun in New Orleans. While it was challenging to maneuver the cast through the tens of thousands of people in attendance—not to mention the regular cavalcade of Bourbon Street partiers—the cast was able to connect with the people in a special way.
Even the most accomplished of performers in Girls Trip were amazed by what it was like to shoot in New Orleans at the height of a beloved festival. Ultimately, it was sticking together that got them through.
“The energy of the Essence Festival is unbelievable and incomparable,” reflects Latifah. “You have hundreds of thousands of people in this town, and it’s fully loaded. All these performers, all these things are happening, and you’re trying to shoot a film in the middle of that. You’re playing characters, but in real life you’re Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish. We were all like, ‘How are we going to pull this off?’ We didn’t just have to shoot in a stadium, but the Superdome—the stadium of all stadiums—packed with people while a concert is happening. Still, it was the energy and mania of what we had to do that goes us through.”
Haddish discusses one of the special moments for her, one that will resonate for many years to come: “Shooting at the Essence Festival was awesome and amazing. There’s this one scene where Ryan is talking to a theater full of people. When we were shooting that scene, the whole room was full from the front to the back. We had to walk to the back of the room and pass all those beautiful black men and women.
“It took everything in my soul not to cry because to see that many black people care and support is the most beautiful thing in the world,” the actress continues. “It’s powerful. I’ve been in stadiums full of people, and I never felt that much pride in a room before. They were all just so proud to be a part of something and to be together.”
The shoot wasn’t short on fun-filled adventures for the Flossy Posse and their crew. A major highlight was when the crew stumbled upon flying above the streets. The idea for a Zipline to be in Girls Trip came from producer Packer. “Somebody in my office was telling me that in real life in Las Vegas a guy went on the Zipline and urinated on the crowd intentionally, and got arrested for doing it. That is a heinous and horrible act. He meant to do it, and that’s a terrible story.” The producer pauses. “Of course…when I heard it, I said, ‘That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day and that would be great in a movie! We’ve got to do that quickly before somebody else does.’”
Not ones to waste time, Lee and Packer created this scene where the women are hanging out on Bourbon Street having their share of drinks. “They see the actual Zipline,” shares Packer. “Later, we find our inebriated crew up on the Zipline going across the middle of the French Quarter, right across Bourbon Street. The scene is everything that we thought it would be. We talked about it at the beginning and wondered if our actresses would be down to do this. You come up with all these crazy ideas, but you’ve still got to find talent who’s willing to do some of the silliest things that you could think of.”
Jada Pinkett Smith was the focal actress in the scene, and she was braver than most would be in the same situation…and game for the challenge. “I always thought Ziplining was something fun to do and a perfect idea to have on Bourbon Street. A great setup for something wild and crazy. So, it didn’t take any convincing at all, and I knew it would be a lot of fun,” says the performer.
However, shooting the Zipline scene was quite challenging. Packer explains: “We had to shut down Bourbon Street. Bourbon Street is never shut down––24 hours a day and seven days a week for 365 days a year it is packed with drunk people partying, having fun. We had to rig a massive Zipline to go across, and we had to attach to the existing structures and make sure that we had our stunt performers go across to test the weight. Once everything was there, we tested it, made sure it was safe and we let it rip!”
ABOUT THE CAST
REGINA HALL (Ryan Pierce) began her acting career in the late 1990s while simultaneously earning a master’s degree from New York University. With numerous film and television credits to her name, Hall has emerged as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after comedic actresses.
Hall is set to star in Naked, a remake of the 2000 Swedish film Naken, alongside Marlon Wayans for Netflix. The romantic comedy is slated to premiere globally on the streaming site this year.
Hall most recently appeared in Screen Gems’ When the Bough Breaks opposite Morris Chestnut and Jaz Sinclair. The thriller tells the story of a couple who are desperate to have a baby but are unable to conceive. After exhausting all other options, they hire a surrogate who develops a dangerous fixation on the husband.
Recently, Hall was seen on the big screen in Warner Bros.’ Barbershop: The Next Cut, which also starred Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Common, Eve and Nicki Minaj. She also recently appeared in the Universal Pictures’ comedy The Best Man Holiday, the sequel to the hilarious The Best Man, opposite Terrence Howard, Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan. Hall starred alongside Terrence Jenkins, Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson and Michael Ealy in Think Like a Man Too, a sequel to Screen Gems’ Think Like a Man, a battle-of-the-sexes comedy based on Steve Harvey’s book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” She also starred in About Last Night opposite Kevin Hart, which was based on the 1974 David Mamet play Sexual Perversity in Chicago and is a remake of the 1986 film of the same name. Additional film credits include Scary Movie and its three sequels, Paid in Full, Malibu’s Most Wanted and First Sunday. She was also seen opposite Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler in the crime thriller Law Abiding Citizen, and in the comedy Death at a Funeral, which also starred Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence. Additionally, she had supporting roles in Love & Basketball and Disappearing Acts.
On television, Hall most recently appeared in guest roles on FOX’s Grandfathered and ABC’s Black-ish. In January 2015, she starred in the Lifetime film With This Ring. Other television roles include a guest-starring role on the FX series Married, as well as the role of Evelyn Price on Law & Order: LA and Coretta Lipp on Ally McBeal.
A native of Washington, DC, Hall currently resides in Los Angeles.
When TIFFANY HADDISH (Dina) walks into a room, you know she is someone who generates energy. In a mere few minutes she will have you laughing so hard you will cry, and then you might even cry when you hear how she got to this phenomenal point in her journey––both on and off stage.
It is a testament that the one person she credits her success to is her social worker, which says a lot about her life. Growing up in foster care in South Central Los Angeles, it was her excessive talking and imaginary friends that prompted her increasingly flustered social worker to steer her into standup comedy by enrolling her into the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp for underprivileged children. When she returned and was placed with a white family living in the San Fernando Valley, she thought her new classmates, who were Caucasian, were celebrities from television. She even asked them for their autographs. As a child, the only people she saw on television were white.
Haddish is currently co-starring as the outspoken, no-nonsense Nekeisha on the NBC comedy The Carmichael Show, alongside the show’s creator and star, Jerrod Carmichael. Earlier this year, she co-starred with Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele and Nia Long in the film Keanu.
Today, the actress/comedian showcases her talents in many parts of the world, bringing her edge, an unusual take on life and love, and tons of laughter. Many have come to know her as a result of two other projects––Tiffany Haddish: She Ready! From the Hood to Hollywood and The Last Black Unicorn. Haddish’s comedy landed her on Jenny McCarthy’s Dirty Sexy Funny comedy tour. She has made appearances on @midnight, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Chelsea Lately and The Arsenio Hall Show. Haddish was an early standout after appearing on HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, Bill Bellamy’s Who’s Got Jokes? for TV One and on Comedy Central’s Reality Bites Back.
Not only is she a comedian, she has proven to be an unparalleled actress, appearing in such diverse projects as the film comedy Meet the Spartans and the Lifetime drama Racing for Time, and she also starred opposite Ice Cube in The Janky Promoters. Other television credits include Kevin Hart’s BET show Real Husbands of Hollywood; FOX’s New Girl; and a recurring role on Tyler Perry’s OWN soap opera, If Loving You Is Wrong.
Haddish recently returned from performing on the USO Comedy Tour in Japan for United States troops. She is frequently touring various comedy clubs and colleges across the country. One of her special passions is performing in a comedy show “Chuckles Not Knuckles,” a program she developed for inner-city high school students to promote non-violence.
The entertainer sees herself as sexy as Halle Berry, as funny as Jim Carrey, raw like Richard Pryor with the comedic timing of Lucille Ball, smooth like Eddie Murphy, as Jewish as Whoopi Goldberg and hopes to someday have money like Oprah.
Whether in a film or on television, LARENZ TATE (Julian Stevens) has managed to remain true to his personal mission of striving for excellence. He has continuously impressed audiences and critics alike with his down-to-earth presence and relatable demeanor in his various roles. Born and raised on the west side of Chicago, Tate is recognized as an actor, writer and activist––recently adding producer and director to his list of accomplishments.
Tate made his silver screen debut in Allen and Albert Hughes’ classic film Menace II Society, in which his groundbreaking role as the unforgettable O-Dog positioned him to be recognized as one of Hollywood’s most promising young actors. He would later team up with the Hughes brothers once again for the gritty crime drama Dead Presidents.
Afterward, Tate starred in another fan-favorite, Love Jones, opposite Nia Long. His other feature film credits include The Inkwell, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, A Man Apart, Waist Deep and Biker Boyz. Tate also co-starred in the Academy Award®-winning film Crash and in the much talked-about movie Ray, opposite Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington.
The actor’s television credits include starring roles in Rush, Rescue Me and the BET original movie Gun Hill. Tate made recurring appearances on the hit series House of Lies with Don Cheadle and also starred in Game of Silence for NBC.
Recently, Tate and Laurence Fishburne joined forces as producers and stars of the highly anticipated 10-part audio-drama series “Bronzeville,” streaming this year.
Tate’s production company, TateMen Entertainment, also partnered with Queen Latifah’s Flava Unit Entertainment for the feature crime-drama Deuces, in which he stars in the self-titled role opposite Meagan Good.
Currently, Tate stars in the dark comedy Business Ethics, where he and his partners serve as executive producers.
One of Tate’s main personal interests is The Tate Bros Foundation, a non-profit organization that he and his brothers, Larron and Lahmard, created to assist and help raise awareness of children living with sickle cell anemia. The brothers also are advocates for education. Tate also is a mentor and former spokesperson for BLOOM, a social initiative that helps at-risk youth.
The accomplished actor and advocate lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.
MIKE COLTER (Stewart Pierce) has had memorable roles in some of television’s most critically acclaimed series and some of Hollywood’s most successful blockbuster films. His ambition to become an actor originated at a very young age after watching 1984’s Academy Award®-nominated film A Soldier’s Story. While in high school, Colter took his passion to the stage and began taking on challenging roles. His decision to pursue acting as a professional career was solidified when he performed a speech as Malcom X in a two-man play called The Meeting. This performance made him realize the emotional impact art can have on an audience, and he wanted to continue to bring life to complex characters.
Knowing that professional acting opportunities in South Carolina were scarce, Colter sought to learn as much as he could about the craft. He enrolled at Benedict College and studied theater and drama under the esteemed professor Scott Blanks. He soon transferred to the University of South Carolina, where he attained a bachelor’s degree in theater and went on to obtain a master of fine arts at the prestigious Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts under the tutelage of renowned acting teachers William Esper and Maggie Flanigan.
After graduating, Colter made the move to Los Angeles, where parts did not come easily. Hard work and perseverance paid off, leading to a role opposite Charlie Sheen on TV’s Spin City. Soon afterward he was cast in Clint Eastwood’s 2005 Best Picture Academy Award®-winning film Million Dollar Baby, opposite Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank. Since then, the actor has continued to work in blockbuster films such as Salt (alongside Angelina Jolie) and Men in Black III, where he played Col. James Edward II, father to Will Smith’s character, Agent J. This role turned out to be a big revelation in the film, as it tied together the characters and the storylines for all three films.
Colter recently wrapped filming the lead role of Charlie Walker in America Is Still the Place. Written and directed by Patrick Gilles (Olive), the film is based on the book of the same name by Charlie Walker. The film describes the true events that occurred in Walker’s life when he was hired by Tower Oil to clean up the oil left on Stinson Beach after a tanker collision near the Golden Gate Bridge and the racial animosity this caused during the 1970s.
In addition to his film work, Colter has had a hot streak in television. He can currently be seen starring in the highly buzzed about Netflix/Marvel series Luke Cage. He made his Marvel universe debut as Luke Cage in Jessica Jones—the second of four drama series picked up by Netflix—before being spun off to headline the Luke Cage show, which was released on September 30, 2016. Luke Cage follows the character’s backstory as a man wrongfully imprisoned who undergoes a secret experiment that leaves him with bulletproof skin and super strength. Once freed, Cage attempts to lead a normal life in Harlem before his past lures him into the spotlight as a hero for hire and a defender of the people. Marvel and Netflix have partnered to adapt four of the publisher’s properties—Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist— into four, hour-long, 13-episode series, culminating in a crossover miniseries event titled The Defenders, which will bring the “street level” characters together.
Colter is perhaps best known for his role as drug lord Lemond Bishop during six seasons on The Good Wife. Viewers were left in suspense at the end of season six, wondering if Bishop was put behind bars once and for all. He also had a character arc in the Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominated mini-series American Horror Story: Coven, where he played an executive of a powerful company and head witch hunter alongside Jessica Lange and Angela Bassett. Colter is also known for his recurring role on The Following (alongside Kevin Bacon) and his series regular turn in the short-lived Ringer with Sarah Michelle Gellar.
On the stage, Colter starred in Adam Bock’s play The Drunken City, which had its world premiere at New York’s Playwrights Horizons. He also has received exceptional reviews for his role as CJ Memphis, a guitar-playing blues singer in the 2005 revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Soldier’s Play, the original stage adaptation of Colter’s career inspiration, A Soldier’s Story. The play was a big off-Broadway success and brought the performer’s acting career full circle.
KATE WALSH (Elizabeth Davelli) is one of television’s most beloved leading ladies due to her starring role as Dr. Addison Montgomery on the hit ABC drama Private Practice a spin-off of Grey’s Anatomy. The enormous success of her character on Grey’s Anatomy, where she made her first appearance in 2005, led ABC and writer/creator Shonda Rhimes to create a spin-off based solely on Walsh’s character. Private Practice premiered in September 2007 as the highest-rated new series of the season and the No. 1 show on Wednesday evenings. The show continued its success through six seasons, bowing out in January 2013.
During Walsh’s two seasons on Grey’s Anatomy, the show received a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble in 2007 and received ensemble nominations from both the Screen Actors Guild and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Grey’s Anatomy won the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series—Drama in 2007 and was nominated again the following year. The show also received Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Drama Series in 2006 as well as in 2007, and received three consecutive NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Drama Series in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Although Private Practice is no longer in production, Walsh, in addition to Girls Trip, has found other avenues to showcase her talent. She is co-starring in the Netflix, Tom McCarthy-directed, 13-episode drama series 13 Reasons Why, based on the best-selling book by Jay Asher. The series follows a boy named Clay who’s going through an emotional night after he receives a shoe box of cassette tapes from his late classmate and crush Hannah, following her recent suicide. Walsh plays Hannah’s mom, who is central to the plot. Additionally, she recently wrapped Peter Landesman’s star-studded dramatic film The Silent Man, starring Liam Neeson as FBI agent Mark Felt, who became the anonymous source “Deep Throat” for reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and helped them uncover the Watergate scandal in 1974.
In 2014, Walsh co-starred in FX’s Primetime Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning television adaptation of Fargo, alongside Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman. That same year saw the premiere of NBC’s Bad Judge, a half-hour comedy that Walsh starred in and executive produced. The show centered on Walsh’s character, one of Los Angeles’ toughest and most respected criminal court judges with a reputation for unorthodox behavior in the courtroom and in her private life. A year earlier, Walsh was seen in Neil Labute’s Full Circle for DirecTV.
Past film credits include Just Before I Go, directed by Courtney Cox; Staten Island Summer, produced by Lorne Michaels; Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, opposite Paul Rudd, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman; Legion, opposite Paul Bettany and Dennis Quaid; Angels Crest, opposite Mira Sorvino; Kicking And Screaming, opposite Will Ferrell; Under The Tuscan Sun, opposite Diane Lane; Brett Ratner’s After the Sunset; and Ratner’s The Family Man, opposite Nicolas Cage.
In November 2010, Walsh launched her own self-financed beauty company, Boyfriend. In a partnered launch with the Home Shopping Network (HSN), the fragrance Boyfriend sold out in a record-breaking 30 minutes. In February 2011, Boyfriend was picked up by Sephora stores nationwide as the exclusive retail partner. Boyfriend climbed the ranks to become a Top 10 seller. Her second fragrance, Billionaire Boyfriend, launched on HSN and in Sephora stores in February 2012. In addition to her own line, Walsh also has been the face of prestigious brands, including Garnier and Cadillac.
Walsh began her acting career in Chicago, where she studied at the renowned Piven Theatre Workshop. She went on to star in multiple theater productions at the Shakespeare Repertory, including the critically acclaimed Born Guilty, Moon Under Miami and Troilus and Cressida. After moving to New York and appearing on various television shows, including regular appearances on The Mike O’Malley Show (NBC), The Mind of the Married Man (HBO) and The Drew Carey Show (ABC), she returned to her theater roots in 2010 to appear in the Sam Gold-directed, off-Broadway production of Dusk Rings a Bell, alongside Paul Sparks.
Walsh currently resides in Los Angeles.
KOFI SIRIBOE (Malik) is already making waves in the entertainment industry and is becoming one of the premiere sought-after young actors in Hollywood. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he is first-generation West African and the great-grandson of a highly respected Ghanaian king of the Juaben/Ashanti tribe.
The life-changing encounter with an agent at a mall in Beverly Hills launched Siriboe’s career when he was six years old. The entertainer already has created an impressive résumé, quickly building a reputation as a “director’s actor.” His unique ability to take on challenging drama, action and comedy roles were evident in his silver screen debut portrayal of Javy Hall in Ice Cube’s The Longshots. Since then, he has added other films, including the Toronto International Film Festival favorite 40 and the Academy Award®-winning film Whiplash.
Currently, Siriboe is generating great buzz in the industry as one to watch with his riveting portrayal as Flaco in the urban, coming-of-age tale Kicks, which was released on September 9, 2016.
On the small screen, Siriboe also has displayed his talent on several hit television shows, including CSI, Lincoln Heights and a frequently recurring role in the MTV teen comedy hit Awkward. Siriboe is also recognized for the role of Ralph Angel in Ava DuVernay’s television series Queen Sugar, co-executive produced by Oprah Winfrey. The series, popular with audiences and critics alike, is the No. 1 cable, scripted drama on OWN.
When he is not pursuing his passion of acting, Siriboe is usually writing songs, modeling for Wilhelmina New York or collaborating with other creative personalities in the arts. A dedicated philanthropist, he is committed to working with multiple charitable causes across the globe to shed light on the underserved and to give a voice to the voiceless.
JADA PINKETT SMITH (Lisa Cooper) has approached life with the utmost poise and versatility. As an actress and philanthropist, she continues to champion causes and issues, including diversity, education and justice.
Together with her husband, Will Smith, they founded the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation (WJSFF), dedicated to supporting inner-city youth and families. The WJSFF recently launched the Careers in Entertainment (CIE) initiative in support of former President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. The CIE national tour will engage young people who are interested in careers and entrepreneurial opportunities within the entertainment industry through networking, mentorship and professional development.
Pinkett Smith has offered her support to many important organizations in an effort to create partnerships and change. Her work to empower women and girls continues through programs such as the AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women, which provides education, mentoring and key resources to women working professionally in screen directing. Pinkett Smith also continues to support the Tisch Fusion Film Festival that serves as NYU’s premiere student film festival dedicated exclusively to showcasing the work of emerging female filmmakers.
As an author, Smith’s children’s book “Girls Hold Up This World” landed on The New York Times best-seller list. In 2011, with the help of her daughter Willow, she joined the fight against human trafficking, advocating for survivors and raising awareness in local communities. In partnership with The CNN Freedom Project, Pinkett Smith produced the award-winning TV documentary Children for Sale: The Fight to End Human Trafficking, which explored human trafficking in Atlanta, Georgia.
Pinkett Smith continues to be a resounding voice fighting against modern-day slavery through her Don’t Sell Bodies (DSB) initiative that serves as an information portal for human-trafficking awareness. The DSB initiative continues to support and partner with organizations such as Girls Educational & Mentoring Service (GEMS), founded by award-winning author and activist Rachel Lloyd, and Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Human Trafficking (CAST), the largest direct-service provider to survivors of human trafficking in the U.S. Pinkett Smith also serves on the advisory board of Gucci’s empowerment initiative, Chime for Change, which campaigns for improved education, health and justice for women and girls worldwide.
In addition, Pinkett Smith is an investor in JUST, a company that combines for-profit energy and non-profit motives with the goal of providing affordable, everyday products with impact. Its first product is JUST water––100 percent spring water in a paper- and plant-based bottle, sourced through an ethical trade partnership with the city of Glens Falls, New York, where water is abundant.
The domestic tour launched in Brooklyn, New York. Partners for the New York launch include The Rockefeller Foundation, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The event hosted close to 600 youths from NYC Public Schools and colleges. The attendees gained an insightful perspective on alternative careers within the entertainment industry through panel discussions and an interactive experience with immersive and experimental workshops that included top executives, producers, educators, actors, musicians and production crew members.
Born and raised in Maryland, Pinkett Smith studied dance and acting at Baltimore School for the Arts and University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Her resourcefulness and determination led her to a variety of professional opportunities, most notably the television series A Different World, which launched her acting career. In 1993, she landed her first starring role in the feature film Menace II Society (opposite Samuel L. Jackson), and was later seen in The Nutty Professor with Eddie Murphy in 1996.
Pinkett Smith went on to executive produce The Secret Life of Bees, which starred Queen Latifah and Dakota Fanning for Fox Searchlight Pictures. She was also a producer on the 2010 film The Karate Kid (which starred her son, Jaden) and the 2014 documentary Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, which chronicled the trial and acquittal of the iconic social activist Angela Davis. Pinkett Smith then went on to executive produce the CBS syndicated talk show The Queen Latifah Show.
Additionally, she can be credited for producing the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Fela! and the film remake of the 1982 musical Annie, alongside her husband, Smith, and record industry mogul Jay-Z. In summer 2015, Pinkett Smith starred with Channing Tatum in Magic Mike XXL in the empowering role of Rome, an owner and emcee at an all-male strip club.
The actress/philanthropist was last seen as the sharp-tongued friend in the comedy Bad Moms. Currently, Pinkett Smith is in a recurring role as Fish Mooney in FOX’s Gotham.
QUEEN LATIFAH (Sasha Franklin) is a musician, critically acclaimed television and film actress, record label president, author and entrepreneur. Latifah has had amazing success in Hollywood and in 2006 became the first hip-hop artist to be crowned with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She received rave reviews, an Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actress, a Golden Globe Award nomination and a Screen Actors Guild Award (SAG) nomination for her portrayal of Mama Morton in Miramax’s Chicago. She also received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination, a Golden Globe Award and a SAG Award for her role in Life Support.
In May 2015, Latifah made her way back to the small screen and earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination, Golden Globe Award nomination and a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries for her role in Bessie, an HBO biopic she produced that recounts the life of singer Bessie Smith, who was also known as “The Empress of the Blues.”
Latifah has shown that she has varied, multiple skills. The multitalented star won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1994 and also has been honored with seven Grammy Award nominations. In 2003, she was nominated for Best Female Rap Solo Performance for “Go Head.” In 2004, she was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album for The Dana Owens Album and in 2007 was nominated for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Trav’lin’ Light.
Most recently, Latifah starred in Miracles from Heaven with Jennifer Garner in Sony Pictures Entertainment’s faith-based drama. She also took to the stage and small screen performing as the title character in NBC’s The Wiz Live! with Uzo Aduba, Mary J. Blige, Ne-Yo, Common and David Alan Grier. Latifah also reprised her role as the voice of the woolly mammoth, Ellie, in Ice Age: Collision Course. She can also be seen in Lee Daniels’ FOX series STAR.
Latifah made her big-screen debut in Spike Lee’s 1991 film Jungle Fever. She starred in Set It Off and co-starred with Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito in the critically acclaimed Living Out Loud. Following Chicago, she starred in and executive produced the box-office hit Bringing Down the House. Her additional film credits include The Secret Life of Bees (alongside Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys and Dakota Fanning); Neil Meron and Craig Zadan’s Hairspray; Mad Money (opposite Diane Keaton and Katie Holmes); Just Wright; Joyful Noise; Last Holiday; and Beauty Shop. She also starred in and executive produced the cable movie Life Support and the television movie adaptation of Steel Magnolias.
From 1993 to 1998, Latifah starred in the network comedy Living Single. From 2013 to 2014, she was the host of The Queen Latifah Show, which she produced with partner Shakim Compere and Overbrook Entertainment’s Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and James Lassiter.
And then there’s Flavor Unit Entertainment, a production company owned and operated by Latifah and Compere. The company is quickly establishing itself as one of the most important production companies in the film industry. They began by executive producing Disney’s No. 1 box-office hit Bringing Down the House and then continued with Beauty Shop for MGM and The Perfect Holiday for Paramount Pictures. They have also produced The Cookout for Lionsgate, as well as the film Just Wright for Fox Searchlight. On the small screen, they executive produced HBO’s critically acclaimed film Life Support, which garnered a number of awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award nomination and Golden Globe Award for Latifah. Flavor Unit Entertainment also co-produced HBO’s original movie Bessie. Most recently, the team produced The Real MVP: The Wanda Durant Story, The Best Place to Be, Curvy Style with Timothy Snell, The Rap Game and the movie The Perfect Match. Flavor Unit Entertainment also recently produced VH1’s one-hour special event Dear Mama, which premiered on Mother’s Day, shining the spotlight on mothers. VH1 recently renewed Dear Mama as an annual special.
From Newark, New Jersey, Latifah currently resides in Los Angeles.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
MALCOLM D. LEE, p.g.a. (Directed by/Produced by) has been making films since the age of 12––in animation, video and Super 8 film formats. He has been working professionally in the industry since the age of 17 as a production assistant, apprentice film editor, casting associate, assistant director and director’s assistant.
After completing his undergraduate studies at Georgetown University in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in English, Lee, who minored in fine arts, accepted a yearlong fellowship in screenwriting from Walt Disney Studios. Following his early Hollywood experience, he honed his craft as a director and writer at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and later made the award-winning short film Morningside Prep.
Lee made his directorial debut with his sixth screenplay The Best Man, which opened to raves from critics and audiences alike and scored a No.1 ranking at the box office in October 1999. He then directed the action-comedy Undercover Brother, which starred Eddie Griffin, Dave Chappelle and Neil Patrick Harris in May 2002 and again earned stellar reviews. His third feature, Roll Bounce, debuted in September 2005.
The director’s critically acclaimed films Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins (with Martin Lawrence) and Soul Men (with Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac) both opened in 2008. He scored his biggest box-office hit to date with the sequel to his first film in November 2013 when The Best Man Holiday grossed $30.5 million in its opening weekend alone.
Among his upcoming feature projects is the next installment of the popular Best Man franchise, The Best Man Wedding, which he will write and direct. Additionally, he will serve as director and executive producer on a currently untitled FOX television family sitcom pilot about a former National Football League lineman who’s struggling with the challenges of fatherhood.
As a writer, KENYA BARRIS (Screenplay by/Story by) is known for his quick wit and unabashed sense of humor. He started out as a writer in 1998 and has worked on several television shows, including CBS’s Listen Up, The CW’s The Game and Girlfriends, and FOX’s I Hate My Teenage Daughter. He has also sold a number of pilots, including America’s Next Top Model, which he co-created and is currently shown in 49 countries with 21 internationally formatted offshoots, as well as BET’s The Start Up, which starred Daniel “Diggy” Simmons, and We Got Next, Hulu’s first half-hour comedy series. Barris is under an overall deal at ABC Studios where he’s the executive producer and co-showrunner on Black-ish and executive producer and showrunner on College-ish. He’s also under an overall deal with 20th Century Fox Film where he’s developing several projects including White Men Can’t Jump, Cheaper by the Dozen, Shaft, Stir Crazy and Uptown Saturday Night.
TRACY OLIVER (Screenplay by/Story by) is a rising writer in the television, feature and digital space, whose most recent project Barbershop: The Next Cut was a box-office and critical success for the beloved franchise film.
Her television credits include ABC’s sci-fi romantic comedy series The Neighbors and, most recently, the Starz drama series Survivor’s Remorse, on which she was staff writer for both the first and second seasons. She is also known for writing, producing and acting in the hit comedic web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.
Along with Girls Trip, Oliver is currently adapting Nicola Yoon’s The New York Times best-selling young-adult novel “The Sun Is Also A Star” for MGM/Warner Bros., which she is also executive producing.
ERICA RIVINOJA (Story by) is currently a co-executive producer on FOX’s critically acclaimed series The Last Man on Earth. Prior to that, Rivinoja was under an overall deal at Sony Television, where she most recently developed her pilot One Way Ticket to Mars with Will Gluck’s production company Olive Bridge Entertainment for FBC. Prior to that, she was a co-executive producer on NBC’s Marry Me. She was previously co-executive producer on Bad Teacher, a consulting producer on Up All Night, and a producer on South Park, where she spent 11 seasons and won two Primetime Emmy Awards. On the film side, she was a writer on DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls (2016) and wrote Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 for Columbia Pictures, which was released in 2013.
WILL PACKER, p.g.a. (Produced by) has established himself as one of Hollywood’s blockbuster hit makers, with eight of his films opening No. 1 at the box office. In 2013, Packer signed first-look production deals with Universal Pictures and Universal Television. Under both deals, Packer develops new projects for the studios under his Will Packer Productions banner. He is one of the only African-American producers to have eight films debut at No. 1 during opening weekend.
Packer’s No. 1 films are Ride Along 2 (2016), Straight Outta Compton (2015), No Good Deed (2014), Think Like a Man Too (2014), Ride Along (2014), Think Like a Man (2012), Takers (2010), Obsessed (2009) and Stomp the Yard (2007). Packer served as an executive producer on the smash-hit Straight Outta Compton, a biopic of the rap group N.W.A that opened No. 1 at the box office, became the biggest August debut for an “R”-rated movie and grossed over $200 million at the worldwide box office, making it the highest-grossing music biopic—ever.
Packer’s most successful film to date is Universal’s Ride Along, which starred Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. Ride Along debuted at No. 1 at the box office in 2014, with record-breaking receipts totaling $48.6 million during the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend opening of the film. Ride Along became one of the biggest January opening box-office tallies of all time. The film also went on to be No. 1 at the box office for three consecutive weeks and grossed over $154 million worldwide. Think Like a Man, the film adaptation of Steve Harvey’s best-selling book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” grossed more than $96 million worldwide and won the 2013 BET Award for Best Movie. Stomp the Yard held at No. 1 for two weekends and received the 2007 Movie of the Year honors at the BET Hip Hop Awards. Obsessed, which featured mega star Beyoncé Knowles, was Screen Gems’ second-highest opening in company history when it debuted. No Good Deed, which starred Idris Elba and Taraji P. Henson, raked in over $54 million. Packer also enjoyed success with his holiday film This Christmas (2007), which grossed nearly $50 million worldwide, as well as About Last Night (2014), which hit theaters during Valentine’s Day weekend and opened as the No. 1 romantic comedy in America. The Wedding Ringer (2015), which starred Hart and Josh Gad, holds the world record as the top “R”-rated comedy opening in January. Collectively, Packer’s films have grossed over $800 million.
Making a major foray into prime-time television, Packer is the executive producer of two new comedies, Truth Be Told (NBC) that premiered in 2015 and Uncle Buck (ABC), which debuted in June 2016. Packer executive produced Roots, a remake of one of the most celebrated TV programs of all time, as an event series that aired simultaneously on The History Channel, A&E and Lifetime networks in 2016.
In 2012, Packer was inducted as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences® (AMPAS®), the organization known around the world for its annual Academy Awards®. As part of the “Academy Conversations” series, the organization presented a conversation with Packer at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. This marked the first time AMPAS® participated in a program at the renowned festival.
Packer has been featured on the cover of Black Enterprise and Essence magazines and acknowledged on several high-profile magazine lists, including Variety’s 10 Producers to Watch, Black Enterprise’s Most Powerful Players Under 40 and 10 Most Bankable Producers in Hollywood, JET’s Who’s Hot to Watch and Ebony’s prestigious Power 100 list.
As a producer and the founder of the Los Angeles-based production company Will Packer Productions, Packer oversees all aspects of the business. Prior to launching his own company in 2013, he co-founded Rainforest Films with director Rob Hardy in summer 1994 while both were engineering students at Florida A&M University (FAMU). After graduating magna cum laude from FAMU with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering in 1996, Packer decided to forgo lucrative job offers in the field of engineering to capitalize on his entrepreneurial instincts and his passion for filmmaking.
Packer is a dynamic and inspiring speaker who delivers educational and motivational speeches to film-industry groups, colleges and universities (including Harvard University), as well as youth and community organizations nationwide. He has been honored with the key to the city of his hometown, St. Petersburg, Florida, as well as Miami, Florida, and “Will Packer Day” has been proclaimed in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Packer has also been honored with FAMU’s Meritorious Achievement Award, the highest honor his alma mater bestows.
Packer resides in Atlanta with his wife, Heather, and their family.
PRESTON HOLMES (Executive Producer) is an industry veteran with more than 40 years of experience as a producer, production manager and assistant director on feature films, television movies and documentaries. Holmes’ production experience runs the gamut from studio features to lower-budget independent productions, shot on locations ranging from Harlem and South Central Los Angeles to Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
After attending Princeton University, Holmes enrolled in the prestigious Directors Guild of America’s New York Assistant Director Training Program. He then gained admission to the guild as an assistant director.
Moving from commercial production to features in New York, first as an assistant director and then as production manager, Holmes eventually joined Spike Lee’s production team and helped turn out such hits as Do the Right Thing, Mo’ Better Blues and Jungle Fever. He has since gone on to produce films with some of today’s most outstanding African-American filmmakers—Juice, with Ernest R. Dickerson; Malcolm X and Crooklyn, with Lee; and New Jack City, Posse and Panther, with Mario Van Peebles.
In 1992, Holmes relocated to Los Angeles to head up Def Pictures for Russell Simmons and Stan Lathan. While at Def Jam, Holmes developed and served as executive producer for the films Gridlock’d and Def Jam’s How to Be a Player.
In 2000, Holmes produced the award-winning television movie Boycott. The film starred Jeffrey Wright and was directed by Clark Johnson for HBO Films, with whom Holmes is currently developing a film on the life of African-American movie pioneer Oscar Micheaux.
Holmes produced the Academy Award®-nominated documentary Tupac: Resurrection, for MTV Films and Amaru Entertainment, which was released theatrically in 2003. The next year, Holmes produced Showtime Networks’ Sucker Free City and Sony Pictures Classics’ She Hate Me, both of which were directed by Lee. In summer 2004, Holmes served as associate producer on the award-winning Hustle & Flow, which was produced by John Singleton and Stephanie Allain.
Holmes served as executive producer on Focus Features’ Something New, which starred Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker; and Illegal Tender, written and directed by Franc. Reyes and produced by Singleton. He served as producer of Rogue Pictures’ Waist Deep, which starred Tyrese Gibson and Meagan Good.
Holmes executive and line produced Lionsgate’s Peeples, which starred Kerry Washington and Craig Robinson. He executive produced Universal Pictures’ The Best Man Holiday, which starred Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs and Regina Hall. He served as line producer on ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 episode “One Night in Vegas,” a documentary about the friendship of Tupac Shakur and Mike Tyson, written and directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood. Recent film credits include With This Ring, The Birth of a Nation and Almost Christmas.
JAMES LOPEZ (Executive Producer) is head of motion pictures at Will Packer Productions. He is responsible for developing and overseeing production on all film projects through the company’s first-look deal with Universal Pictures.
Recent film credits include executive producing Almost Christmas, which starred Gabrielle Union, Danny Glover, Mo’Nique, Romany Malco, Nicole Ari Parker, Kimberly Elise, J.B. Smoove, Jessie T. Usher and D.C. Young Fly, as well as Jacob’s Ladder, a reimagining of the 1980s thriller classic starring Michael Ealy, Jesse Williams and Nicole Beharie.
Prior to joining Will Packer Productions, Lopez was senior vice president of production at Screen Gems, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment. During his tenure, Lopez oversaw some of the company’s top-grossing and most anticipated projects. He was the production executive for the box-office hit Think Like a Man. The film debuted at No. 1 at the box office and grossed more than $96 million worldwide. He oversaw production on About Last Night, Think Like a Man Too, The Wedding Ringer, The Perfect Guy and When the Bough Breaks for the studio. He also produced and conceived the story for the acclaimed short film #AmeriCAN, directed by actor Nate Parker.
Lopez, formerly senior vice president of marketing for Atlantic Records before joining Screen Gems, played an instrumental role in developing and overseeing the marketing campaigns for several multi-platinum artists, including T.I. during his tenure in the music business. He also oversaw the soundtracks for numerous films, including Hustle & Flow, P.S. I Love You, Step Up 2: The Streets, Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls, Meet the Browns, Why Did I Get Married? and Avatar. In addition to overseeing marketing for artists, Lopez has directed a series of television commercials for album campaigns and led efforts for film soundtracks and brand partnerships. His music video for T.I.’s “No Matter What,” from his double-platinum album Paper Trail, was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award. Lopez also has a Grammy Award nomination for his producing of the long-form video “Nappy Roots: The World According to Nappy.”
Lopez has been included in Ebony magazine’s Power 100 list and Imagen Foundation’s Most Powerful and Influential Latinos in Entertainment. He resides in Los Angeles, California, with his family.
GREG GARDINER (Director of Photography) has worked on a diverse range of projects including the motion pictures The Best Man Holiday and Barbershop: The Next Cut, the musical Lucky Stiff, the classic comedies Orange County and Elf, and the sci-fi films Race to Witch Mountain and Men in Black II. Among his recent television credits are Outsourced and Rake. Recent film credits include The Journey, with Colm Meany portraying the IRA head Martin McGuinness and Timothy Spall as the controversial Unionist Ian Paisley, and the upcoming The War with Grandpa with Robert De Niro and Uma Thurman.
Gardiner began his filmmaking career in the lighting department, working as a gaffer on such seminal films as Paris Texas, Repo Man and To Live and Die in LA. He earned the Cinematography Award at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival and a nomination for Best Cinematography at the 1995 Independent Spirit Awards for his black-and-white film Suture.
KEITH BRIAN BURNS (Production Designer) most recently became a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Designers Branch.
He created the look for the new FX Series Snowfall. He has also designed such notable films as The Best Man Holiday, The Identical, Abduction, Four Brothers, Hustle & Flow, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Poetic Justice, Black Snake Moan and Higher Learning.
He began his career as an architect and took his vision from buildings to feature films. His objective is to tell the story of the film and to bring it to life on the big screen.
Girls Trip marks PAUL MILLSPAUGH’s (Editor) sixth collaboration with director Malcom D. Lee. He is currently working on The Kissing Booth for Netflix.
DANIELLE HOLLOWELL (Costume Designer) began her film career as a wardrobe production assistant on Spike Lee’s Clockers. Hollowell quickly moved up to the features Money Train, Shaft, Bamboozled and the Academy Award® nominated film Amistad. She has been nominated for several awards including the Costume Designers Guild’s best fantasy costume design for Undercover Brother. Hollowell has worked with acclaimed directors including Steven Spielberg, John Singleton, Lee, Joe Rubin and Brad Anderson. She has since collaborated with director Malcolm D. Lee on seven films including The Best Man; Undercover Brother; Roll Bounce; Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins; Soul Men; The Best Man Holiday; and Barbershop: The Next Cut. Other projects include all three seasons of the Primetime Emmy Award nominated Chappelle’s Show.
DAVID NEWMAN (Music by) is one of today’s most accomplished creators of music for film. In his 30-year career he has scored more than 110 films, ranging from The War of the Roses, Matilda, Bowfinger and Heathers, to the more recent Naked as well as films like Serenity and The Spirit. His music has brought to life the critically acclaimed dramas Brokedown Palace and Hoffa, the top-grossing comedies Galaxy Quest and Throw Momma from the Train, and the award-winning animated films Ice Age, The Brave Little Toaster and Anastasia. Newman holds an Academy Award® nomination for his score to Anastasia, and was the first composer to have a piece “001 Nights” performed in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s FILMHARMONIC series, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Newman is also a highly sought-after conductor and appears with leading orchestras throughout the world, including the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, The Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and The Cleveland Orchestra.
The son of nine-time Oscar®-winning composer Alfred Newman and an active composer for the concert hall, Newman has composed works that have been performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Indianapolis Symphony and Long Beach Symphony, as well as at the Ravinia Festival, Spoleto Festival USA and Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival. He also composed a violin-orchestra suite for Sarah Chang based on the songs from the Broadway hit “West Side Story.” Passionate about nurturing the next generation of musicians, Newman serves on the Board of the American Youth Symphony, a 51-year-old pre-professional orchestra based in Los Angeles; and, in 2010, he served on the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival and School in the Film Scoring Program.
Newman is married to wife, Krystyna, and is the father of two girls, Diana and stepdaughter, Brianne.
PHOTOS (Tap photo for slideshow)