While ultimately centered on one woman's search into her romantic past to find her matrimonial match within a month, David E. Talbert's film of his novel Baggage Claim a wide-ranging canvas of colorful characters played by a large and impressive cast. So who better than to describe such characters (in every sense) and the appeal of the project as a whole than their portrayers, most of whom offered their thoughts at a press conference in Beverly Hills on Saturday, August 17.
"When we first meet her, she’s so hopeful. She thinks she’s met the man of her dreams, and she’s going to get married, and then... she’s not. It’s sad, and then as she’s dealing with her sadness, boom! Her younger sister comes in and says, ‘I’m getting married in a month,’ and she knows because of her mom how important marriage is, and how becoming a wife means becoming a lady to her family. So with a heartbreak, that mother, and her cute litle younger sister with a big ol' diamond ring, that has now sent her over the edge. She’s dressing for each man, she’s trying to be the right fit for each person, but the thing is that she has something in her constitution that just won’t let her compromise that much. She’s like, 'I’m willing to take another step in that direction, but I just can’t do it.' What’s beautiful about this romantic comedy, I think, is that there’s two happy endings. There’s one happy ending of a woman who stands up to her family and says, 'I don’t care what you think anymore, and from this journey I've come to love myself, and I’m OK with that.' And of course, like life, the moment that you no longer need a man, then the one comes--or a few of them--and there’s the second happy ending. But I thought in this modern world we live in, it was so important--David and I talked about this a lot--that Montana finds her own happiness before that moment because I think people are very tough on women. It’s not enough that you have a successful career, and you volunteer, and you take care of all of your nieces and nephews--'Do you have a man; do you have a child?" [It's] as if none of that matters unless you are married with a child. And that’s unfortunate; men don’t go up against that. We want the happy ending; it’s an amazing thing when you find the right person to share your life with, but if you’re just finding somebody just so you can fit in or so you can say, ‘I did it'--that’s why there’s so much divorce, quite frankly. I think what’s beautiful is at the end of the day the man she meets is the man that knows about all her baggage, he knows her number, and he loves her in spite of it all."
"What David gave me in this film was a true arc to my character. Every character has an arc, but this meant so much because Catherine came out of the gate so desperate and dysfunctional. When you're not really paying attention to what your children are saying to you, there's something deeply wrong--and especially from a woman who has been married five times herself. But she has the arc where she comes around. This worked because of David E. Talbert and the chemistry I had with [the actresses playing] my two daughters; it was very special. This is my 63rd movie, and I'll never forget it. David gave me one of my best performances."
"With her mother being such a hopeless romantic, I think she just wanted to make her mother proud, and that is what their mother thinks is success: getting married and having men support you and give you security. But I liked that she was just infused with joy. She was so bubbly and happy, so innocent and vulnerable and just open, and that was fun for me to play."
"I was sent a different role, for one of the different guys, and when I read William, I just kind of connected. I think I related to William because every day as an actor you get to meet and talk to men on every level, from every hood, from every suburb, and the things that men say to me I don’t hear sometimes in publications. Men of color, black men--they are very vulnerable, what they think, how they feel. I always want to sow a good seed on film. So many people have given me a chance to roll; I feel like in that chance I just want to inspire. My mom groomed me 'as William,' so I had to play him.
"I think the western countries still view Africans as men in loincloths chasing gazelles. That's okay too, but we're also elegant, urbane, and a great number of Africans are entrepreneurs. So that was important for me to convey. The concept of looking at Africans as if we're way behind the western world is quite false. So I wanted to bring that to a western audience, to open people's eyes about Africa and Africans."
"Typically I play characters who have a lot of emotional baggage or stress. Gail is really carefree; she's a little loose. I thought that would be fun to play; I wanted to have fun. So when I read the script, David and I came up with a lot of different ideas on what she's going to look like. The first one was lots of cleavage."
"Here’s the thing about TSA agents: they think they are a cross between junior cops and secret service. It ain’t that serious any of the time. I went to the islands, Trinidad and Tobago, to celebrate my birthday, and I came back through Miami, and I tell you the TSA people there in customs are on speed. The line was at least 45 minutes long just to get past all of that, and this dude was like, ‘Ma'am, my flight is leaving in 30 minutes; is there a way to get past the line?’ She was like, ‘No. Wait in line; you’re going to miss that flight. I hope you didn’t have important plans.’ She really did that in front of everybody. So that’s Cedric in a nutshell."
"My dad actually is a flight attendant. So I just thought about the stories--some of them I could never repeat--that my dad tells me that happens on airplanes and in the airport. I kind of brought some of that into my character. We've all been with those people at the airport where we're rushing, and they could care less."
"I think I scared my husband! I just put myself in the situation, how I would feel if I was being cheated on, and I just let it go; I had no hesitations at all. David was amazing; he was throwing things at me to say and do. It was a lot of improv, and I just had a lot of fun with it."
"The romantic comedy has been done so many times over and over, and David actually found a new way of presenting the story."
--Taye Diggs, who plays Langston, Montana's politically ambitious ex
"The thing I really like about the movie is the fact that there were five eligible good guys who could end up with the prize. Also the way David writes is very non-stereotypical, which I love. He painted the picture of different characters that were different from we're used to seeing, and any time we can expand the horizon and show us in diverse lights--I'm up for it."
--Boris Kodjoe, who plays Graham, Montana's man of her dreams
Follow the cast:
Paula Patton: Twitter, Facebook
LaLa Anthony: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Affion Crockett: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Taye Diggs: Twitter, Facebook
Djimon Hounsou: Twitter, Facebook
Boris Kodjoe: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Jenifer Lewis: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Lauren London: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
Derek Luke: Twitter, Facebook
Tia Mowry: Twitter, Facebook
Jill Scott: Twitter, Facebook
Buy the Baggage Claim movie poster here.
Buy David E. Talbert's Baggage Claim novel here.
Buy David E. Talbert's Baggage Claim novel on CD here.
(Special thanks to Fox Searchlight Pictures and Sandra Varner; bottom photo courtesy official Baggage Claim Instagram)