'Finally, a movie that has me in it': The Best Man's Taye Diggs on Hollywood representation
Taye Diggs reprises his role as Harper Stewart on the new show The Best Man: The Final Chapters
Malcolm D. Lee's film The Best Man made a huge impact when it was released.
Its entirely Black cast was revelatory in 1999, when comedy-dramas of a similar ilk, such as Notting Hill, barely had any diversity whatsoever. Plus, it featured a treasure trove of a cast, including Nia Long and Regina Hall in her debut.
What followed was a sequel in 2013 called The Best Man Holiday and now, The Best Man: The Final Chapters — a limited series that reunites the original cast.
Taye Diggs, who plays author Harper Stewart in the franchise, told Q's Tom Power that he remembers how fresh the script felt in 1999.
"When I was coming up, 'Black movies' were a specific thing and that was based on stereotypes," said the stage and screen actor. "When I came across Best Man … it was like the skies opened up and I was like, 'I need to be a part of this.'"
But apart from The Best Man franchise's success, Diggs has had an incredibly successful career both on screen and on stage.
In a career-spanning conversation with Power, Diggs reflected on representation in media and his role in the original Broadway cast of Rent.
Back together with friends
For Diggs, filming and watching The Best Man: The Final Chapters has been an emotional experience. While it was joyous getting back together with the original cast and crew, he acknowledged that he was closing a chapter that has been with him for the majority of his acting career.
"It's bittersweet," he said. "It's always great getting back together with the gang because we literally have grown up with each other in life and our careers. So it always provides a sense of security and safety."
Despite this addition to the series having Final in its title, Diggs is unsure whether this is really it for The Best Man.
"It did really well, so I can't say if it's actually going to be the end," he said.
Representation in Hollywood
On the release of The Best Man: The Final Chapters in the U.S., Malcolm D. Lee said: "It is now more than ever that the world is craving to see what I've worked my entire career to show: relatable, universal stories about Black people and their humanity."
Reflecting on Lee's statement, Diggs emphasized that, while progress has been made, it can still be difficult to get these kinds of projects off the ground.
When we first came out with that first Best Man, there was nothing like that out," he said.
Even though Hollywood is making steps toward more diverse representation on screen, Diggs said that even getting this latest project going was a challenge in itself. And that's despite The Best Man having already proven its success before.
"Even to this day, you've still got to fight these battles with the networks," he reflected. "It's a shame how deep these issues can be when it comes to just something as simple as wanting to provide a product that people want."
He also said that while there's a desire for diversity on screen, often studios will limit the opportunities to a handful of singular performers.
"At some point, all of the agents, all of the casting directors, they deem one Black person the 'it guy,' and that 'it guy' gets first crack at all the roles."
Reflecting on Rent
One of Diggs's first successes was on stage, as part of the original cast of Rent.
Focusing on a group of artists living under the shadow of HIV/AIDS in New York City, the musical has been enormously successful since its Broadway debut in 1996. But Diggs said the musical's potential for success wasn't evident to him until he started performing.
"I didn't know until it was actually happening," he said. "The first moment was when I heard Idina Menzel sing her solo.… I remember listening outside the door and being like, 'Oh my God, this is amazing.'"
For Diggs, part of the thrill of being in Rent, and not knowing whether it would work or not, is a fond memory.
"Not a lot comes my way that is new, and I remember back then we didn't know what the hell we were doing," he said. "We didn't know. We didn't know anything. I missed that energy of not knowing."
But can Diggs see himself going back to Broadway?
"100 per cent yeah," he said. "I'm a song and dance student, so that's my first love."
The full interview with Taye Diggs is available on our podcast, Q with Tom Power. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Interview with Taye Diggs produced by Mitch Pollock.