Thursday, June 20, 2024

Unwrapping Laughter and Holiday Traditions with the Cast of “Candy Cane Lane”

Eddie Murphy as ‘Chris Carver,’ Jillian Bell as ‘Pepper,’ and Madison Thomas as ‘Holly Carver’ star in CANDY CANE LANE Photo: CLAUDETTE BARIUS © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC

In the heartwarming holiday comedy “Candy Cane Lane,” laughter and Christmas cheer abound, creating a festive atmosphere that promises to entertain audiences. Boasting a star-studded cast, including director Reginald Hudlin, along with the comedic talents of DC Young Fly, Chris Redd, Robin Thede, and Jillian Bell, the film is poised to deliver humorous moments and a generous dose of seasonal spirit. Taji Mag had the pleasure of connecting with these creative forces behind the scenes to delve into the making of the film and explore their cherished holiday traditions.

Actors Chris Redd, Jilian Bell and Robin Thede

Robin Thede, Chris Redd and Jillian Bell (Actors)

Dapper Dr Feel (DDF): How much room did the script allow for improvisation, and were there any memorable improvised moments during filming?

Chris Redd (CR): Too much! 

Robin Thede (RT): I don’t know why Reggie allowed it. 

Jillian Bell (JB): Reggie reel it in. 

CR: He opened the can, and we ate it! That’s how we handled it. 

RT: We pretty much had a lot of improv. 

RT: Hey Chris, how of the script did we improvise? Like 10 percent? 

CR: I don’t even know how much was scripted. That’s how much improv there was for this film for us. 

RT: We didn’t have a lot of lines in the original script. Reggie simply said, “You guys will be in every scene, and we’ll figure it out.” We had a blast throughout the entire process, extending even to the finishing touches in ADR because they could animate us anywhere. Consequently, we found ourselves inserted into scenes we weren’t initially part of. So, yes, there was a lot of improv involved.

JB: I’m so glad you did because you guys bring so much comedy to this movie. It’s so funny. 

DDF: Chris and Robin you had such great chemistry, I was laughing when you were on screen. 

RT: Chris and I have been friends for awhile, he says on and off, though I’m not sure about the “off” part. I thought we were friends the entire time. So, when we found out we were in the movie together, we were ecstatic. We started texting each other, and Jillian and I were like, “Holy crap, we’re in a movie together!”

CR: This marks my debut in the world of movies. While I’ve collaborated with Eddie on SNL, that’s an entirely distinct experience. Being part of another project, enjoying a bit more creative freedom, and essentially working closely with him for an extended period alongside a group of friends elevated the entire experience my friend. It was an absolute blast—a distinctive and unforgettable journey. This response delves much deeper and extends further than before.

JB: He’s going to cry. 

DDF: Are you going to cry Chris? 

CR: No, I’m not going to cry. 

DDF: What is your favorite holiday tradition growing up?

RT: We were very poor. (Lol) That’s all I have to say.  However, amidst those challenges, my favorite tradition emerged. It may start on a sad note, but I promise you, it takes a delightful turn. So, given our economic circumstances, the church would collect donations, and we found ourselves on the receiving end of those baskets. Have you ever wondered who the recipients are when you contribute to those baskets? Well, it was us. Despite the tough times, it had its silver lining. I vividly recall receiving a basket at the age of five, containing items like tampons. At that tender age, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them.

Oh no, don’t feel sad! It wasn’t meant to be somber—it’s actually pretty funny. That’s just how I find humor in things. Anyway, people’s generosity during the holidays is something I’ll always remember. Now, as an adult, I make an effort to pay that kindness forward. It was a valuable lesson for me as a kid. Yeah.

CR: Yeah, it was a valuable lesson for me as a kid. I found beauty in receiving presents that I already owned. My parents would rewrap items we already had, making Christmas look more significant, but it was essentially familiar things. It taught me gratitude. I’d question, “Why does this have a scratch on it?” and then realize, “Oh, because I already earned this.”(Chuckles). 

JB: I recall one of our traditions was always leaving out cookies or treats for Santa. Then, there was a year when my mom, unrelatedly, wanted my dad to get in shape, and all the cookies disappeared. We were left wondering, “Why does Santa have to be so healthy?” My dad chimed in, asking the same question. So, it seems like our best memories involve a lot of unexpected twists, sometimes even a touch of trauma. (Laugh)

DDF: How would you envision a spin-off with your characters?

RT: We could do Sugar Cane Lane, Herman Cane Lane

CR: Abel and Cane Lane!

JB: It would be really fun to go into you guy’s backstories, too, and find out where you came from and how you got to, like, a prequel. That would be really good. We get to witness your moments of grace, followed by your descent into disgrace and then the entanglement as we succumb to your influence. Similar to Maleficent’s narrative.

RT: Yeah, I like this because your character, I always say, she’s a villain, but you don’t hate her. So that is Maleficent also, so I like that.

CR: I would make it a cop movie. So that’s just what I would do. It’d be a Christmas cop movie.

JB: Are there any cops in the film?

CR: Absolutely not.  The sequel could focus on the cops who mysteriously missed everything that unfolded throughout the entire movie. It’s quite amusing—how did they manage to overlook all the chaos involving a group of Black people without making any arrests? That’s insane! 

DC Young Fly (Actor)

DDF: “Candy Cane Lane” is a holiday-themed movie. How do you infuse your unique brand of comedy into a festive setting,

DC Young Fly (DYF): Man, it was a perfect fit being among such incredible people like Tracee Ellis Ross, David Allen Greer, and Eddie Murphy. When you’re part of such an amazing cast, you have to understand what you bring to the table and realize there’s something valuable you can take away from it for your future endeavors. Having a producer like Reggie, who believes in every actor and actress in the entire cast. He encourages us to read the script, but if we feel the need to improvise, go for it.

That’s why the movie turned out so great—many of us stuck to the script, but we also injected what we felt in our hearts. Everyone brought their unique comedic genius to the role and script, creating a dynamic energy. I’m just grateful to be a part of it.

DDF: What was your favorite behind-the-scenes moment on set? 

DYF: My funniest behind-the-scenes moment, man, well, we shot in LA, so I can’t spill all the details. You know what I mean? But, uh, the absolute funniest was when the cast got together and we were just riffing, cracking jokes about Christmas stuff. It was hilarious to hear the various comedic styles and perspectives from everyone.

You know what I’m saying? Like I come, I’m a raw comic. Speaking of raw, cause Eddie Murphy (did a special called) Raw. Oh, you saw how I put that?  Boom! Come on, somebody! We break it down the doors, man. We ain’t playing! 

DDF: What was your favorite holiday tradition growing up?

DYF: Excuse me, I’ve been caught up in some LA activities, you know what I mean?(chuckles) Oh, what traditions? Well, for me, it’s all about being with family, you know? It’s about embracing the spirit of giving back and understanding that putting a smile on someone’s face is a true blessing. Christmas is all about that giving spirit, not just focusing on receiving. When you see the joy you bring to someone, it’s infectious, and that energy transfers. It’s amazing how putting a smile on someone’s face isn’t that hard, and that’s what makes Christmas truly special.

DDF: If you character, Josh, in the film had to put together a holiday hip-hop album what would be the name of it and who would be featured? 

DYF: Oh, you want to know about my character, Josh? If he were to drop a holiday hip hop album, it would be called “Mistletoe.” You know how that goes. I’d feature some unheard Tupac verses, maybe even some everyone’s heard, because, come on, it’s Tupac! Snoop Dogg would definitely be on there too. And you know who I’d get to sing? Bobby Brown. Stop playing with me!  It’s going to be a vibe with Tupac, Snoop, and Bobby Brown.

Director Reginald Hudlin with Eddie Murphy and Madison Thomas (Photo courtesy of Prime Video)

Reginald Hudlin (Director)

DDF: Candy Cane Lane is a heartwarming holiday film. What inspired you to join this project?

Reginald Hudlin (RH): Absolutely, I hold a special fondness for Christmas movies, and my children have persistently urged me to create something especially for them. Even while we were on the set of Django,  the walls were dripping blood (during the action scenes). They were good sports about it but cheekily hinted that it was time for something tailored to their tastes. So, I promised them I would deliver, and I made good on that promise.

DDF: Did you aim for a blend of Jumanji and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation vibes for this film?

RH: Yeah, I was determined to create a Christmas movie that breaks away from the conventional mold. When I initially read the script, I thought I had it figured out—then it took a hard left turn, surprising me with a completely different direction. In the third act, another unexpected twist left me genuinely shocked. That’s when I knew I had to be a part of it. My primary focus was on amplifying the craziness—making it bigger and more outrageous. Most Christmas movies lack chase scenes, kung fu fights, and jump scares, but I wanted this one to have it all. So, it’s definitely a departure from my previous work, and I’ve explored various genres throughout my career.

DDF: You’ve worked with Eddie Murphy on Boomerang. How was it working with him now compared to how it was working with him back then?

RH: It was an enjoyable experience—truly great. We had a fantastic time working on Boomerang, which remains a movie that has stood the test of time. However, I can confidently say that I’ve evolved as a filmmaker since then, becoming more seasoned in my craft. I’ve learned how to foster an excellent working environment, ensuring an A-level cast around me. Creating a situation where everyone can bring their best to the table. The sense of community and holiday spirit were paramount in seamlessly making it all come together.

DDF: “Candy Cane Lane” explores themes of community and holiday spirit. Can you share your thoughts on the significance of these themes, especially in today’s world?

RH: The intriguing aspect of Candy Cane Lane is that when a neighborhood collectively decides to go all-in on Christmas decorations, it can create a unique frenemy dynamic. While it’s beautiful to unite for the collective good of the neighborhood, a natural sense of competition often emerges. We aim to play into this idea, acknowledging that while the decorations are splendid, it’s crucial not to lose sight of what’s most important—the warmth inside your home.

Considering the current state of our country and the global community, I believe a movie like this is timely. Many people see this film as a welcome escape, a delightful diversion from the challenges we face. If we can provide that respite, lifting spirits and offering a joyful experience, then we’re certainly doing a good job.

DDF: There was a quote in the movie that truly resonated with me. The line, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” struck a chord. Was that particular line written in the script?

RH: There was a quote in the movie that truly resonated with me. The line, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” struck a chord. Was that particular line written in the script?

DDF: What are some of your favorite Christmas movies? 

RH: So, what are some of your favorite Christmas comedy films to watch? Well, for me, I usually start with the holiday specials on TV. That’s where it begins, right? You watch classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Grinch That Stole Christmas, and Charlie Brown Christmas. Those are some of my first loves in the Christmas world. Then, Charlie Brown Christmas arguably has the greatest Christmas soundtrack of all time.

DDF: Speaking of soundtracks, this film features an impressive musical score. Can you elaborate on the process of ensuring the music aligns with the film’s direction?

RH: You know, it’s similar to Boomerang, where we had both great pop music and a fantastic score. I brought back my go-to composer, Marcus Miller, who has worked on most of my film scores. We incorporated classical film score elements but then infused it with jazz, R&B, and hip-hop to add a unique touch.

We secured fantastic songs, including one from Raphael Saadiq titled “Miracle,” which reoccurs in the film. The movie starts with an excellent song from Chloe Bailey, and the credits feature a fantastic track by Coco Jones that I could listen to all day. Our approach was to load the film with diverse music, ranging from marching bands to kids with beatboxes and grand symphonic pieces. If I had to sum up the making of this movie in a phrase, it would be “more is more.” That was our motto.

DDF: What was the most memorable moment on set for you? 

RH: Oh my God, there are so many unforgettable moments. I have a particular fondness for special effects and action sequences, so filming the scenes at the track meet with the Lords of the Leaping was an absolute blast. I love it when special effects elevate the story, and working with Industrial Magic, we’d brainstorm ideas, thinking they’d be good, but the execution was truly incredible. That aspect was incredibly satisfying.

Sometimes, it’s the simple things that stand out, like Eddie Murphy interacting with his neighbors, especially when accusing them of wrecking his decorations. His comedic brilliance and the dynamic between him and Madison in the car were pure magic. Honestly, every day on set was enjoyable; it was a great experience.

From the actors’ improvisational brilliance to Director Hudlin’s genuine passion for Christmas movies, “Candy Cane Lane” is a timely holiday comedy meant to be enjoyed with family and friends. Be sure to catch it on Prime Video starting 12/1/2023.

Dapper Dr Feel

Felipe Patterson aka Dapper Dr. Feel, #BlackLoveConvo & Entertainment | @fdapperdr Dapper Dr. Feel is a Entertainment journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association and African American Film Association.

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