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Interview: David E. Talbert, Lyn Talbert, & Steven Wolfe talk 'Baggage Claim' (Opens Today)

by Masha Dowell
September 27, 2013 3:51 PM
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I screened David E. Talbert’s, “Baggage Claim”, twice. The first time I viewed it quietly alone, to study the film as a whole. The second time, I went simply as a lover of romantic comedies. I am obsessed with romantic comedies, and this one left me excited, happy, and inspired to change my very own romantic situation.

It was slightly predictable, but then again, I will give the world just to see brown and black faces coming together via the silver screen to tell a love story. No matter how complex or simple the story may be. I will release several one on one interviews with the cast of the film and my film review throughout the month of September.  

It was amazing that Shadow and Act was allowed to have a sit down chat with David, his wife Lyn, and executive producer Steven Wolfe. What made the interview even lovelier was the fact that the couple had their new son in the room during the interview. The love between the two was contagious, and I can’t wait to see their future collaborations.

They both were grounded in their speech, collective with their vision of the project, and I even loved how David corrected my doubtful thinking about my very own career standing, here and there. It was much appreciated, and needed.

Also, something that has never happened in one of my interviews happened during this one. David and I switch places a bit; he interviews me about the film.

Shadow and Act: Did you all plan for ‘Baggage Claim,” to be a multi genre project?

Lyn Talbert: Yes, that was the original plan. With film, we were able to work everything out from the book in so much more detail.

Shadow and Act: Steven, how did you meet David?

Steven Wolfe:  I was introduced to David by some folks at Fox Searchlight. After I read the first draft of the script for Baggage Claim, I came on board.

Shadow and Act: I just interviewed Paula, and she mentioned that there were talks about the project years ago; with her being the lead. But then somewhere along the way, the project came to a halt. How did it get off the ground this time?

David Talbert: Well, you know the filmmaking process is filled with a lot of hurdles. It’s like a decathlon; you have the high jumps, long jumps, and all. But, good stories always find a way to get told. The thing that gave this project an advantage is that we always had a good story.  When the story came back around this time, Paula was my only choice. And when she said that she wanted to do it, then everyone else decided to come along.

Shadow and Act: I read in the production notes that you began writing stories in college, specifically, after your own break ups. What inspired you to write this story?

DT: Well, I eavesdropped on my wife’s conversation with her girlfriend. It was her girlfriend that flew to visit a man in Chicago, and he dropped her off at a hotel to stay. It was my wife that was like girl, he is married.  It was stories like that and others that have inspired my journey.

Shadow and Act: Can you all speak about your collective projects as a husband and wife team in Hollywood? What is your mission in Hollywood?

LT:  David is such an amazing writer and director. I met him while he was doing his fifth play. While we were engaged, I began to tell him to fix this and that, and I did not even realize that I was getting involved in his grand plans. We both had a common goal as far as what types of projects that we wanted to put out there. And the quality of the projects and there are so. We look out for each other.  We’ve had a lot of love as well from the press as well and it’s made it a lot easier for us.

Shadow and Act: I was impressed with the quality of the film. Can you tell me about your cinematographer selection?

SW: I was pitched the work of Anastas Michos, and David and I got together one day and met with him in the Valley for a cup of coffee and we were done with our selection.  He and Dave worked well together.

DT: My wife saw his work on Jumping the Broom, and then we saw Cadillac Records and so it was like this guy knows how to shoot African-Americans extremely well. And he shoots Paula well, so we were like it would be great to get this guy on board. She looked so beautiful in that movie; well everyone looked so beautiful in that movie. So, when I met with him, (he is white), I was like man how do you know how to shoot black people so well? And he showed me his iphone, and his wife is a black woman.

Shadow and Act: I mentioned this next question during my interview with Taye. I felt that although Montana does not end up with any of the men that she goes on dates with, their overall stories were actually positive. Was that intentional with your writing?

DT: Absolutely. I don’t do male bashing. With the male characters in the film, yes, they may make bad decisions, but they are not necessarily bad people.  All the men in the film had their own point of view, and they are who they are unapologetically. As the writer of the film, I did not put my own judgment into the film. Even the mother, the antagonist in the film, is not a bad person, but she does have different views than Montana. It was very important for me to show a cross selection of men; without make bashing.

SA: The talent that you selected was amazing. One thing that I noticed while watching the film is that you were able to pull amazing performances out of everyone. Can you speak a bit on your direction process?

DT: For me it all starts with respect. I come in the room as a fan of all of their work. That’s why I hired them. They read the script, and they love it, and then they respect me. From that level of respect, I establish trust. And once you have respect and trust, it’s just time to make the magic.

SA: What do you hope that people gain from this film?

DT: I want them to have a great time. This is not really a message movie. I would say that if I had any commentary; it would be through William’s character; and that the magic isn’t in getting married; its staying married. If I can put that type of energy out there in the world, then maybe somehow it will help.  Marriage takes such a hit nowadays.

SA: What do you have coming up next?

DT: It’ll be a Fox searchlight film; but I’m trying to figure it all out. I really have not had a moment to breath since Baggage Claim. I’m just very thankful for this project and the team that came together for this film; and the actors that added their talent to this film. Everybody is in this movie.

SA: I know!

DT: What was your favorite part of the film?

SA: I have to say the dream sequence scene where Montana and William are dancing to New Edition.

DT: Who was your favorite character?

SA: I would have to say William.

DT: Why?

SA: His character was very solid and stable.

Fox Searchlight releases David E. Talbert’s BAGGAGE CLAIM in theaters on September 27th. It stars Paula Patton, Derek Luke, Jill Scott, Taye Diggs, Boris Kodjoe, La La Anthony, and more. You can learn more about the film at

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  • Buckley | September 25, 2013 12:33 AMReply

    Paula Patton doesn't even count as brown. She is lily white with a drop of black. Her son is White with blonde hair. She is beautiful with long straight hair. Of course she will get cast by both White and Black Hollywood before any brown or black sisters. The closer to White the better for your acting career. Talent is optional.

  • Buckley | September 25, 2013 3:05 PM

    Of course her Blackness is important, the writer of this article mentioned it as a reason she supports it. I am sick of Black people buying into the same stereotype that whiter is better. If they cast a "Black" actress to lead a "Black" film, these folks make sure she is as close to white as possible and us Black ffolks are supposed to pay them on the back and blindly support the film. Always with the fair skinned mixed actress and dark Black male. It's the blonde white women with her dark male just the "Black" version. So many talented dark skin sisters don't get jobs leading "Black" films. Just the 10% mixed race in our community.

  • Sul | September 25, 2013 3:09 AM

    No need to make this about her blackness. Her parentage and the color of her son's hair are not what offend, it's her shitty acting.

  • Donella | September 11, 2013 12:20 PMReply

    Yes, Dave Talbert and Tyler Perry are very similar. God-fearing romantic comedies with stage influences. If that's what people want, they're the men to see.

    I'm more familiar with Tyler Perry's work. He has more product that I've seen. The quality goes up and down. Why Did I Get Married. Nice. Madea's Witness Protection. No. Talbert does... sufficient, a pleasant time.

    I'm really hoping with Lee Daniels and Steve McQueen raising the bar higher this year that all boats get lifted. 2013 is a great year for film with a lot of different genres to enjoy and I plan to.

  • Donella | September 24, 2013 11:27 AM

    I saw the movie. Jill Scott deserves better. Everyone else pretty much got what they deserved.

  • CareyCarey | September 10, 2013 10:19 PMReply

    " I want them to have a great time. This is not really a message movie" ~ David Talbert

    See, I like this guy because he's honest. He knows he's not writing the next great American novel and it's all about business. I mean, he and Tyler Perry are cut from the same cloth (they both horned their skills and make their money off stage productions) but if Tyler suggests his film are basically for entertainment purposes, the boo-birds come out, but David gets a pass.

    Don't get me wrong, I admire and enjoy some of Tyler's work and David's "First Sunday" is on my favorites comedy list, but why does Tyler face more scorn -- from the black community -- than Mr. and Mrs. Talbert?

    It couldn't be that David's resume and qualitiy of film are superior to Tyler's, could it? I mean, I've seen A Fool And His Money, What My Husband Doesn't Know, and He Say...She Say...But What Did God Say?, so again, I am here to tell you, Tyler and David are brothers from the same mother.

    Having said all the above, Baggage Claim is just not my cup of tea. So regardless of what my lady says, I can't sit through another chick flick.

    Btw, I don't know what'sup with all the bruhaha over Paula Patton. Well, actually, I think the devil in the details will expose pure jealousy and envy among some black women. Personally, I believe Paula did great work in Precious, Idlewild and the recently released 2 Guns with Denzel Washington. Granted, she's not ugly by any stretch of imagination and I wouldn't kick her out of my bed, but it's obvious she's bringing much more to the table than her looks

  • NO BRAINER | September 23, 2013 5:23 PM

    "Well, back-at-you. It's a shame that you fail to accept the fact, and/or admit the fact that she obviously has other talents besides her looks (least we forget there are a THOUSAND, not dozens, of attractive actresses who do not book headline roles as consistently as Paula Patton). So she must be gifted with some type of talent that separates her from the rest. So you don't get that." -- CAREYCAREY

    Enough said...

  • Rocket | September 23, 2013 4:46 PM

    Looks are a MAJOR part of the business. Of course Paula Patton is getting roles based on her looks. Most Hollywood productions are not highbrow affairs. Once in a generation talent is not needed for most lead roles. The average Hollywood romcom leads can be played by a host of actors and actresses. Add this to the fact that good looking people help put butts in seats and it makes sense. And many a Hollywood career was built on luck and connections.

  • 90056 | September 23, 2013 4:22 PM

    In Hollywood, talent is not as valuable as connections and marketability. She has two of three in her favor, which is slightly better than average.
    That is what she is.

  • CareyCarey | September 13, 2013 1:32 AM

    Coo, done.

  • Akimbo | September 13, 2013 1:29 AM

    Naw, man.

  • CareyCarey | September 12, 2013 4:34 PM

    Kendra, take your hands off my wee-wee cause "WE ARE NOT" seeing anything together. Consequently, "I" CareyCarey see plenty of talent, so my argument stands strong.

    Akimbo, I see you don't believe fat meat is greasy but you believe in the power of luck, huh?
    Okay, at least you're agreeing that Paula is doing something right besides using her looks to sway minds, which you believe is her only defining asset.

  • Akimbo | September 12, 2013 4:13 PM

    "So she must be gifted with some type of talent that separates her from the rest." If you consider luck and connections talents, then sure.

  • Kendra | September 12, 2013 3:54 PM

    "So she must be gifted with some type of talent that separates her from the rest." Well, we're not seeing it onscreen. You know your argument doesn't hold water.

  • CareyCarey | September 12, 2013 1:56 PM

    Well, back-at-you. It's a shame that you fail to accept the fact, and/or admit the fact that she obviously has other talents besides her looks (least we forget there are a THOUSAND, not dozens, of attractive actresses who do not book headline roles as consistently as Paula Patton). So she must be gifted with some type of talent that separates her from the rest. So you don't get that.

  • Akimbo | September 12, 2013 12:38 PM

    "Getting cast for looks only" = untalented. She would be among the dozens of beautiful yet untalented actors. Sorry you didn't get that.

  • CareyCarey | September 12, 2013 11:32 AM

    ...and what does that have to do with the tea in china or Paula Patton? Did we forget something--> "Perhaps because her looks are the only thing she's got going for her and are likely the only reason she books roles"

    I repeat, the debates will continue on whether or not the only reason she (Paula Patton) books roles is because of her "attractive" looks.

  • Akimbo | September 12, 2013 10:32 AM

    Yup, and there are dozens of beautiful, yet untalented, actors who work regularly.

  • CareyCarey | September 11, 2013 6:25 PM

    Well Akimbo, jealousy wears many masks. But you are correct, the debates will continue on whether or not the only reason she books roles is because of her "attractive" looks. I mean, least we forget there are a thousand attractive actresses who do not book roles as consistently as Paula Patton.

  • Akimbo | September 11, 2013 5:50 PM

    Perhaps because her looks are the only thing she's got going for her and are likely the only reason she books roles. I haven't seen anyone, male or female, say she was ugly. Those would be the (untrue) words of a jealous person.

  • CareyCarey | September 11, 2013 5:46 PM

    @JESS (can I assume that's short for Jessica?). Anyway, I just notice most complaints regarding Paula Patton always mentions something about her looks, instead of focusing on her best performances. To that point, you believe she had a small role in Precious. Well, didn't Viola Davis receive an Oscar nominations for her "small" role in "Doubt"? And, if I am not mistaken, Paula was on screen at least twice as long as Viola... and she did get a little Oscar buzz, didn't she, thus, your argument is a little weak. And did you conveniently forget her performance in 2 Guns or did you even see that film?

    @Akimbo, as I said to Jessica, some women's views of Paula Patton seem to focus on her looks, which gives the appearance of a tainted opinion.

  • Akimbo | September 11, 2013 2:12 PM

    When women who are fans of other beautiful black actresses express distaste for one in particular, jealousy is clearly not the reason.

    One could just as easily assert that one man's disinterest in Baggage Claim is motivated by jealousy, insecurity, or bitterness instead of more obvious reasons.

  • Jess | September 11, 2013 1:58 PM

    I shouldn't take the bait, but Paula Patton needs to take a large percentage of the time she spends in the make-up and hair department and transfer it to sessions with an acting coach. Ref. Jumping the Broom. She had a small role in Precious, so I can't call that great work.

  • beemooree | September 10, 2013 10:14 PMReply

    wait, does anyone know why taraji is no longer attached? is it bc her POI schedule? It seems like more folks were excited when she was attached. I love paula and taraji

  • ALM | September 10, 2013 8:54 PMReply

    " I felt that although Montana does not end up with any of the men that she goes on dates with.."

    Masha, do you realize that you just gave away the ending of the film to anyone who hasn't read the book? Girl........

  • anon | September 10, 2013 6:56 PMReply

    is paula patton now the go to pseudo blk actress for these kind of movies now shes like the new halle berry! what happened to megan good and sanaa lanthan were they not good enough?!

  • Akimbo | September 10, 2013 7:24 PM

    I would take Meagan Good over Paula Patton. Hell, I would even take Golden Brooks' obnoxious, alien-looking ass over Paula Patton. Patton is a bland pretty face with absolutely no presence. None! There's practically nothing even there to hate, yet still I manage.

  • Bforreal | September 10, 2013 7:16 PM

    Well, Megan Good is a crappy actress generally. But, yeah, I get your point. Paula Patton is so uninteresting and, I'm sorry, the girl is obviously making it off her skin color. (And I'm saying this as a fair-skinned, freckle-faced person myself). She is in no way more talented than Sanaa Lathan, Kerry Washington, or several other darker-skinned black women in hollywood who either aren't getting offered the roles or are turning down the roles. However, Patton's films are generally so lame that I can't see why any talented black actress would even take them. So...

  • Jena | September 10, 2013 5:29 PMReply

    I was interested in your upcoming review until this sentence "I will give the world just to see brown and black faces coming together via the silver screen to tell a love story. No matter how complex or simple the story may be." Honestly, that killed my desire to see what else you were going to say about the film, because it seems that there may not be enough objectivity re film quality.
    We have to demand better films from black producers. I am no longer spending my cash on simple-minded concepts and weak scripts just because I want to see brown faces on the screen. I made that mistake with Jumping the Broom. Gorgeous movie, but weak and predictable otherwise.

  • SillyMovie | September 24, 2013 8:28 AM

    Thanks, Jena for reading and taking pause with the 'i will give the world....brown and black faces' line. That's what holywood banks on, Black people giving their very hard-earned money to see this type of stupid, simple, not even in the least bit original or positive movie JUST because it shows some black characters. It's not worth it. I sat in the theater with a bunch of other folks wanting more, getting less and trying to be happy with this drivel.

    Until we start demanding more (by not giving our money to this stuff, because CONTRARY TO WHAT YOU THINK....YOU ARE NOT SUPPORTING BLACK PEOPLE WHO HAPPEN TO HAVE ROLES IN THE MOVIE BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT MAKING ANY MONEY OTHER THAN THE SALARIES THEY TOOK FOR THE ACTING), we will continue to get the scraps they throw at us.

  • Masha Dowell | September 11, 2013 3:39 PM

    @jena You are right! Maybe I wrote that wrong or it did not come out as I would like for it to... this is the thing...I LOVE to see brown and black people on screen when they are assisting the directing in telling a story. That of course personally interests me... Not every story moves me. I just so happen to LOVE romcoms...and this one --- I LOVED. It was cute and I liked the story.

  • jasmine | September 10, 2013 8:40 PM

    Everything is fine now! The cinematographers wife is black! Woooo, thank the lord! So that's why paula looks lighter than rashida. Does Anastas practice lighting at home? And the producer came on after the first draft? Damn I'm sending my stuff to him cause surely I have a chance. So the actual movie is based on the second draft? Thank you for the amusing experience.

  • Bforreal | September 10, 2013 7:17 PM

    I completely agree.

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