“Girls Trip” star Regina Hall and “Black-ish actress Marsai Martin both play Jordan Sanders in the pic. Hall is a mean girl/tech mogul who is transformed into the child version of herself. “Insecure” creator Issa Rae plays Jordan’s long-suffering assistant April in this Will Packer produced comedy about the price of success, the power of sisterhood and having a second chance to grow up – and glow up – right.
14-year-old Martin serves as an executive producer on the project, making her the youngest producer on a Hollywood production.
EUR/Electronic Urban Report caught up with Tina Gordon Chism (ATL, Drumline, What Men Want) to dish about the home entertainment release of “Little,” working with her dynamic leading ladies and what she would do differently if she had to be little all over again.
Get into our Q&A below.
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Considering all that life has taught you thus far, if you had to be little all over again, what would you do differently?
Tina: I spent a lot of time worrying as a kid. I was a worrier. I worried about what other people thought about me. I worried about what was going to happen the next day. I was the most worrying kid you’ve ever met. And it wasn’t until late in life that I realized that worrying is the biggest waste of energy and time. I mean, I was an act. I would be exhausted from worrying – imagining scenarios and then worrying about them. And I think I would tell myself – ‘Self, do you know worrying is the biggest waste of time of life? It solves nothing.’ It resolved nothing and it’s based on nothing. So I would tell myself, don’t worry so much. That’s what I would say.
One thing that resonated with me about this film is the bullying theme. When I was young, I was a victim of bullying, and the gal who bullied me is still a bully as an adult.
Tina: Oh my God!
Right! So the bullying and sisterhood themes that drive this film, are they personal for you in any way?
Tina: We just had a new election and there was so much meanness and it went from great-to-mean overnight. And I started thinking about a bully, sort of based on our newly elected president. And it got me thinking about bullying and I was like, this must happen from childhood and then you grow up to continue to be this person if you don’t address it. And that’s literally what happened. It was just based on the idea if you behave badly as an adult, what could you change in your childhood to adjust being a bully now, and what caused you to be a bully in the first place? When I was researching bullying, I read that they’re usually bullied themselves. So that’s how it happened that Little Jordan was bullied as a kid.
Talk about the process of co-writing this film with Tracy Oliver. How many drafts did you go through and when did you know this script was done and ready to shoot?
Tina: Sometimes you co-write with a person and they’re your writing partner. In this case, Tracy had written a previous draft and the studio wasn’t quite ready to move into production with it. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong, what was missing and Will (Packer) asked me to take a look at the script. Sometimes it happens when you get a script that the studio is not quite ready to put into production and you have to figure out what could get it there. And so, after meeting Marsai, I basically changed a little bit of the math of the script so that it became a buddy comedy. I realized Marsai would be funnier and more effective in scenes with an adult. I kind of shifted some of the math of the script to make it that Issa Rae’s character was the secretary to Jordan (Regina Hall). So when Big Jordan turned little, into Marsai, that meant most of the scenes would be between Marsai and Issa. I think the strongest part of the movie is their comedic chemistry.
For fans of Regina and Issa, part of their appeal is their hilarious and dynamic personalities, and clearly a big draw for this film is putting three generations of Black Girl Magic on the same screen.
Tina: I think when you get the opportunity to have three very funny women from three different generations, you already know you can do something special, right? Three black women from different generations, all three talented beyond. And so, really the task then is to just dig in and come up with the most authentic characters and character relationships that you can. In this case, I thought of creating characters who were in different stages of their careers. It’s similar to Issa and Regina. Regina has a little more experience. Issa is coming up, millennial and just trying to navigate — so they had a built-in chemistry based on their different generations and so do their characters. I thought it would be really fun and also an example of sisterhood and collaborating and putting down walls to get it to work to build a company. I was excited by all of that.
Any particular challenges working with Marsai as both an actress and producer of the film?
Tina: There weren’t many challenges. This was her first film. Will Packer is a prolific producer, so Marsai was able to voice her input and also learn from Will and observe the filmmaking process. So it was a mix. I’m sure for her it was a mix of seeing her idea come to life and also getting the opportunity to work alongside Will as a prolific producer and be on a film set for the first time. I’m sure it was a lot of that going on.
For me, my relationship primarily with her was as an actress and she’s a very prepared actress. For a minor, you have to still make it fun. These are still children. They have a lot of responsibilities as an actor on the set. So we had to make things fun for them. That’s the kind of thing as a director… you balance working with children and you still want to keep it fun. It’s not like a 29-year old woman showing up with a briefcase to work.
Last question, why should folks add “Little” to their DVD collection? Any special features or extras that you’re excited about fans experiencing?
Tina: I always find it fun to see what’s happening behind-the-scenes. So the things that I think are great about this one are, Issa is such an independent entrepreneur herself, so she does this survival guide for working with a terrible boss like she has to do in the movie. Regina on set stayed in character all the time as a horrible person, even when we didn’t want her to. So you’ll get to see life behind-the-camera with Regina when we’re begging her to come out of character, but she won’t. And also, there’s Marsai taking people through all the departments so people can get a look at the different departments that go into making a movie. Those are the things I mostly look forward to people seeing.
“Little” dropped digitally on June 25 and DVD/Blu-ray July 9.