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Setting Up Shop
The runaway success of the Barbershop films was a surprise to many – but not to MGM. From the very beginning, the studio believed in the projects and saw great potential in a film franchise about a place almost everyone has to go, full of characters everyone feels like they know. Audiences saw their own lives reflected in the films' comedy and loved hearing the characters say the outrageous things they'd been thinking. As soon as the first film opened, the studio and producers put Barbershop 2: Back in Business on the fast track to production.

For the sequel to Barbershop, bringing back Ice Cube and the rest of the gang was a given, but the films' characters were mostly men and the comments were from a man's point of view. The studio and filmmakers knew it would be great to give the ladies a chance to speak their minds. While preproduction for Barbershop 2 was underway, the filmmakers were also busy with plans to build a Beauty Shop. And there was only one woman they wanted to anchor the project: Queen Latifah. "Latifah is just a great lady,” says producer David Hoberman. "She has a great spirit and brings great energy to the set. She just makes everyone feel good when she's working. For Beauty Shop, we had to have someone of her stature and talent, and we only wanted her. We were thrilled when she saw the potential in the project and agreed to join us.”

"Latifah and I work really closely together,” says producer Shakim Compere. "We wanted to find a film that would be hilarious and a lot of fun to work on, but also had a lot of heart. We loved the idea of Beauty Shop and knew Latifah would be able to bring her own flavor to the piece. It was a great fit.”

The filmmakers decided to launch the Beauty Shop idea by working a character named Gina into the Barbershop 2 script. In that film, Gina worked at the beauty shop next door to Calvin's (Ice Cube) Barbershop and a past was established between the two of them. To show that Gina wasn't afraid to speak her mind, a hilarious war of words with Cedric the Entertainer's Eddie was included that became one of the highlights of the film. Audiences responded with huge laughs and confirmed the filmmaker's intuition: the world was ready and wanted to see more of Latifah's character. The foundations for Beauty Shop were laid, and filming began soon after Barbershop 2 opened in theaters.

Not only is Latifah the lead in the film – she also donned a producer's hat for the project. Her instincts and trust in herself are what empowered her to take on such responsibility. "I love being able to take something from A to Z,” she says. "I don't consider myself a control freak, but I consider myself someone who never wanted to be controlled. From day one it's been about trying to express myself. There's no greater feeling than taking an idea and seeing that idea all the way through to fruition and presenting it to people, having it accepted and be a success.”

Once Latifah joined the project, the other main course of business was to find a director. The filmmakers quickly decided on Bille Woodruff and felt he had the skills to steer the comedy – and handle a cast full of women. Known for his award-winning work on music videos for artists like Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Outkast, Missy Elliot, and TLC as well as the Jessica Alba starrer Honey, everyone was excited when he signed on.

"Bille is precious,” says Latifah. "I've known him for years from his music videos, so I thought it'd be cool for him to do something like this, and he's definitely used to working with women. I thought whoever directed this movie needed to have the ability to communicate and keep everyone together and on the same page. You have to have a certain sensitivity to be able to understand where we're coming from sometimes. Bille's got it.”

As for Woodruff, it was Latifah that made him want to take on the pro

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