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THIS CHRISTMAS

About The Casting
Hang all the mistletoe  I'm gonna get to know you better  This Christmas

When it came to casting This Christmas, Director Whitmore was thrilled with the extraordinary group of veterans and newcomers he was able to assemble to play the Whitfield family. "Actors just sort of flocked to the picture, and we had no problem casting it at all. This cast has been a joy to work with, and I learned something from each and every last one of them everyday.”

Mekhi Phifer, who stars on NBC's medical drama "ER,” was the first actor cast as well as one of the film's executive producers. He plays Gerald, a firefighter who falls for the independent middle daughter, Kelli Whitfield. "Kelli, played by Sharon Leal, who was in Dreamgirls, and Gerald have this love relationship that reaches a sort of Cinderella point,” says Whitmore. "I liken it to Pretty Woman, when Richard Gere came up the fire escape for Julia Roberts. Gerald shows up at the front door saying what he needs to say to cement the possibility of them having an ongoing relationship in the future. And it just downright makes you feel good and giddy.”

Loretta Devine, a distinguished stage, screen and television actress, plays Shirley Whitfield, known to her children as Ma' Dere. The matriarch of a sprawling and often difficult family, Ma' Dere provides the glue that holds them all together. 

"Loretta is an incredible woman,” says Whitmore. "She makes you feel happy the moment she smiles at you, and I think that's one of the biggest contributions she makes to the role. Ma' Dere puts on a smiling face and doesn't let anything get her down, no matter what.”

Executive Producer Paddy Cullen says she doesn't believe anyone else could have played the part as well as Devine. "She's so perfect for it. She's got such a sweet face, and those dimples—she's just adorable.”

Packer concurs: "I'm so honored that she signed on to this project. When she's on set I just want to watch her. I want to watch her walk around. I want to watch her go to craft service. And, of course, I want to watch her in front of the camera. She's just beautiful, she's perfect. And when she speaks her lines, she doesn't talk, she sings.” 

Devine's reputation, and that of Delroy Lindo who plays her devoted boyfriend Joseph Black, were draws for other actors, as well. "Loretta Devine and Delroy Lindo were the top reasons I came onto this,” says Regina King, who plays eldest daughter Lisa in the film. "I just think she's awesome in everything that she does. She just has such a great spirit and I've always wanted to work with her.” 

Whitmore knew just the actor he needed for the pivotal role of Baby, the youngest Whitmore. "We sat down and wrote this role specifically for Chris Brown, because that's the guy I wanted.”

Eighteen-year-old Brown is an international superstar in the music world, but This Christmas is only his second film role. "Everybody knows that Chris Brown is an incredible singer,” says Whitmore. "But I think one of the things that people aren't aware of is that he is also a very good actor. Unlike some singers or rappers who want to undertake this but don't get serious about it, he's done everything necessary to become a good actor. His performance of ‘Try A Little Tenderness' will just take your breath away, but he also does some dramatic scenes with Loretta Devine that are just going to stop you in your tracks.” 

Devine admits a bit sheepishly that Chris Brown was not on her radar screen until she worked with him. "I tried to do my homework before I started this and I Googled everybody so I would have some insight into all of the other actors,” she says. "I couldn't find Chris Brown anywhere, because I was looking in the wrong places. He turns out to be this incredibly famous young man whose records I've been dancing to!”

Brown's character Bab

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