Just when we thought we couldn’t love Morris Chestnut more, he goes and proves us wrong with his partnership with Verizon’s Potential of Us campaign to celebrate the history and future of African Americans. We caught up with the actor and family man to discuss the importance of Black history, the latest on Best Man 3 and his rock solid marriage.
ESSENCE.com: We’ve seen the importance of strong relationships in our history. Martin and Coretta. Barack and Michelle. How did you know your wife was the one for you and what habits keep your love alive?
MORRIS CHESTNUT: I have been with my wife for a number of years now and the number one thing that keeps us strong is a mutual respect; that is first and foremost. I would like to think of myself as pretty perceptive because when I am in different types of situations, I am always watching and listening more than I am talking. And when I met my wife, there were a lot of qualities I was paying attention to. I knew that she would be a great mother just for how she cared for her nephew and her family. She respected her mother and she respected her family and those were some of the initial qualities that I saw that I thought would make her a great partner.
ESSENCE.com: Valentine’s Day just passed. How did you make it special for her?
CHESTNUT: For Valentines Day, I don't just get her flowers, I get my mother flowers and I get my daughter flowers because even though my daughter is only 15 years old, she needs to see how she should be treated. She needs to know that she is appreciated on this day as well.
ESSENCE: Of course we love you on-screen. What character have you played that you feel is most relatable to who you are as a person?
CHESTNUT: I find myself in each character, so there is a part of me in most of my characters. I would say Lance (The Best Man Holiday) is pretty close to who I am, just in terms of his priorities in life, how he treats his family, how he treats his wife and his passion for sports.
ESSENCE: We have two popular shows starring Black women with Scandal and Being Mary Jane. But there has also been a response to these shows putting a spotlight on affairs.
CHESTNUT: First and foremost, it is entertainment. Secondly I think there are lessons to be learned. I have seen a few episodes of Being Mary Jane and see she is with a married character. So women can see how this married man is spending time with other women, so maybe they can see themselves in a certain type of situation and say, oh, OK, wait a minute. If their husband comes trying to do some of the stuff he is doing, wait, I saw that on TV. The bells and whistles of these shows are the scandals, affairs, the lying and the cheating, but there are morals to these shows when people watch them.
ESSENCE.com: We understand. So what attracted you to the Potential of Us campaign?
CHESTNUT: Black history is very important to me because coming up I was looking at our black historical leaders as inspiration. People who blazed the trail. I am always trying to follow them and see how they lived. With Potential of Us program, I feel like I'm part of a movement. And it comes right when I am working on developing a character from the 70s I’m excited to play
ESSENCE: We have to ask. What’s the latest on Best Man 3?
CHESTNUT: Malcolm Lee hasn't written it yet. He has given me some ideas on what my character will be doing in The Best Man 3, and it is some pretty funny stuff but I he hasn't finished it yet.
ESSENCE: What is one thing that we as women might be surprised to know about men?
CHESTNUT: What would be important is for women to understand that men don't have it all figured out. There are so many different dynamics to a woman and so many different things that women in general go through that men just don't understand. I like to call it beautifully complex. Unless a woman is involved with a straight knuckle head, sometimes you just need to be a little bit more patient with a man or a potential partner because he may not be as perceptive or he may not be as informed as it seems.