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David Alan Grier on Why His Surprise Cameo as Black Santa in ‘Candy Cane Lane’ Reminded Him of ‘Black Panther’

As the Candy Cane Lane premiere red carpet heated up Nov. 28, two publicist elves worked their way down the press line to remind journalists not to spoil the big reveal from the Reginald Hudlin-directed holiday adventure.

The Prime Video release, penned by Kelly Younger, stars Eddie Murphy as a recently unemployed man on a mission to win his neighborhood’s annual Christmas home decoration contest. The hush-hush surprise happens late in the film when David Alan Grier crash-lands in an ultra-slick sleigh as (the lifted embargo permits us to announce) Black Santa Claus.

“Reggie called and told me what his idea was and I was overjoyed, man. He let me flow and egged me and Eddie on,” explained Grier of reteaming with Hudlin and Murphy with whom he teamed for the 1992 romantic comedy Boomerang. “That was over 30 years ago and all we talked about were cars, clubs, big houses, like ‘Where y’all going tonight.’ This was different because Eddie is so chill. He has kids, grandkids. He seemed really, really happy.”

As far as the significance of playing an iconic character as a Black man, Grier said the opportunity reminded him of Black Panther. “When you see yourself represented in movies or stories, it’s an affirmation that you exist, that you belong, and that you’re legitimate. That’s what people forget about to see ourselves, not just us, everybody. There’s room for all of us at the table. This is the first Christmas movie I ever did so it’s got to last a long time.”

Who knows, there may also be a sequel. Prime Video announced last week that following its debut, Candy Cane Lane quickly became the No. 1 movie worldwide on Prime Video, the most-watched Amazon MGM Studios-produced movie debut ever in the U.S. and among the top 10 worldwide film debuts ever on the service. 

“The sensational debut of Eddie Murphy’s first-ever Christmas movie, Candy Cane Lane, is a true demonstration of how joyful, family-oriented stories can touch the hearts of viewers around the world,” offered Courtenay Valenti, head of film, streaming, and theatrical at Amazon MGM Studios.

Grier is also counting his blessings this holiday season. “I’m going to tell you right now, I’m 67 years old. I did not think that my career would be here at my age. I have more work than I can even say yes to. My career is booming and I feel like I finally figured out what I’m doing, so I’m only getting better and better. We’ll see what happens.”

'Candy Cane Lane'

A still from Candy Cane Lane. Claudette Barius/Amazon

A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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