When it comes to the long discussed sequel to Waiting to Exhale, there is an obvious issue: Whitney Houston is dead. Houston’s voice and celebrity made her such a key component of the film. How does one go on without her?
In 2012, a FOX 2000 executive revealed that the sequel would indeed go on and argued that Houston would want it that way. A year late Waiting To Exhale co-star Angela Bassett echoed the sentiment, telling The Huffington Post: “In my heart, I love Whitney and her work and the time that we shared together. Her role and her presence was just so important. I have a hard time replacing someone else in her shoes. I guess they wouldn’t have to do that. We would have to just come up with a brand new friend.”
And then we heard not much of anything for a few years until author Terry McMillan, who penned both Waiting To Exhale, and its sequel, Getting To Happy, said in 2015, “I don’t think that’s going to happen. I really don’t.” As for why it was “dead in the water,” McMillan added, “It’s been horrible since Whitney [Houston] passed away for a whole lot of reasons. FOX wanted to basically eliminate that character altogether from the story. How they thought that was going to work, I don’t know.”
In a recent interview with Hollywood Live, another Waiting To Exhale co-star, Loretta Devine, revealed that not all hope is lost and that McMillan is still working on the sequel.
As for who they would get to replace Houston, Devine had no particular actress in mind, but noted, “Oh they have so much new young, great talent so it would be limitless girls that could do it.” McMillan once mentioned Viola Davis as a very intriguing addition to the cast. Davis certainly commands a certain star power and while she can’t exhale, shoop shoop like Nippy, it could still be a good fit.
Whomever they get or don’t get, though, the sequel should be made, that’s a clear position for me. For a lot of people, the success of The Best Man Holiday changed minds with respect to creating sequels for sacred films we typically prefer to remain in our good memories as is. However, a more important condition related to the making of this sequel hinges on the creators writing a compelling enough script that allows us to see realistic and relatable growth in the original cast. I think it’s important for the film industry to offer a film that allows Black women of a certain age to have their lives depicted on screen behind the roles of the matriarchs in this much-loved story.
I want to see actresses like Loretta Devine and Angela Bassett get the treatment Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep have in Nancy Meyers movies. They are women over 50, who are still sexual, self-motivated and vibrate. They still have relationship goals as they continue their pursuit of happiness. Their lives are captivating yet accurately complex. It’s a failure on the industry at large for not really offering any characters comparable to that for Black women. If the makers of the film offer anything less than that it would be a tragic mistake resulting in tepid support for the sequel. It’s a condition for making the film that I think most fans would agree is a non-negotiable aspect that we won’t budge on.
That said, we understand the would-be sequel takes place years after the original story and as we know in our own lives, we often lose people along the way. This film has had two unfortunate strokes of bad luck in losing both Houston and Gregory Hines. The reality is, no actress will replace Whitney Houston in the minds of select fans. What a worthy sequel can do, though, is fill a different sort of void. The movie can’t lose sight of the most important elements that endeared it to millions of fans. The characters and the actors that played them were relatable and authentic. So to continue their growth and add another layer to the roles Black women play in Hollywood is a dual win.
So if it can happen, it should.