Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Tuesday evening, film producer extraordinaire Will “Power” Packer and comedic actor Affion Crockett hosted an exclusive Atlanta screening of their upcoming romantic comedy, “The Wedding Ringer.” The premiere took place at the Regal Atlantic Station and was followed by a 45-minute post film Q&A with Atlanta press at STRIPE Restaurant and Bar. Celebrities in attendance included Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Bobby V, Terri J. Vaughn, RL (Next), and Shanti Das, just to name a few.

“The Wedding Ringer” stars funnyman Kevin Hart as Jimmy aka Bic Mitchum – a witty, smooth talking guy who makes a living as a best man for hire. He, along with his no-nonsense assistant (Jenifer Lewis), must pull off the perfect wedding for Doug Harris (Josh Gad), a socially challenged guy who has no best man or groomsmen and is less than two weeks away from marrying the girl of this dreams (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting). Trouble ensues for the two when Jimmy enlists a motley crew of groomsman who must also fool Harris’ soon-to-be bride and prudish in-laws.

Will Packer

The film, which was conceived, written and directed by Jeremy Garelick of Hangover fame, has already been criticized and compared to Will Smith’s “Hitch.” However, Packer declares that Ringer’s story line is completely different from the 2005 film and was originally intended for two white actors and not a white and black actor.

“The ‘Hitch’ comparisons actually didn’t come out until people started seeing commercials for the film. This originally wasn’t a ‘salt and pepper’ film as they say in Hollywood.  It wasn’t about a black dude and a white dude. It also wasn’t so much about one character teaching another character how to be cool as much as much as it was about helping him get through his wedding,” says Packer. “You hired me and I’m going to create you a fake world—that’s the premise. Once the marketing came out then people were like, ‘Look at Kevin Hart!’ ‘Look at the black dude and the chunky white boy.’ That’s when we starting hearing the comparison because it wasn’t even in the DNA of the movie.”

Affion and Will 1

Packer also expressed his concern that audiences will try to put the Ringer in a box and explains how that way of thinking creates problems for him as a producer and for the actors like Crockett seeking to gain more work. Rather than seeing the film as ‘Black’ or ‘White,’ see it as just a ‘film.’

“I have tried as a filmmaker to make good content that just so happens to have African-Americans in it and content that didn’t necessarily have to have all Black people in them. I personally feel that if you look at ‘Think Like a Man’ or ‘Think Like a Man Too’ you can easily make those films with an all-white cast,” says Packer.  “It will be interesting to see how people categorize ‘The Wedding Ringer.’ One of the things I’ve heard some people say, ‘Oh this is Kevin Hart trying to be crossover in this white movie’ and I feel like that way of thinking limits us.  That means if Kevin is in a movie and it’s not all black people then he’s trying to do something that ain’t real or something that shouldn’t be seen or something that’s not him?  Why can’t we have this movie with Kevin, with Affion, with Cory Holcomb in it and it be a movie that wasn’t written with them in mind? Why can’t we make that movie as well?

Packer further explains, “As a producer, I am always working against these labels and the boxes that we’re put in. But the people who can really bust those labels and boxes wide open are the audiences. They’re the ones that can come out of the theaters saying, ‘Man that shit was funny! I don’t care who was in it, I just know if was funny. That was a good movie.’”

“The Wedding Ringer” opens nationwide on this Friday, January 16.

Check out photos below from the premiere as well as the hilarious trailer:

Will and Heather Packer

 Will Packer with fiancée Heather Hayslett

Will, Mayor Reed and Affion

 Will Packer and Affion Crockett with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

Cas, Terri J. Vaughn, Heather Packer and Stacii Jae Johnson

 Ladies Night Out – Heather Hayslett with Cas Sigers-Beedles, Terri J. Vaughn and Stacii Jae Johnson

Affion and Will 2

Will Packer and Affion  Crockett addressing the attendees before the film

Kwanza Hall and Will Packer

After the film Will Packer took pictures with Atlanta influencers including Atlanta City Council’s Kwanza Hall

Affion and Bobby V

Affion Crockett with R&B singer Bobby V

Shanti Das

Will Packer getting a hug of support from hip-hop executive Shanti Das

Jonathan Williams and Affion

Affion Crockett with ComedyHype.com’s Jonathan Williams

Will Greeting ATL Press

Will Packer greeting Atlanta press during post Q&A Dinner

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Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com