Boy was I excited to have the opportunity to do an EXCLUSIVE Q & A with Jordin Sparks (“Sparkle Williams”), Tika Sumpter (“Delores Williams”), Carmen Ejogo (“Sister Williams”), Mike Epps (“Satin Struthers”), Derek Luke (“Stix”) and Omari Hardwick (“Levi”) to discuss their utterly fabulous movie release SPARKLE – Executive Produced and starring non other than Whitney Houston in her last ever movie project.
What drew you to your various roles in Sparkle?
TS: When [the script] was presented to me to audition for “D,” I loved her strength, I loved the power that she had and the indignation - she’s gonna do what she really wants to do and she’s gonna do what she thinks is right – and her know-it-all-mentality. But, at the end of the day, it was more about the family and the sisters. I couldn’t believe Whitney Houston was playing our mother. Then I looked up these lovely ladies, Miss Jordin Sparks and Carmen Ejogo. I saw [Carmen’s] work as well and I was like, wow, whoever does get this role, it’s huge for them.
JS: For me, I was super drawn to it because a lot of “Sparkle’s” story is in my own story. I was so excited that I even had the opportunity to audition for this role. Just hearing about the history of it and how long it had taken, I actually didn’t want to know who else had auditioned for the part because I was so nervous already. But I had such a blast and I was completely beside myself when I got that phone call and they said that I got the part. I screamed so loud and I can’t scream, so that’s something.
CE: I was drawn to the irony of the character. The thing that seems to be most seductive about her is what destroys her. That was such a pleasure to play: somebody that can go from being super-glamorous and sexy and really alluring to totally down and out and self-destructive and ruined by her own ambition. That’s a role of a lifetime.
What Was Your Initial Reaction When You Learned You Would Be Working With Whitney Houston?
TS: I dropped to the floor and cried.
JS: I’m pretty sure all of us fell out a little bit. I knew she was executive producing so I knew I would be able to be like [waves], “Hey” in the hallway. But for her to be standing or sitting as far as you are right now or sitting this close blew my mind. I was like, “What am I going to do? Jordin, don’t make a fool of yourself. Don’t make a fool of yourself. Just don’t do it.” But it was so fun and she made it so comfortable and easy for us to just have that bond. She loved us and we loved her and that was really genuine.
What Was Your Favorite Song To Perform in the Movie?
CE: “Jump.” I love “Jump.”
TS: “Jump” was fun. That whole sequence was so fun. I loved it.
JS: It was such a blast. I loved being able to do that. I loved doing “One Wing,” as well. That song, for me, personally and stylistically, was something I had never tried before in my own voice and then with how well it fits so well to the movie. [Points to Carmen] She says, “Sister can’t fly with only one wing” and Sparkle takes that and writes a song about that and the song is so inspiring and had so much emotion I loved being able to perform that.
Had You Seen The Original Sparkle From 1976 Before You Filmed This?
CE: I didn’t want to see it because I felt like the original was this wonderful, iconic movie that inspired people like Whitney. She was a thirteen-year-old girl going to the movies every Saturday to see that film and it stands alone and it has its place. We were trying to do something that was inspired by that and that honors that but is something that is very different. So I didn’t want to be influenced. Lonette McKee [“Sister” in the original] gave a great performance in that one. We get a chance to bring this story to life in a modern age with new dynamics, new storylines, new ideas, new characters, and real depth to the characters in the way that maybe wasn’t there in the original. It’s a whole other thing.
Have You Seen Any Part Of The 1976 Version? What Is Your Favorite Song From The Original That Made It Into This Film?
TS: I saw pieces of it because I YouTube-ed it once I got the part to see what they did and what I had to do and what I kind of had to live up to. I remember, “Jump,” but the lovely thing about that original scene is that the camera’s kind of shaky and the lip-syncing’s kind of off.
JS: It’s dark.
CE: There’s room for improvement. Clearly.
TS: But I love how unpolished it was. We kind of brought that to our performances, although the camera’s not shaking or anything. It’s kind of an unpolished, organic moment.
CE: It feels like sisters really trying…
TS: To make it happen!
DL: What do you love about the original? What don’t you love? It’s laced with truth, romance and it was raw. It was a cult classic for our parents so we’re sort of reliving it in our generation.
What Was It Like Shooting This Film In Detroit?
JS: I had toured in Michigan before but I’d only been to Auburn Hills so going to Detroit was new for me. But I remember driving in the day I got there and seeing the city. It’s definitely had better days but you could still feel the energy there. I could see Diana Ross getting out of a limo with a fur and her fabulous self just walking around. I could picture Stevie Wonder walking down to a corner store. It has that feeling and I think that really helped while we were shooting there to get us in the mindset of being in that place and that era. But it was a lot of fun. It was also freezing cold. We’d be shooting at night and it was freezing. We couldn’t have certain lights on. We’re standing there singing [fake shivering], “Giving him something he can feel…” It was freezing! But it was a lot of fun. We had a blast.
ME: Rainy. Some good days. But you know how the Midwest can be dreary. It really, really matched the continuity of the movie. The emotion of the movie, too.
OH: We can’t picture it being any other place so shout-outs to Detroit. They really welcomed us.
What drew you to your various roles in Sparkle?
ME: It was a much different role than I’ve ever played in that he was a comedian - that’s what I do - and I felt like I could put a spin on it and bring a totally different approach to a comedian actor in a movie.
DL: Sparkle is a theme throughout my parents’ lives. The same way [“Stix” and “Sparkle”] met in the movie is the same way my parents met at church and they followed that by making an album together with her sisters. I just felt like I was reliving their paths. That’s what drew me to Sparkle, mostly.
OH: The period. I love the old period. A lot of us have old souls in us so I definitely feel like, in yester year, we lived in that era in a former life. Plus the writing was really just impeccable and the cast they put together.
What Was Your Favorite Scene That You Shot With Whitney Houston?
ME: When me and her were sitting at the table was my best scene with her. I didn’t have any more spots with her.
DL: My favorite scene with Whitney was watching her and my favorite moment was behind the scenes because that’s where you got to see a legend down to earth, just being human, being a mom, a friend, an aunt and all that good stuff.
Tell Us About Your Scenes With Your Love Interests In The Film.
ME: I ain’t ever been mister romantic so I was trying to work my Dos Equis man the best way I can.
OH: Well put.
Thanks to our friends at Universal Sony – you can score yourself copies of SPARKLE on DVD and BLURAY – but hurry – the comp closes Feb 14 2013.