Jordin Sparks Talks “Sparkle”
By: Lynn Barker
Her name is Sparks and she plays a character named Sparkle? Sounds like fate to us.
Jordin looks classy today for our interview in black pants and jacket over white tee. Her black hair is tipped with magenta and to keep it “real”, she’s wearing an Angry Birds Bandaid because she tore the cuticle on her pinky. Owwwwch.
Sparkle cast parties
Jordin (center) with Tika Sumpter and Carmen Ejogo
Sparkle (Irene Cara) and Stix (Phillip Michael Thomas) From the original Sparkle, 1976
Jordin in her red dress with Whitney Houston
The “American Idol” winner told us that right before landing the lead role in this remake of a cult classic musical film, she almost gave up the business. Sometimes, timing is everything. Now, she has gone on to act in another “songless” film, has a new CD coming out and credits late legend Whitney Houston for encouraging her on the Sparkle set.
Jordin’s cute love interest in the film, co-star Derek Luke told us, “I played off her personality. We kept it loose. She always kept me laughing. We bonded on camera and just let the camera pick that up”.
Kidzworld: Jordin, we know you as a singer. What made you transition to acting?
- Jordin: It actually was always something I’d wanted to do. I did drama club in school and community theater and I did a couple of cameos on T.V. but I was just playing myself. It was really when I did Broadway in the fall of 2010 (the musical play “In the Heights”) that I was just bitten by the acting bug. I loved playing this character who was a complete opposite of me. Her name was Nina Rosario and she was Puerto Rican and she went to college at Stanford. I was like “No. I didn’t do that”. So it was very different. I really, really loved it.
Kidzworld: Also, was the timing just right?
- Jordin: 2011 was a crazy year for me. There were huge changes with my label and I had parted ways with my management so I was at this place where I was saying “Is this it? Is this all that’s going to happen?” and then Sparkle kind of fell into my lap and I loved being on set. It was amazing and I’m already filming another movie and I’m so excited about that. When I’m on stage, it’s me singing songs about what matters to me and things I’ve gone through. As an actress, you kind of put yourself aside for a while and become someone else. Me and Sparkle are pretty similar so it was kind of easy being able to do that.
Kidzworld: You wear an amazing, sparkly red formal dress in the movie and on the poster. There are a lot of cool costumes in the movie but was the red dress your fave?
- Jordin: Yes, actually! They were having one made and I tried it on and was like “Ummm, I don’t think this is gonna work for me.” It wasn’t right. This was for the finale of the movie. It’s got to be beautiful. When we started doing our fittings for the custom dresses that were made, there was a designer I had met in the summer, Chagoury Couture and he was looking through his stuff and the red dress was there. I remembered it and was like “I wonder if they’ll send it?” And they sent it over and, thank God, it fit me because they only had one. It worked, all the shimmer and sparkle and it was perfect so I was so excited that it worked.
Kidzworld: Did you keep it?
- Jordin: I did. I’m trying to figure out where to put it because there are people who want to put it in a museum. I’m like “I wanna keep it in my closet!”
Kidzworld: How did you feel when you first found out that you got this lead role? Did you have to compete against a lot of other young ladies?
- Jordin: I did not want to know who else was auditioning for the part. I was like “Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know how many people went out for it. I’m just going to go and try”. I knew that I didn’t have any experience and that not getting the part was a very real possibility. But, I went in thinking “You never know if you don’t try and it’ll be a good thing for the casting director to see me and the director to see me”. I had never done a movie before so the fact that I got the part and all of them collectively believed that I was what they were looking for was one of the biggest compliments ever.
Kidzworld: Where were you when you found out?
- Jordin: When I got the call I was at a rooftop hotel by the pool having a meeting and it was like 4 o’clock in the afternoon. People are laying out and they called me and I screamed so loud I think one of the girls fell off her tanning bed. I was like “Sorry!”. I totally disrupted the peace up there on the pool deck but I was just beside myself. I was like “There’s no way that this is happening right now”.
I was super excited and Whitney hadn’t signed on to play the mother yet (She was just executive producer). I thought I could say hi to her in a hallway or whatever. Then she signed on to play the mom and the pressure just became a hundred pounds heavier. “Okay, I can’t go in here and be horrible. I just can’t!” I knew they had this belief in me. I thought “I’m not sure if I have it but if they do, it’s okay. I’ve got to be here for a reason”. We all became a family immediately and knew it was something really special.
Kidzworld: How familiar were you with the original Sparkle film and are you a big fan of musicals in general?
- Jordin: Oh yeah. Anything that has to do with music, I’m all for. All of the talent-related shows. People are like “So, which one do you like better?” I’m like “I’m just glad that there are multiple ones on so that tons of people can get a chance because that’s where I started”. I’m all for an everyday person just walking in and all of a sudden, just blowing up. I love that.
With the original Sparkle, I’d actually seen it Feb. 2011. I think I’d read it on the internet or someone had told me about it so I watched it and loved it because I love musicals. I had no idea that it even existed. I knew about Grease and things like that but, thinking of the ‘70s, were there a lot of musicals at that time? I was amazed by it. I loved the story and the characters.
When I got the part I watched it one more time because I didn’t want to do too much of what Irene (Cara who played Sparkle in the first film) did but I wanted to pay homage to it as well. I remember most how meek Irene played Sparkle. She’d look down or be silent so that’s something I wanted to instill in Sparkle also. But, there is a lot of me in her as well. I don’t want to say it was easy but to play someone who is fighting for her dreams and goes through obstacles, I went through the same thing.
Kidzworld: Sparkle almost gives up her dream at one point. You had said you had a low point in your own career. When was that?
- Jordin: It was a lot of personal stuff with my family and it was like everything all at once was falling apart and it was almost to the point of “Okay. I don’t want to do this anymore” which a crazy point to get to as a musician to say that you almost don’t want to do it. There has got to be a lot going on.
Kidzworld: What was the “spark” to keep going?
- Jordin: I saw Sparkle as an opportunity to do acting but, at the same time, I didn’t know what was happening with my music. Sparkle being a musical I was like “Oh, it gives me the opportunity to do new music and give new music to my fans as well as trying something different” and I was so excited and with everything that came after that, things started getting better. I was rekindling and rebuilding relationships. It was the start of climbing back up again.
Kidzworld: Music-wise, has doing this film rekindled your love of it and are you going to do a new album?
- Jordin: I am, in the midst of everything. Good night! I’m doing the press for this and then the new movie and I am working on a new record. Sparkle gave me the opportunity to experiment with a genre of music that my fans haven’t seen before, more R&B, more gospel. I’d always wanted to do that, I just didn’t have the opportunity to make that transition and have it be smooth. If I’d just done it and put it out, people would have been like “This doesn’t sound like her”. Sparkle opens the door for me and my fans to be more accepting of it because (after the film), the new music will come out and they’ll say “Oh, that makes sense”. What I’m going for is light R&B, early Mariah, early Whitney. I grew up listening to that and that’s something I wanted to do.
Kidzworld: So does the new movie have a name?
- Jordin: It’s called The Inevitable Defeat of Mr. and Pete and there is no music in it at all. Alicia Keys is one of the producers, Jennifer Hudson is in the film as well, Anthony Mackie, Jeffrey Wright which is crazy because he’s Carmen (Ejogo’s) husband (Carmen plays Sparkle’s hot older sis in the movie). It’s funny how things work out. I play an Afro-Latina from the Bronx. It’s gonna be cool to play something so different from me and I don’t sing. I just get to be another character.
Read Jordin’s special comments about working with Whitney Houston in our upcoming article “Sparkle” Cast Remembers Whitney”.
Sparkle Movie Trailer