Nov28

One on One: Denzel Washington

denzel washington

One On One: Denzel Washington

We can never get enough of Denzel Washington. This month, the two-time Academy Award winning actor for his role in Glory and Training Day stars as a pilot who miraculously lands a malfunctioning plane in the mysterious thriller Flight—now in theaters—shares his thoughts on making the film and how he chooses scripts.

flightQ: Since Flight is so unique and different from everything else that is out there, is there something specific that drew you to the script?

A: If it ain’t on the page it ain’t on the stage. I read tons of scripts and it’s very rare to read one that you feel like you read in 14 minutes because you’re turning the page so fast you can’t wait to see what’s going to happen. This was one of those scripts and I had to have it. I had to be a part of it. It was a process for us once I got involved. But it was all on the page—the guts, the pain, the tears were on the page.

Q: We all know people whose lives have been destroyed by addiction—was the attraction to the script personal?

A: It was just the material of the script. I just said, “Wow this is good”. The last two scripts my agent—the late (legendary) Ed Limato gave me were Safe House and Flight. That was part of it too, just the promise I made to him. But I don’t try to wave around any kind of flag. I don’t try to decide what people should get from it or why, I don’t do a part for those kinds of people.

Q: You had to go places in this movie that I’m certain were uncomfortable for you, what helped you get through those really tough places in the movie and bring it the way you brought it?

A: Tough spots for me are pictures I don’t want to be on. It’s when I ask, “How many days have we been shooting?” “Three.” How many more do we have to go? “117.” That’s a tough movie for me. This was an adventure. Starting with the screenplay, collaboration with the filmmaker, getting the chance to fly around in flight simulators, hanging upside down in a plane, playing a drunk… I’m not going to say it was easy. I don’t know maybe a painful scene is the scene when I go to my ex wife’s house and get into this wrestling match with my son—I’ve gotten into wrestling matches with my son, not quite the same circumstance but this role brought that out.

Q: What inspires you to get up everyday and continue to do the work that you do?

W: Acting to me is making a living; it's not my life, my children and my family that's the miracle of life.

Nov28

One on One: Tika Sumpter

tika sumpter

Tika Sumpter

With major roles on hit TV shows One Life to Live, Gossip Girl and The Game, and such box office hits as Think Like a Man and Sparkle, Tika Sumpter is fast becoming a breakout star.

Q: How much of yourself did you put into Dee, your character in Sparkle?

A: I wanted to make sure Dee was assertive and that’s me in real life. I wouldn’t argue to the extent that they do in their sisterly relationship. I do have sisters and I’m the middle child, so I protect, that’s my nature but I’m not as aggressive as Dee. 

Q: When did you know you wanted to be an entertainer? How did you start?

A: I knew I wanted to be an actor from when I saw the Cosby Show. I told my family, “I want to be Rudy.” And my sister said, “Well, why couldn’t you be Rudy?” 

In high school I started going to these ridiculous cattle calls by myself. At like 17 years old I was on the Long Island railroads to Manhattan being rejected and not knowing at all how I’m supposed to look. I knew I wanted to do this no matter what but I had no idea how I would get into the industry with no connections. Then I started doing commercials. My first contract role was One Life To Live, which was a big deal to me. Having a job for four years and getting paid to play every day was a great experience. I mean a lot of people who started on soap operas are huge stars now. You learn so much by doing a whole script in a day. 

Q: Sharing a scene with Whitney Houston must have been daunting. How was the experience? 

A: I loved working with her because of her spirit. When I heard I was going to play one of her daughters, it was a big deal for me and to be sitting across from her at the table read or sitting next to her on set was surreal. Like, is this really happening? And she made me feel at ease all the time. Her spirit was just so joyful and loving. She was happy to be there. She is obviously a fighter and anything that I could learn from her I would just listen with every piece of my existence.

Q: Are you a singer?

A: My mom was an opera singer and she trained my sisters and I so I grew up in a house full of singers and I’ve always done it. Sparkle was just an opportunity where it presented itself. I was singing before I was acting just that acting took off first. But I’m never surprised when an actor wants to sing or when a singer wants to act because that’s just what we do we’re creative people. 

Nov28

One on One: Jordin Sparks

jordin sparksJordin Sparks

The youngest winner of American Idol, Jordin Sparks is also the most successful with over 1.3 million albums sold, a fragrance line, a Broadway run and her starring role in the remake of the film Sparkle. This month, the daughter of former NFL cornerback,  HYPERLINK "http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4087235/" Phillippi Sparks, talks Whitney, Simon Cowell and more.

Q: How did you stay grounded after Idol?

A: I’m still hanging on. I still feel like “Whoa, what is happening?” But it’s been a slow and steady rise. I would have to attribute it to my mom and my family. On my dad’s side, I’m the oldest of 23 grand kids. I’ll be 23 in December and then it goes down one year from there. And even before “Idol” they were watching my every move.

I didn’t know that my life could change so dramatically—again. Professionally, I didn’t think there could be something bigger for me than American Idol because it completely changed my life. But movies and acting is a different animal. I’m just buckling up my seatbelt and raising up my hands. I’m ready for the ride.

Q: Who was scarier, Whitney or Simon Cowell?

A: It’s funny—Simon is very blunt and says whatever is on his mind. I don’t think he has a filter, which is okay because he’s saying what a lot of people are thinking. Whitney had the same thing—she would definitely tell you what she was thinking, but it was more sarcastic and witty so it actually came out really humorous. But when she needed to turn it on, she would go from laughing and talking to ‘’Action”. “You ain’t getting no deal”. I was sad because I had to react to it but at the same time I was like “Oh, Whitney Houston is yelling at me. This is the most amazing thing ever.” It was fun to be a sponge and soak up those moments.

Q: You have judges, stylists and all of America telling you how you should be doing your career, how did you find your own voice?

A: It has to do with things that you go through and experiences you have with people. At 17, I believed everyone was happy for me and that everybody wanted to help. Then I realized that it’s not that way. Some people aren’t so nice and there are people who don’t want to see you succeed and who will pretend to be happy for you. And then being around people who say they are working on things for me and then drop the ball has made me a super detailed-oriented person. I have to know everything that’s happening. 

Q: What have been the challenges after Idol?

A: 2011 was a pretty slow year I had just parted ways with my management, my label was hastling me because I hadn’t put music since 2009. And after I finished touring with New Kids On The Block I was sitting there asking, “Is this it?” It just seemed like everything was falling apart and nothing great was happening. And then Sparkle fell into my lap.

Nov28

One on One

tamia hillSinging has always been the passion of R&B singer Tamia who is back with a new CD, “Beautiful Surprise”, after a five-year hiatus. The mother of two and wife of NBA all-star forward, Grant Hill, spoke with us recently about family, MS, and her new CD.

Q: What’s the motivation for “Beautiful Surprise” and why now?
A: It has been a while. I had my daughter Lael as I was coming out with my “Between Friends” album and I look up and she’s four. When I do projects I approach them organically. I don’t go in saying “I want to make this album about this”. I just record a bunch of songs and see what I come out with. It’s my fifth project my second independent and it’s a great body of work.

Q: You were diagnosed with M.S. in 2003 How did things change for you?
A: It was a wakeup call for me that there’s more to life than the music business. But I’m in a good place. I’m in what they call relapsing/remitting, which is a state of remission. I took the opportunity to really take a step back and listen to my body and to try to eliminate as much stress as possible. It’s about education and being in charge of our health and wellness. Obviously the more connected you are—body, mind, and soul—the better you’ll be. So when people say, “Where were you?” Well, I was trying to get myself right, not only for the music, but, more importantly for my family. I wouldn’t go back on the road or expose myself to the crazy music business until I was mentally and physically strong enough.

Q: What have been the challenges in terms of getting back on track?
A: When you’re 17 and get a record deal, they give you a calendar. The best thing I did was to start my own label, so I was able to take control of my career and my life. Being the boss enabled me to do that, but it’s still a lot of pressure. I control the budget now—and sometimes I wish I were still the artist, so when I’m on stage I don’t have to worry about how many people have to come through the door for me to make a profit. I’m also glad I do know that, so it’s  definitely more empowering and motivating.

Q: What are the expectations now as opposed to when you were 17?
A: I’m much more confident as an artist and as a woman. I’m 37 now and I’m more comfortable in my own skin. Now, I want to win a Tony, an Oscar and a Grammy. There’s always a level to go in the entertainment business. I want to tour and maybe get new artists for my company. I’m certainly grateful to still be in this business after 15 years. I’ve seen a lot of great artists come and go. It’s just the way the business is.

Q: What role does faith play in your life?
A: Faith, to me, is believing everything has a purpose. That everything you’re doing is for a reason and having courage when facing the adversity in order to get to the other side.

Nov28

One on One: Tamia Hill

tamia hillSinging has always been the passion of R&B singer Tamia who is back with a new CD, “Beautiful Surprise”, after a five-year hiatus. The mother of two and wife of NBA all-star forward, Grant Hill, spoke with us recently about family, MS, and her new CD.

Q: What’s the motivation for “Beautiful Surprise” and why now?
A: It has been a while. I had my daughter Lael as I was coming out with my “Between Friends” album and I look up and she’s four. When I do projects I approach them organically. I don’t go in saying “I want to make this album about this”. I just record a bunch of songs and see what I come out with. It’s my fifth project my second independent and it’s a great body of work.

Q: You were diagnosed with M.S. in 2003 How did things change for you?
A: It was a wakeup call for me that there’s more to life than the music business. But I’m in a good place. I’m in what they call relapsing/remitting, which is a state of remission. I took the opportunity to really take a step back and listen to my body and to try to eliminate as much stress as possible. It’s about education and being in charge of our health and wellness. Obviously the more connected you are—body, mind, and soul—the better you’ll be. So when people say, “Where were you?” Well, I was trying to get myself right, not only for the music, but, more importantly for my family. I wouldn’t go back on the road or expose myself to the crazy music business until I was mentally and physically strong enough.

Q: What have been the challenges in terms of getting back on track?
A: When you’re 17 and get a record deal, they give you a calendar. The best thing I did was to start my own label, so I was able to take control of my career and my life. Being the boss enabled me to do that, but it’s still a lot of pressure. I control the budget now—and sometimes I wish I were still the artist, so when I’m on stage I don’t have to worry about how many people have to come through the door for me to make a profit. I’m also glad I do know that, so it’s  definitely more empowering and motivating.

Q: What are the expectations now as opposed to when you were 17?
A: I’m much more confident as an artist and as a woman. I’m 37 now and I’m more comfortable in my own skin. Now, I want to win a Tony, an Oscar and a Grammy. There’s always a level to go in the entertainment business. I want to tour and maybe get new artists for my company. I’m certainly grateful to still be in this business after 15 years. I’ve seen a lot of great artists come and go. It’s just the way the business is.

Q: What role does faith play in your life?
A: Faith, to me, is believing everything has a purpose. That everything you’re doing is for a reason and having courage when facing the adversity in order to get to the other side.

First Ladies High Tea
November will mark the 20th Anniversary of our Annual First Ladies High Tea, honoring the contributions of female leaders and women of faith to the Los Angeles community. For more information, visit www.firstladieshightea.com
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