Terrence J: "The Bodyguard Changed My Definition of Love"

The actor talks Whitney, Sparkle and his big year.

Posted: 08/08/2012 09:00 AM EDT
Terrence J

As far as Hollywood is concerned, Terrence J is on the verge of blowing up. But for those of us who know him best, his recent success comes as no surprise. Eight years ago, the Queens-bred actor bet on himself when he used his life savings to travel to an audition for 106 & Park. Now, he's doubling down by attempting the cutthroat transition from VJ to movie star. The star of Think Like a Man and Sparkle opens up about his big transitional year.

This has been an unbelievable year for you. What's it like inside your head these days?
It's about taking everything one day at a time. I'm just starting to get the roles and be in the situation i wanted to be in ten years ago. I'm enjoying it, but I'm also really hungry and ready to work. I'm at a transitional point right now.

You've worked with a lot of ensemble casts, in Think Like a Man, Sparkle and the upcoming Battle of the Year. Are you cool with sharing the spotlight with so many other actors time and again?
Working in an ensemble cast, especially early in your career, is the best route. Every time I step on set, I'm surrounded by fantastic people who I can learn from. Especially Sparkle, it was like being a kid in a candy store. I had one of my favorite directors, Salim Akil, actors like Derek Luke whom I've admired for years…I would steal little tidbits from them whenever I could.

Did you look up to any of your co-stars in particular?
Yeah, Derek Luke, especially. He's a young guy, but he has so much experience and is such a phenomenal actor. He showed me a lot of things about technique. He was a really nice guy and really open about sharing things.

Working with the late, great Whitney Houston must have been a big experience. Can you describe what that was like?

Being in her presence is amazing. She is an icon. I grew up in an interracial household, my dad is white and my mom is Black. Watching The Bodyguard changed my definition of love. I saw my parents in that. So when I saw her on set, I was blown away.

It's a tragedy she didn't live to see this film.

Yeah, but you want to be remembered by your work. If I were to die tomorrow, I would be grateful the last thing people saw me in was Think Like a Man and Sparkle. I'm proud of that. And I hope she would be proud of this movie.

The success of Think Like a Man will hopefully open the door for more Black-centric films in Hollywood. Have you noticed any tangible difference since that came out?
I pray that people go out to the box office and support Sparkle like they did Think Like a Man. We did it once, and it we can do it again it will really open up some major doors for Black cinema and create more opportunities for people that look like us.

How about for you personally? Is it easier to get your calls returned these days?
Just because you have a hit movie, doesn't mean the floodgates are open. I still have to audition, I still have to work hard. I feel more pressure now than before Think Like a Man, because I feel people are going to wonder, "Okay, what are you gonna do next?"

You had the opportunity to work with two of the biggest female artists of their respective generations, Cher and Christina Aguilera, in Burlesque. So, who was the bigger diva?
[Laughs] Oh man, what's your definition of diva, because I don't want this to come back to bite me! You're catching me off guard with this one. I'll say this: both of them are phenomenal women, both are extremely talented. I spent more time with Cher, I got to know her pretty well, but I have to say I have the fondest respect for both of those women.



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