(Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Bishop T.D. Jakes has gone further than most men of the cloth have in a lifetime. The author, playwright and movie producer behind Jumping the Broom and the Women Thou Art Loosed is also a producer of the highly anticipated remake of Sparkle, a retelling of the 1976 film. BET.com spoke to Jakes about working with Whitney Houston, the forthcoming Broadway musical version of the movie and just how a bishop becomes a successful Hollywood movie producer.
The late, great Whitney Houston is an executive producer of Sparkle. What was it like working with her?
I had not met her previously; but obviously I knew who she was. When I met her I was really impressed by how down to earth she was. For some reason, I thought she’d be more like the character [Rachel Marron] she portrayed in The Bodyguard, you know, much more of a diva. But she was very, very down to earth, very professional on the set. Was always on time, there was no drama. She did a great, wonderful job of playing the mother of Sparkle. The working experience was great — she was great.
It’s been reported that this version of the film may become a Broadway musical. Where is that process at right now?
We’re exploring it, we haven’t closed the deal yet, but we are definitely looking at it. Wouldn’t it be great for it to be on Broadway? One of the things I love about this new version of Sparkle is some of the new music. You’ve got Cee-Lo Green, Jordin Sparks, it’s just great music taken from a time when people were really singing. Music wasn’t synthesized or computerized. It’s just great music.
So how does a bishop with huge congregation of 35,000 members become a successful Hollywood producer?
I’ve always been a multi-tasker and I got started in films by doing gospel plays. I wrote plays and took them on the road. [Producer and casting director] Reuben Cannon approached me in California about turning my plays into independent films and we explored the possibilities of a permanent relationship. Now I have a first-look deal with Sony, which basically means whatever film I want to do they have the first look at it, the first rights to it.
Coming from the church, what did you find so appealing about entering the theater world?
It gave me the opportunity to have conversations about sociological issues that are not appropriate for the pulpit. You get a chance to reach a much wider audience including those who may not be churchgoers, but who all share the human experience of life. You're also able to contribute theatrically and uplift and encourage all walks of life. It’s really a privilege and honor to get a chance to do it.
Is there any truth to the rumor that there will be a sequel to Jumping the Broom?
It’s not definite, we’re not ready to announce it yet, but it’s certainly not off the table. Jumping the Broom was so beloved by so many people and we get so many requests for a continuation by so many people. It’s something we’re still considering.
Despite the varied journey of the characters, there seems to be a thread throughout all your movies that seems dedicated to presenting Black American life in a positive light.
I get frustrated with films that always relegate us to being poor and ignorant because that’s not the world that I see and that’s not how I see my people. I think the best way to make sure your stories are being told purposefully is to tell them yourself. We are everything: doctors, lawyers, janitors, presidents, taxicab drivers and police officers. I would like to see much broader and classier views of different parts of our community that are under-served in film.
Sparkle arrives in theaters nationwide August 17.
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(Photo: RCA Records)