If one of your friends was Prince, your brother was Terry Lewis, and the leader of one of the bands you'd been in was Morris Day, could you stand out and be noticed?
Well, if your name is Jerome Benton, then you would. That is exactly what Benton has been doing since he started his career; he has been a star that shines brightly no matter who he is standing next to.
While he remains pretty low-key, he took time out to speak with BET.com about his upcoming screening of the movie Under the Cherry Moon in which he starred alongside Prince as his best friend/brother Tricky.
Although on the surface, the film presents as an ill-fated love story, looking, you will notice that it is genuinely built on the friendship, loyalty, and love between the two main characters, Christopher Tracy (Prince) and Tricky. Which seems to reflect the love and respect the duo had for each other off-camera. "Prince came up with the idea, and he captured the essence of what we were developing as friends," said Benton. "It was a fun time, exposing me to the finer things in life."
BET.com: Under the Cherry Moon came out in 1986; what made you decide on doing a screening on September 30?
Jerome Benton: My daughter Jeli, an up-and-coming DJ and a good one, had been traveling internationally and doing her gigs. She had a group of friends approach her and ask if she would reach out to me and ask me to be part of a screening. I reluctantly said yes. But the closer it gets, the more special it becomes for me.
BET.com: Since Prince's passing in 2016, have you viewed the movie, or will this be the first time you'll watch the film since then?
Jerome Benton: I’ve spot-watched it. (laughts).
BET.com: The movie has so many great one-liners; what's your favorite part?
Jerome Benton: It's interesting because a lot of the stuff around that time launched me into my position of starting to write my own projects, my scripts, and screenplays from the banter that Prince and I had. The tour buses together. The private jets, the commercial flights, being on planes for hours, mixing it up.
Prince was logging it. And then when I would read the script, I would be like, 'wait, we just did this at the Moulin Rouge.' So when you ask, what's my favorite part? It’s all of it. It's all part of us. It's all part of me and what I had developed to that point.
BET.com: While you were a member of The Time with Morris Day, you were also in another group Prince put together called The Family. The music was cutting-edge and experimental. Many people may not know that the group sang "Nothing Compares 2 U" before Sinead O'Connor.
Jerome Benton: There are a number of different stories out there about who the song was written about and how it was written. But I remember I had just broken up with a female, and I was with Prince, just living life. There were yachts and drivers!
He identified that I was kind of in a vulnerable place. And we went into the studio, and he kept singing Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh (which turned out to be a line repeated in the original version of the song by The Family). He was messing with me, and the next thing I knew, he had done the demo for “Nothing Compares 2 U.” He and Paul (former lead singer of The Family) went into the studio and came out with the song.
BET.com: I recently saw an interview with Morris Day, and he said he was getting ready to hang up his Stacy Adams, and I'm assuming he's talking about retiring. Do you have any thoughts of retiring?
Jerome Benton: Before Prince passed, he said you and Morris need to be together. There's a lot of stuff for you guys to do. You guys will be very successful. And that was my note that it is not time to retire. I'm going to keep pushing forward and creating things with the inclusion of Mr. Day and everybody else that worked under his realm. In my creative space, I believe Prince visits me and gives me the wherewithal to create. He reassures me that I'm doing the right thing with what we've created. No, it ain't time to retire.
BET.com: So for those who want to own some of your merch, can they get it on iamjeromebenton.com?
Jerome Benton: Ha, Ha…just like that.
The screening of Under the Cherry Moon will take place on September 30, 2023 and be hosted by Jerome Benton with an after party of Dj Sets w/ Dj Jeli and Dj C-Minus and special guests.