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Evan Ross on Michael Jackson and His Role on '90210'

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When the original "Beverly Hills 90210" premiered in the fall of 1990, Evan Ross was 2 years old. Today he is 22 and recently joined the cast of the CW network's contemporary spin-off of the iconic show. Ross plays a mysterious playwright named Charlie who finds himself wrapped up in a love triangle, while also trying to mend a strained relationship with his brother. Ross says he learned the dedication it takes to have a successful career from his mother, the legendary Diana Ross. The work he's put into his craft is paying off. His current movie "MOOZ-lum" with Danny Glover is receiving positive reviews and he's about to release his debut album. ESSENCE.com spoke with Ross about everything from "90210" to his relationship with Michael Jackson. ESSENCE.com: How did you get involved with this show? EVAN ROSS: I have friends on the show from Tristan (Wilds) to Shenae (Grimes). This role came up, and I got a call. I hadn't been interested in doing TV really, but I thought it would be fun to work with my friends on the show. I read this character that they were developing, and I felt it was really interesting how he's a playwright, and he had a real kind of interesting arc in the show. I thought it would be fun, so it just ended up happening. ESSENCE.com: What is the biggest difference between acting in movies and acting for television? ROSS: Well, I think it depends on what shows you're doing. It's a lot more strict on remembering your exact lines and how they're written; although this show has been really comfortable and easy-going. I'm only doing a ten-episode arc. The one worry that I always have with TV is that it's such a long commitment. You sign on to be there for a good amount of time, and then you can't go and do films and things like that. ESSENCE.com: How would you describe your "90210" character, Charlie? ROSS: He's very smart. He's an amazing playwright. Most of his work is darker than what most people think he would do because he's so nice, but he has dealt with a lot of problems growing up. His family and abuse, so it's been a hard time for him at a young age. So, a lot of the stuff he writes about is darker. But he is very aware and forgiving. He's a very nice, nice dude. Almost like it's crazy. He's trying to make up with his brother throughout the story because they've had a falling out. His whole reason for being over at the school was really trying to get his brother to forgive him and become friends with him again. ESSENCE.com: Being on this type of show, you are becoming known as a hottie. One fan on a message board wrote, "OMG, I love him. He's so hot and his voice is amazing." Are you prepared for this kind of attention? ROSS: It's crazy. I think the compliments are so nice. To be complimented like that is a beautiful thing. I like that I can be a positive influence in whatever way I can be. ESSENCE.com: Tell us about your upcoming album. ROSS: I'm bringing back a lot of that Motown sound, as well as live instruments. It's still pop, soulful music, but it definitely has some of that old Motown sound. It's going to be good. I'm excited about it. It's actually--finally--just about ready to go. ESSENCE.com: Are there any guests on the album? ROSS: Yeah, but you're going to have to see. I've worked with a ton of people. I've worked with my mom and a bunch of those family people, so we'll see. ESSENCE.com: At least tell us if there is a duet with your mom. ROSS: We're definitely doing that. She's always in the studio with me. ESSENCE.com: One of your inspirations is Michael Jackson. What's your favorite memory of Michael? ROSS: You know Michael -- even in the last few years, the last year and the last months of his life -- we were very close. He was like a brother to me. For me, think the best moments were when he would tell me stories about how my mom used to take him on trips and things like that. It was the only time he really had where he wasn't working on music. He would talk about these vacations and things he had with mom and how amazing they were. He felt she was like his second mom. He always felt like that -- even in the later years. He was somebody who was so caring that he cared more about other people more than himself. I just feel like it's important for people to really know that. ESSENCE.com: Your latest film is "MOOZ-lum." You play Tariq Mahdi, a college freshman who was raised in a strict and devout African-American Muslim household. Why do you feel this movie is so important today? ROSS: What I feel was so great about that movie and part of the reason I got involved was because it was a learning experience for me. I didn't know much about the religion. I felt like the story was so clear. It was just a coming of age story that young people could really understand. They had an opportunity to just realize that we all deal with the same things while trying to find out who we are. I think a lot of times we're not aware that just because it's a different religion, it doesn't make us different. I learned a lot. I went to the mosque. I spent time just trying to get as much information as I could. Although it's not the religion I choose, I can see the beauty in a lot of what they do. I'm glad people will hopefully get to see it. I feel like it's got a good message. ESSENCE.com: In reading about you and listening to you talk, you have such a good head on your shoulders. How do you stay grounded while being in Hollywood? ROSS: Being young is being young, and I feel like there is a lot of pressure to be so good and right and perfect. I feel like that pressure in itself is tough. A lot of the young people out here haven't gone to college and been able to be crazy and enjoy their life. So, I feel like they should have an opportunity to make those mistakes. I feel like I've been very smart in the way that I carry myself and treat myself. I feel like my mom was a big part of that just because she's always let us make our own decisions, and we've known very much about the mistakes and the dangers already of whatever this Hollywood life may be. ESSENCE.com: In August you turned 22. Where do you see yourself by the time you're 30? ROSS: Wow. I really just want to do the best at everything I do. I just want to have all the great people around me that I feel is family, as well as my friends, and I have an amazing girlfriend. I think having love in your life is most important. ESSENCE.com: I'm glad you said girlfriend because there are many reports out there that you're married. ROSS: No, I'm not married, but I'm definitely in love with my girlfriend, Cora Skinner. We have an amazing relationship. We've been together for like two years. We're good. ESSENCE.com: Before we go, what can fans of "90210" expect to see in the upcoming weeks? ROSS: They are going to be seeing a lot more drama between him and his brother. Somehow between all of it him and Annie still stay together through it.
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