ESSENCE.com: So we saw Sparkle last week and it is a really good movie. I want to congratulate you on that. How did you get involved?
T.D. Jakes: I have a personal deal with Sony Pictures and this will be the third film that we would have done under that contract. DeVon Franklin came and told me that he had an opportunity to do a remake of Sparkle, which I think was actually brought to him by Deborah Martin Chase. They wanted me to serve as a producer on it as well. I remember the original one and welcomed an opportunity to be involved in the remake.
ESSENCE.com: You watched the story being made. What were some of your favorite moments of that experience of being on set and working with these amazing artists?
Jakes: It was wonderful being on the set.... It was like stepping back in time because I was probably one of the few people on set who vividly remembers the '70s and the '60s. To see the wardrobe — I had forgotten how amazing the clothes were, and it reminded me of the times and culture and the birthing of the 'fro. It was surreal, actually, to be there and to watch what people were doing in that era and how [the movie] accurately depicts the feelings and the moods and the pulse of the African-American community during that era.
ESSENCE.com: What is it about Sparkle in particular that drew you to it, besides having the memories of seeing it in the '70s?
Jakes: I'm a dreamer; I believe in dreams. I believe in going after your dreams. I believe in fighting for what you believe in, and I love the character Sparkle because she's the underdog. She comes from the background and fights her way to the forefront against adversity. I think that is where many people are or have been in their lives. They've had to fight their way and didn't have support and didn't have the ideal situation. They kept on coming anyway, and I think that is something that we need to be reminded of, particularly now with so many people having to rebuild their lives. I think they will leave the theater saying I have a dream, or saying Maybe I should go back and fight to see that thing materialize. I hope that it is inspirational for them.
ESSENCE.com: It's very inspirational that you made the film in Detroit, considering there's been a lot of bad press about that city.
JAKES: It was a great move. There was a great need there. [Sparkle] affected the economy. It hired people who needed to be hired. It gave jobs to not just the people on the set, but the people who cooked for the set, the people who do makeup on the set, the people who clean up the set, the extras. There are a lot of responsibilities post-editing that create opportunities when a movie comes to town — it goes beyond what you see on the screen.
ESSENCE.com: Let's hope that this will be the beginning of something beautiful for Detroit.
JAKES: Yeah, and what better city when you start talking about Motown and the '70s. I mean, just think if you didn't have Detroit how many great singers that we had in real life that we would not have had. And many of those singers have came out of the era —Anita Baker, Aretha Franklin and many others who came out of Detroit. The Winans and everyone else, they fought their way up. They were Sparkle. They were people who worked their way up from the background to the choir stand, to being major contributors in the overall view of how we see music today. And so to do it in Detroit it was almost déjà vu.
ESSENCE.com: Speaking of great singers, we can't finish this without speaking about Whitney's performance in the film, which was just amazing. What are your memories of her on set?
JAKES: I had never worked with her before, so to get the chance to do so was a great privilege and an honor. We all agreed when her name came up to play the role. We all thought, Could it be possible? We wanted her to play the role. And she delivered on-screen. She was very effective, and I expected her to be the character on The Bodyguard. For some reason that is what I pictured in my mind — but she was very down to earth. Off camera she was very likable, friendly, easy to work with. And not a prima donna, not a diva-type person. Just easy. I was very impressed with that. And she was very professional off-site: on time, in place, reciting lines. She did a job that was encouraging and we thought her performance was so amazing. With the release of Sparkle we had no idea that we would lose her along the way. And perhaps the only sad part of this is that she's not here to enjoy the release of something that I think she would be very proud of.
ESSENCE.com: What comes to you when you see her on screen?
JAKES: You know, a lot of things come to mind. One of the things is the role she played in the film and the subject matter was such a picture of her own life in many regards. Being a seasoned singer, and she plays the role of a mother who has had a singing career and knows the road and she's trying to see her daughters avoid pitfalls. I thought it was amazing to see her sing "His Eye Is on the Sparrow." On the set it didn't even feel like it was a set at all. There was a moment when everybody in the room was mesmerized. She got so into the song that it almost seemed like we weren't filming. It was very powerful and it was her idea to do that song. And she loved that song and she sang it like she loved it. And to watch the final version of Sparkle, especially when she blows the kiss and says goodbye when in fact she's no longer with us, is an emotional moment for all of us.
ESSENCE.com: What message would you have for anyone wanting to go see Sparkle this Friday?
JAKES: Go! Go opening weekend and don't be afraid to go. Don't have a stereotypical idea about the film totally based on the previous one or anything else. Just go and see it because I think it is incredibly uplifting. I think it's entertaining. It's not a chick flick. It's something that I think guys will enjoy as well as women. They should go and check it out and see if there is something in their lives, some talent, some gift, some God-given ability that they had been under-utilizing and use the film as inspiration to fuel their own dreams.