We catch up with Taimak Guarriello who talks about "The Last Dragon," Vanity and Janet Jackson.
The first glimpse of the Colgate smile and Adonis physique of Taimak as Bruce Leroy Green in "The Last Dragon" caused an epidemic of lovesickness among young impressionable girls and grown-behind women alike that has spanned for nearly 30 years. Throughout the years, Taimak (pronounced tie-mok) has been pretty low key, starring in off-Broadway plays, teaching martial arts and traveling the world. As he gears up to share his story on TV One's "Life After," ESSENCE.com caught up with the heartthrob to talk about the role that changed his life, surviving dark moments, and what really happened between him and his former leading ladies Vanity and Janet Jackson.
ESSENCE.COM: Taimak "Will you show me some moves?" Guarriello, where the heck have you been?
TAIMAK:(Laughs.) I've been embracing everything that's good and bad. Doing theatre, teaching, and growing as a human being.
ESSENCE.COM: Why haven't we seen much of you on the big screen since that film?
TAIMAK: Hollywood just wasn't giving me a break. I used to ask myself, "What energy am I putting out that might be preventing me from getting work?", I know I'm not perfect by any margin, but I do think I'm talented and can contribute as an actor.I even thought, do I have to be dark-skinned, play basketball, football, rap talk "Black"?Back in the day I believe that Black men were more worldly and open to different things other then just that. It was okay for them to have many different perspectives and interest; I think "Hollywood" was looking for one kind of brother. It's a kind of club, and until you know how to play the game you're not going to be let in. So I decided I wasn't going to pursue Hollywood anymore and that's when I began to enjoy acting and life in general.
ESSENCE.COM: So what did you discover since that happened?
TAIMAK: I've been in conversation with Kerry Gordy, Berry Gordy's son, about the Sony Pictures remake of "The Last Dragon" and my role in it, Samuel L. Jackson is signed to play Sho'nuff. This time around they didn't include so much comedy, and they're still looking for a director and Bruce Leroy and more. Although I can't speak on my role, it will be something completely different, but they've been really great about consulting with me and asking for my input.
ESSENCE.COM: While you were many women's object of desire your leading lady Vanity had a legion of male fans. Were you one of them?
TAIMAK: (Laughs) Of course! Who didn't love Vanity? I was 19; my boys were like, "You're the man." In fact, I picked Vanity. During the callbacks for her role there were several women there and Berry Gordy pulled me aside in a room and asked me which one would I want to play the role, and I was like, "I pick that one!"
ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs.) After the success and popularity of "The Last Dragon" was it difficult to remain grounded?
TAIMAK: Well, I was pretty popular in high school and had a following, but nothing was like being a movie star. I was naive to the immensity of it and it was pretty overwhelming. Thankfully, I am a martial artist so I had the strength to work through the ups and downs. Over the years so many people have told me they loved the film, including Stevie Wonder, and I'm not certain how he saw it, but he said he did and liked it (laughs.) Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey have also showed me love. Wesley Snipes even attended one of my fights before he became an actor.
ESSENCE.COM: You've inspired many. Back in the day you shared some serious chemistry with Janet Jackson in her video "Let's Wait Awhile." Are you two still in touch?
TAIMAK: No, she was great to work with and a sweet person. Honestly, she had a boyfriend who was on the set every day and two inches away from the camera every moment and I had a girlfriend. It was one of those things that I would never try to step on someone else's territory.
ESSENCE.COM: That's why you achieved "The Glow" because you're a good man. How are you pursuing your dreams nowadays?
TAIMAK: Everything I wanted was right in my heart; it was this dream program I started. I'm not attached to Hollywood and I am happy contributing my self to people to share everything I've learned. There are two traps in life that are in the context of sex, money, and power. Most everyone in it. I don't care if it's a preacher or a school teacher because we become like fish in the bowl and sex, money and power is the water. The traps are, I don't have enough, I need not want more and that tomorrow exists. Tomorrow doesn't exist, life unfolds moment to moment. It's simply a trick so we think we can get or achieve more later. Because of the belief in tomorrow, we are not living in the moment and many of our youth are not in the present of their greatness but looking to move ahead tomorrow. At the end of the day nothing compares to real power which is eternal and has nothing to do with the bling-bling. It's why young people and the world have so many problems and I want to help teach young person how to reclaim their power.