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'Sparkle' Producer Bishop T.D. Jakes Talks Whitney Houston's Last Performance

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BISHOP TD JAKES SPARKLE
AP

In addition to leading a more than 30,000-member church in Dallas and penning New York Times best-selling books, Bishop T.D. Jakes is also engraving his name in tinsel town with his production company, TDJ Enterprises. With four films under his belt, including "Jumping The Broom" and "Winnie," the influential leader is currently celebrating the much-anticipated release of his fifth project, "Sparkle."

During a recent interview with The Huffington Post, we caught up with the one-time Time magazine “America’s Best Preacher" honoree. Jakes opened up on working alongside Whitney Houston, what sets him apart from Spike Lee and Tyler Perry, and when fans can expect him to make his directorial debut.

What was it about the original "Sparkle" that inspired you to want to produce a remake?

TD Jakes Films is very careful to only do movies that have a message, and I think this movie has a very powerful message of redemption. I think it has a very powerful message of believing in dreams, even when you face the impossible obstacles. And it’s kind of a heart-warming story about a girl who against all odds achieved her dreams. And I think this is a time where we need to see that on screen, and we need to have that feeling and believe in ourselves enough to get back up again to overcome the challenges that have surrounded us over the last few years.

How was your experience working on the set with Whitney Houston?

Whitney was very professional, she was very punctual, she was very congenial. I think the thing that struck me the most -- 'cause I didn’t know her previously, I only met her on the set -– I think I was looking for her to be the woman from the movie “The Bodyguard.” But she was very down-to-earth and just very regular. At least with me, she didn’t display those diva like qualities that you might run into -- “I got to have white roses in my room…don’t bring in a blue vase, I want a red vase" -- none of that kind of stuff. [Laughs] She was somebody that you would sit down and eat a hamburger with, just really regular.

Following her unforeseen death in February, you stated in an interview that the film would have reignited her film career. What was it about her performance that led you to that conclusion?

I think she did an incredible job. I think it would’ve caught the attention of Hollywood and the imagination of other producers and directors. It would have been a strong plus for her. As it turned out, in her unfortunate demise, other feelings within the Sony Films industry as well as TD Jakes films, we feel like we’re stewards of her legacy in as much as we have the last cinematic production that she ever did. And I will say that it’s even more touching knowing what happened to her when you see her in the film. There are some moments in the film that’s almost eerie to see her perform. It touches your heart.

"Sparkle" is the fifth film that you’ve produced. Are you feeling more confident in presenting motion pictures?

I don’t know if I’m more confident. I think I’m learning something every time, every day. And that’s great for me, because I’m a lifelong student. To have the chance to work with so many gifted people -- you learn just from sitting around eating a granola bar; I’ll pick up some things about the industry that I didn’t know. And that learning experience is a wonderful thing.

How would you view your business model in comparison to other directors, such as Tyler Perry and Spike Lee?

I think that there are some likenesses and differences. I have a huge following of people who follow me for completely different reasons. And I know how to access my fan base. I think that I bring to the table a various connections and relationships that span the sphere of my influence. Tyler and Spike Lee have a huge name and big following as well. But it’s their day job, and for me, this is my night job. So there’s different dynamics there, both pro and con in my situation. But because I do something else, I bring to the theater people who normally don’t go to the theater. And I think that’s an interesting dynamic because I appeal to a different demographic of people.

Moving forward, would you ever consider directing a full-length feature film?

I’m certainly not ready yet. I don’t like to do things that I’ll fail at. [Laughs] I kind of like being on the business end of it. I’m learning a lot sitting beside the director viewing what he thinks and what he does. Bill Duke use to tell me that he thought that I would make a great director because I had a good eye for scenes and situations, but I’m still at the apprenticeship level. I’m not ready to direct a film. If I feel like I could bring the kind of creative impact that is necessary to direct, I’m not afraid of new challenges. That’s what gets me out of the bed in the morning.

"Sparkle" hits theaters nationwide Friday.

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