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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A native of Los Angeles, this USC film school graduate blazed onto the Hollywood scene in 1991 with his debut film "Boyz N the Hood," which starred Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube and Nia Long. At age 23, he was nominated for an Academy Award for best screenplay and was the youngest person ever nominated for best director, the only African American to be nominated for the award. Since then, he has directed many films, from "Poetic Justice" and "Higher Learning" to blockbusters such as "2 Fast 2 Furious" and "Four Brothers." Future projects include "Tulia" and the long-awaited "Luke Cage."
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Filmmaker Tyler Perry has had an indelible impact on the film business this decade. Bringing his theatrical character Madea Simmons to the big screen has proven very successful at the box office. From "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" to "Madea's Family Reunion" and "Why Did I Get Married?," which featured the return of Janet Jackson to the big screen, Perry's films have grossed close to $500 million in five years.
A trailblazer in the industry, the California native has nearly 20 years in the business as an award-winning producer and studio executive in television, music and film. Shortly after graduating from Stanford University with a degree in psychobiology, Edmonds made her formal entry into the entertainment business in 1993 with the creation of Edmonds Entertainment Group, a partnership with her then-husband, music producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. Edmonds Entertainment produced the critically acclaimed film "Soul Food," which earned five NAACP Image Awards and inspired the TV series of the same name. Other movie projects helmed by Edmonds: "Light It Up," "Josie & The Pussycats" and "Who's Your Caddy."
George Tillman Jr.
Notable for directing the films "Soul Food" (1997) and "Men of Honor" (2000), Tillman has produced several movies and TV series, including "Soul Food: The Series" for Showtime Network and the three films of the "Barbershop" franchise. Most recently, the Milwaukee native directed the 2009 biopic "Notorious" about New York rapper Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace.
Primarily known as a comedian, this Chicago native established himself when he wrote, directed, produced and starred in the comedy "Hollywood Shuffle," his 1987 film about struggling black actors. He also created and produced the CableACE award-winning "Robert Townsend and His Partners in Crime" for HBO. His best film to date is the 1991 musical "The Five Heartbeats." Townsend directed the documentary "Why We Laugh," a story on black comedians and their impact in America.
Rainforest Films co-founder and chairman Will Packer has been heralded as one of the "10 Producers To Watch" over the years and is notable for producing the urban drama "Trois. The film went on to gross $1.2 million at the box office, making it the fastest million-dollar grossing film distributed by African Americans. Packer's hit movies include "Stomp The Yard," starring Chris Brown; "Obsessed," starring Beyonce Knowles; and "Takers," starring Idris Elba, Paul Walker and T.I.
A graduate of Brown and New York universities, this San Francisco filmmaker made her film debut with the 2003 award-winning short film "D.E.B.S.," the story of a teenage lesbian relationship. The film was subsequently green-lighted to full-length feature and released in 2005, along with her second film, "Herbie Fully Loaded," which starred Lindsay Lohan. Robinson became the first female director to have two films out in the same year.
After directing music videos for many artists, including Prince and Toni Braxton, the Pittsburgh native stepped up his game and directed feature films before getting his big break with "The Replacement Killers" in 1998. Three years later, his biggest film to date, "Training Day," garnered star Denzel Washington a Best Actor Oscar. Fuqua's latest film, "Brooklyn's Finest," starred Wesley Snipes and Don Cheadle.
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Ernest R. Dickerson
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Former consultant-turned-studio development exec and screenwriter, Franklin Leonard is responsible for the creation of "The Black List." In 2005 the Columbus, Ohio, native embarked on the annual ranking of outstanding unproduced screenplays during his tenure at Leonardo DiCaprio's production company, Appian Way. By leveraging over 300 film insiders between London, New York and Hollywood, Leonard has tapped into a niche system of overlooked scripts and writers.
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F. Gary Gray
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Malcolm D. Lee
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Albert and Allen Hughes
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Melvin Van Peebles
This Chicago actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, novelist and composer is most famously known for his contribution to the blaxploitation era with the independently financed and critically acclaimed film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song." The 1971 film was written, produced, scored, directed by and starred Van Peebles, and it tells the story of a deprived African-American man on his escape from the white authorities. The father of actor/director Mario, Melvin completed the film "Confessionsofa Ex-Doofus-ItchyFooted Mutha" in 2008, which played at various film festivals.
A former assistant director on Comedy Central's seminal sketch comedy series "Chappelle's Show," this Madison, Wisc., native took Hollywood by storm with stories of the black gay experience. His first foray was the ambitious effort "Ski Trip," which was shot in 10 days for $10,000 and featured a cast of newcomers. Jamal hit his stride with 2007's "Dirty Laundry," starring Rockmond Dunbar, Loretta Devine and Jenifer Lewis, winning rave reviews and garnering numerous festival awards and distribution by Fox Searchlight.
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This Bronx native worked her way up the ladder, from short films to work as an assistant camera operator for Jonathan Demme's documentary "Cousin Bobby." Producer Stephanie Allain gave her the green light to direct her debut film, "I Like It Like That," in 1994, making Martin the first African-American woman to direct and produce a major studio movie. In 2008, Martin wrote and directed the musical drama "Cadillac Records," which features Jeffrey Wright, Beyonce Knowles and Mos Def.
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