(Photo: Sony Pictures, courtesy The FrontPage Firm)
Evangelist T. D. Jakes' latest foray into filmmaking includes the making of "Sparkle," planned for release next week. The film will forever be known as Whitney Houston's last performance in a movie before her untimely death last February.
Jakes was able to assemble not only Houston, but an ensemble of actors that includes American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, for the remake of the original 1976 film. Instead of the backdrop of Harlem in the late '50s and early '60s, Jakes' movie is set in Detroit during the Motown era of the '60s and early '70s.
The story line includes a single mother (Houston) trying to raise her three daughters with biblical principles and values while they launch out on a musical career. Issues of moral compromise and career aspirations arise and cause conflict among the sisters and between the sisters and the mother.
Jakes, who is the pastor of The Potter's House megachurch in Dallas, told The Christian Post in an exclusive interview that although the movie is not an overtly Christian film, "Sparkle" is "certainly laced with faith."
Below is the interview with Jakes.
CP: What do you remember most about Whitney Houston during the making of "Sparkle?"
Jakes: I had never met Whitney prior to "Sparkle." I kind of expected her to be kind of like her character in "Bodyguard" – to be a bit of a diva. But she was really anything but. She was very down to earth and very approachable, very likeable, and easy to work with. She was very professional on the set – very into the role that she was playing and did a phenomenal job. I enjoyed it.
CP: Jordin Sparks said during a recent interview that she was impressed with Whitney's "well worn out" Bible that she would bring to the set every day. What impressed you about Whitney's faith journey?
Jakes: The very first thing that she said to me was that she was well familiar with me because her mother who is a noted gospel singer inundated her with DVDs and VHS copies of my ministry. So I was surprised by that. Also, just how in touch she was with her spiritual side and really seeking views on the spiritual side to lift herself up and to become the person that she really wanted to be.
CP: "Sparkle" may not be viewed as a Christian film per se. What would you say to your brothers and sisters in Christ about this film?
Jakes: My company does not produce just faith films. We want to produce films with a positive message and I think that this fits into that category. Sometimes our films will be more overtly faith-filled like the movie that we are getting ready to do, "Heaven Is for Real." There will be movies that are laced with faith like "Sparkle." And "Sparkle" is certainly laced with faith but it is not purely a faith film and I want to remind you that it is a remake. So when you do a remake you have to be fairly true to the story in its original form. "Sparkle" is a story that has been told before.
It has faith in it and it has the struggles that any mother has. The mother in the movie is a church woman, she sings in church, she is trying to get her daughters to avoid the same mistakes she made in a younger stage in her life. With varying degrees of success she is trying to get them on the right path. I think any person of faith can relate to that and I think they will enjoy it. I think mainstream people will enjoy it. I think it's a great film. It's an option that's out there and if you don't enjoy it, stand by, we'll be doing something else.
CP: What are you most pleased about in regards to the movie?
Jakes: Wow! How much time do you have? Having seen the first movie, there's a great deal of endearment certainly in the African-American community with "Sparkle" in its original form. I'm pleased that we were able to maintain the integrity of the original story and yet take out a lot of the gratuitous violence that existed in the first movie and some of the language that existed in the first story and still be able to deliver a great film. I think it has much more of a faith focus than the original film did and I'm really pleased about that. For somebody that was raised in that era, in the '70s, it was like stepping back in time to see the costuming. I forgot how decorative the costuming was and I think for people that love music in general it becomes a smorgasbord of music because if you remember in the '70s, Motown to me, was music at its best. It helped to tear down racial disparities. It helped to reach all classes of people and most of the people who became successful in that era crossed over and did a lot to bridge gaps with other people. During the civil rights movement, one of the things that crossed over most rapidly was the music that came out of Motown. People that grew up listening to that music will really relate to the impact of that music on that culture as a whole.
CP: What do you view as the message of the film?
Jakes: To believe in your dreams; to never give up on yourself. I think there's a message that I strongly believe in terms of holding your family together no matter what you face. I think there's a great message of restoration in regards to the character Sparkle, in that she had little resources and many struggles going after what she believed was her God-given gift and watching God bless that and honor that. I think this is a time in our country that many people are having to rebuild and reshape their lives from ground level zero. It gives you a very, uplifting, inspirational feeling to know that it is possible to start from nothing and believe in God and believe in yourself and rise up and do something positive.
The shocking contrast between the sisters in the story and one of them is promiscuous and aggressive and ends up very negative. The other sister is a virgin. She's very pure. She's in the choir. She goes to church and she's the one that's often overlooked, but by the end of the film we get to see her rise to a position of blessings and success. I think it's the kind of story that people of faith can use to say that there are advantages to walking with God in everyday life and even if you're one of the few that does so in your family it can be very uplifting, particularly for Christians that live in the real world and interact with all types of people and have to maintain their integrity.