After the press screening of the film Sparkle, Shadow and Act was able to participate in a roundtable, as well as individual interviews with cast and crew, at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly HIlls, California. During these sessions, we captured the inside story on the films mission, insights about the storylines, and valuable information from the producers, cast, and of the project.
Over the next several days, leading up to the film’s release next week Friday, we will share those roundtable and individual conversations, starting today with Carmen Ejogo (who plays Sister Anderson in the film).
Shadow & Act: Tell us a bit about your background as an actor.
Carmen: I feel like I was born an actor. I did not pursue acting until I was a bit older. But I got a taste of it at an earlier age in the UK.
Shadow & Act: Do you reside in the UK now?
Carmen: No, I live in NY now.
Shadow & Act: What prompted your move to the US?
Carmen: I grew up in London with a love for the craft. I was not seduced by the celebrity side of acting. However, as a British girl watching a lot of American TV, I saw that there was a whole world of opportunity in the States that I wanted to discover. The Hollywood culture is so invasive, and I definitely wanted to be near it eventually. Especially, as a girl growing up in the 80s. So, I got an opportunity quite early to move to New York.
Shadow & Act: Let’s get to the film. Had you seen the original version before you booked the role of Sister Anderson?
Carmen: No, I still have not seen it. I wanted to really just take from the script that I was given. I was told that the remake version of the script was a homage of the original, yet really different. The new script was made to be more accessible to a modern audience. This version shows a different social economic situation for this family, so their goals are different than the original script. This script explores different storylines.
Shadow & Act: The role that you play in the film of Sister has a deep sadness about her. Can you tell us a little more about your character?
Carmen: Sure, yeah, I think that Sister is someone who aspires to great things in life, beyond Detroit. But, I think that she has not been given the skills, nor the tools in life by her mother to make this happen. Sister is near 30, and she still has yet to get it together, so this all contributes to her being sad. The character also has an absentee father. This is not talked about a lot — but it’s there, so this affects her as well. The film’s’ backstory (script) also gives you the impression, that Sister also experienced an absentee mother figure as well.
Shadow & Act: So, your character pretty much raised the sisters?
Carmen: Yes, and I believe that there was an resentment there between Sister and her mother.
Shadow & Act: When Satin Struthers played by Mike Epps was introduced into the film, your character lit up. Yet, Sister already had a steady romance going on with Levi. What did Satin offer your character?
Carmen: Sister was seduced by Satin’s potential ability to provide stability. I mean the first thing she does when they are together is make him coffee. So that shows us that she wants to be this good housewife. Sadly, he would prefer to do coke with her than have a romance with her. Satin preys on the weak, and Sister is definitely weak. Sister has this great bravado, and she is in total control of her sexiness. Yet, she is lost if given the chance to go after what she wants without her sexiness.
Shadow & Act: Did you know Mike Epps before the project?
Carmen: No. I did not know him. He really gave a lot of detail to his character. So it made my performance so much better. I felt like I had known him for ever.
Shadow & Act: Tell us a little more about the relationship between the three sisters.
Carmen: I did not know them at all before we started shooting this film. On the first day on set, we just started out like boot camp with our bonding. We were able to work together in so many scenes. Another cool thing about the film is that we are not just happy sisters. There are so many character layers. There’s this strange ambition in Jordin’s character, Sister does look out for the other two, but then there is this narcissism about her.
Shadow & Act: How was your relationship with Salim? Did you feel comfortable working with him? What was his style? Tell us a little more about your experience in working with him.
Carmen: I was just talking to someone about this, because so often actors have done so much more work than the directors that they work with. Well, at least for most directors, unless, its a director that has been in the game for a while. So, at times as an actor, it’s often times unclear as to what the directors envision for a project. However, with Salim, he came to the table with a very clear vision of what he wanted. And he stuck to his initial vision, throughout the shooting of the film. Also, as a director, he knew when to interject in a scene, and then when to let it keep rolling. I know of many directors that have to say something after every take just because it makes them feel like a director. But this was not the case with Salim. He trusted us. He was very calm on set, and we all felt very comfortable on set.
Shadow & Act: In ending, tell us a little about your upcoming projects.
Carmen: I did a movie with Tyler Perry, “Alex Cross”. I play his wife in the film. Its going to be very interesting to see how that film will be perceived. The film is directed by Rob Cohen, who is a really great action director. Then I have a television show called, “Zero Out,” on ABC and its with Anthony Edwards. I have really high hopes for this project.