After the screening of the film Sparkle, Shadow and Act was able to participate in a cast and crew roundtable at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly HIlls, California. At the roundtable, we captured the inside story on the films mission, insights about the storylines, and valuable information from the producers, cast, and of the project.
The roundtable consisted of Salim Akil (Director ), Mara Brock Akil (screenwriter), and actresses Carmen Ejogo (Sister Anderson), and Tika Sumpter (Delores ‘Dee’ Anderson).
Shadow & Act: Congratulations on Sparkle! Can you tell us a little about the mission of the film?
Salim Akil: I wanted to tell an American story.
Mara Brock Akil: We wanted to pay homage to the original “Sparkle.” As the writer, I took a lot of the script in, and then I also took a lot of it out.
Shadow & Act: The cast is all African-American, so would you still consider it an typical American story?
Salim Akil: Yes, of course. The race is different, but the cultural context is the same. With the film I painted a landscape of Americana.
Shadow & Act: Mara can you explain the theme behind the film?
Mara Brock Akil: There are many themes in the film. You have spiritual, inspirational, and family. The film is primarily about family.
Shadow & Act: Speaking of the family theme in the film. Can you speak a little more about the social class of the family in the film?
Mara: Well, I wanted to capture the thriving family unit in 1968. During that time we have great music, family owned businesses, and what not. I wanted to capture that in the film.
Salim: Also, in the film, Emma is an entrepreneur. We wanted to capture that fact too.
Shadow & Act: I felt that the breakout role in the film was with Satin Struthers, which was played brilliantly by comedian Mike Epps. Can you tell us a little about that casting process for Mike?
Salim: I knew Mike prior to making this film, and I hand picked him for this role. I had him reading a lot about the rat pack and he took it all in. We worked really hard together to bring his character to life. I believe this role will go down as one of his best roles to date.
Shadow & Act: Salim, you also had the opportunity to work with Whitney Houston. How was it working with Whitney? Can you tell us a little more about her character?
Salim Akil: She’s an American classic. With her character we drew a lot from my own mother. The two had many similarities, and I pulled it out of Whitney.
Shadow & Act: Carmen and Tika, what did you two enjoy the most about the film?
Tika Sumpter: I enjoyed the costumes! They were designed by Ruth Carter, and were amazing.
Carmen Ejogo: I enjoyed the entire filmmaking process. I also enjoyed the costumes as well.
Tika: My favorite dress has to be the black and white jeweled dresses.
Shadow & Act: Tika, can you tell us a little about your character Dolores?
Tika: She is an intelligent woman. She had direction in her life. In one scene my character wears an afro. I felt that the afro symbolized the strength of my character during an era where wearing an afro was not popular. Also my character is a lot like her mother Emma.
Shadow & Act: Carmen, did you watch the original Sparkle in order to learn a little about the Sister character?
Carmen: I have not seen the original. I did not want the original to influence the remake.
Shadow & Act: Can you tell us what you felt was the major difference between the original Sparkle and the remake? Mara explained that the goal was to enhance the original.
Tika: I believe that this version has stronger characters. The majority of the characters are fleshed out a lot.
Shadow & Act: I feel that Mike Epps had a standout role in the film. His character, had a very big personality. How was it working with Mike?
Carmen: Mike had us laughing a lot during all the takes. Especially the dinner scene with all of the family. We laughed so much during that scene, but on screen the scene looks very serious.
Shadow & Act: In ending, can you tell us one thing you appreciate about your co-stars in this film? Anything that stands out to you?
Tika: I loved how all of the cast made their characters their own.