*Director Salim Akil knew he was stepping into some delicate territory when he agreed to take on the remake of “Sparkle,” the 1976 musical film starring Irene Cara and Philip Michael Thomas that went on to become a cult fave.
“Black folk love this movie,” the filmmaker said of the original in an interview alongside his wife, “Sparkle” screenwriter Mara Brock Akil. Alas, the pressure was on for both Akils to do right by the fans.
“In taking on this project, the thing that drew me to it was I was a bit afraid. I felt like I was on the edge,” admitted Salim. Not only was he putting his own spin on the beloved material, which follows the journey of three singing sisters on the rise to stardom, the 42-year-old Hollywood vet said he bent over backwards to make sure the film’s setting of late 60s Detroit was as authentic and precise as possible. Listen below.
Meanwhile, Mara Brock Akil said her goal with the screenplay was to keep the 1968 time period authentic, yet also contemporary enough to appeal to today’s young crowds.
“We kept saying, we don’t want to do a documentary of 1968. The conversation has to remain fresh because we’re talking about empowering women,” she told us. “That’s still a new story for a lot of women.
“It’s a cult classic, but a lot of 20-year-olds don’t know ‘Sparkle.’ Thirty year olds, they know ‘Sparkle’ vis-à-vis En Vogue who remade the song, ‘Giving Him Something He Can Feel,’ but they don’t really know the whole story. So how can we be modern?”
Below, Mara Brock Akil explains how she went about modernizing the late 60s, and how one aspect of the screenplay even mirrors current debates about auto-tune.
“Sparkle,” also starring Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke and Mike Epps, premieres on Saturday, March 23rd at 9 p.m. ET/PT, exclusively on STARZ. Watch the trailer below and scroll down for additional show times.
Additional show times (all are ET/PT)
Tuesday, March 26th 9:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 4th 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, April 10th 11:05 p.m.
Sunday, April 14th 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday, April 23rd 10:40 p.m.
STARZ IN BLACK
Wednesday, May 1st 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 5th 8:00 p.m.
*Veteran actress Lonette McKee is still doing the damn thing!
The Tony-nominated thespian is full of life and busy as a bee with projects closing and beginning.
This past November, she starred in a Broadway play, put on a concert with bassist Michael Henderson at New York’s Aaron Davis Hall and is getting ready to knock socks off in “A Raisin in the Sun” at the Clarence Brown Theater in Knoxville, Ten.
But that’s not all, she’s also gearing up to play Common’s mother in the independent film “Luv.”
In an interview with Essence.com, the actress, best know for her role in the original “Sparkle,” gives her thoughts to Essence.com about the remake starring Whitney Houston & Jordin Sparks.
“I felt really honored to have been involved in a project that young, gifted producers and writers felt worthy of remaking,” she said. “You’ve got to be honored by that. And, of course, I love everybody in the film. I’m a die-hard Whitney fan. I love Jordin Sparks, and I’m crazy about Carmen Ejogo. I actually wrote a part for her in one of my films, way before I knew she would be reprising my role in ‘Sparkle.’ Overall, I loved it, and I was flattered that they did it.”
But the conversation quickly turned into something else when the issue of box office sales came up.
“Sparkle” didn’t go as expected. McKee, 58, believes racism and politics had a hand in the operation.
“This goes back to the idea of us, as people of color, needing to take control of what we do. What’s happening, as far as I can tell, is that non-Black folks are controlling all the distribution. I think we’re living in a very racist society, and everything is well-orchestrated. That’s why I love Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow so much because she maps it out and has statistics of the racism we’re living in. I just think until we take control of what we do and open our own theaters and distribution companies we’re going to be continuing to be dependent on white suits that control the dollars. They dictate what comes out, what movies we make, and where they play, how much money is spent promoting it. And that determines whether a movie is really successful. So [with] tiny budgets for marketing and promotions…we’re not going to have a big audience.”
*Fresh off her role as ‘Tune Ann’ in the new movie, “Sparkles,” actress Brely Evans hosted a ”All White Party” in the Bay Area to honor the late, Sharon “Miss Kittie” Randolph, and benefit the Sharon Randolph Foundation.
Brely was presented with an official Certificate from Jean Quan, the mayor of Oakland, proclaiming August 18 as, “Brely Evans Day.
(Below Left) ”Sparkle” actress Brély Evans takes stage with Sharon Randolph Foundation founder, Stacy Audriene.
*Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil, who just teamed on the Screen Gems remake “Sparkle” with Whitney Houston, have made a deal with Paramount Pictures for a new project with the working title “Abandonment Issues,” reports Deadline.com.
They’ll produce the project together, while Mara Brock Akil will write the script and Salim Akil will direct. The couple previously made their feature debut with the TriStar comedy “Jumping The Broom,” which opened tops at the box office and grossed over $40 million domestically.
The duo also created the TV series “The Game.” Last year’s season premiere scored 7.7 million viewers, making it the top rated ad supported sitcom in cable history.
The Akils have followed by making a multi-year development deal with BET to create original scripted series for the network. Next up is “Being Mary Jane,” which will star Gabrielle Union and is being written and executive produced by Mara Brock Akil, with Salim Akil directing.
The former co-host of BETs “106 & Park” has just been named the official new co-host for E! News, teaming with new mom Giuliana Rancic on the weekday broadcast.
“I’ve always had a passion for the wide spectrum of pop culture that E! News covers so well; I can’t wait to get started,” says Jenkins, who has also appeared in such films as “Think Like a Man,” “Burlesque” and “Sparkle.”
“I’ve had a great career so far, and it¹s all been building toward this. And then getting to work with great people like Giuliana and the entire E! News team just makes this seem like an even more perfect opportunity.”