Exclusive Interview: Janet Jackson’s Ready to Do More Films After ‘For Colored Girls’

After many years of being in the spotlight for her music career, Janet Jacksonis putting her first passion and first love back in the forefront — acting.

Having already done ‘Why Did I Get Married?‘ and its sequel, ‘Why Did I Get Married Too?,’ Jackson is back on the screen again with ‘For Colored Girls,’ her third collaboration with writer-director-producer Tyler Perry.

An adaptation of Ntozake Shange‘s legendary play, Jackson plays Jo, the head at a major fashion magazine company and married to stockbroker Carl (played by Omari Hardwick).

The film weaves together the stories of nine women – Joanna, Tangie, Crystal, Gilda, Kelly, Juanita, Yasmine, Nyla and Alice – as they move in and out of one another’s existences. Crises, heartbreaks and crimes will ultimately bring these nine women fully into the same orbit, where they will find commonality and understanding. Each will speak her truth as never before. And each will know that she is complete as a human being, glorious and divine in all her colors.

BlackVoices spoke exclusively with Jackson, who discussed working with Tyler Perry again and her passion to do more films.

Having worked with Tyler on two previous films, what was it like when he offered you this part?

Janet Jackson: I was actually honored when he offered it to me because it’s such an important piece, with it being such a major hit on Broadway and just an all-black female cast. And to be able to be a part of that and see that story come to the screen. It’s this legendary thing and to be able to be a part of Ntozake’s work, as well. I was truly honored. I really was.

What went into your decision to take it?

JJ: I wasn’t familiar with the play. I didn’t see it. I was young. I was 10 or 11 years old. But I knew of it. I didn’t know what it was about, though. There were a few things that went into my decision. One was working with Tyler again, which I enjoyed a great deal, and the other was this character. Taking on a character that was completely different from anything else I had ever done. [Tyler] told me about her, and he said, "This is what I’d like for you to do if you’re down for it. She’s a bitch. She’s not nice at all. And she’s this and she’s that." I hadn’t read anything. I said, "So you really think I can do this? I can pull this off?" I said. He said, "Yes, I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t think you could handle this." So I was up for the challenge. That excited me. And when I read it, it really excited me to know it was a lot stronger than what he had expressed to me. I was really excited to be a part of this and to help create the character.

In portraying Jo is there anything in her background that you can relate to?

JJ: Well, there’s a lot. I mean her issues with marriage and relationships. Granted, I’ve never had an issue that she did, but the issue with her husband and then love and suppressing a great deal of that by being a workaholic and that being her baby. And not really wanting to deal with it, but it’s still there in the back of her head. Unfortunately, she has no choice but to address it. It comes to a head. I mean that used to be me, for sure.

What do you think about your storyline in regards to the original source material? It’s new, but do you think it was necessary for Tyler to put it in?

JJ: Did he have to? No. I think with the playwright, it extends her poetry. It’s still relevant. I think what he did made it just that much more modern, really. I love the fact that he added that.

While most people are familiar with the play, do you think this story will resonate with a movie audience?

JJ: Yes, I do. I think Tyler’s done a wonderful job. I think the poetry is still there. I think he complements the poetry a great deal, the way he’s intertwined the stories and made them flow and flow right into her poetry. I think it’s absolutely beautiful, and I think it comes off on screen.

How was working with Omari Hardwick and the rest of the cast?

JJ:I think all the actresses did such an incredible job. Macy Gray? How long was she on camera? Five minutes? Seven minutes? I thought she was just absolutely wonderful, as well as the rest of the girls. How was it working with Omari? I adore him. I didn’t meet him right away because he was working on his show, ‘Dark Blue.’ There was a scene that he and I were supposed to be in that Tyler had to take us out of it because he couldn’t get away from the set. So I finally met him for the very first time when we did our scene, with him in the shower. Then we did another scene after that. And I really liked him as a person. I thought he was wonderful as an actor. I really enjoyed working with him.

This is your third time working with Tyler, and each film has had a big cast, including this one. How is it working on an ensemble piece where you’re not the focal point of the film?

JJ: As opposed to doing something such as ‘Poetic’? ‘Poetic Justice’ is still an ensemble piece, but I guess the focus was on me in that film. I enjoyed it. I enjoy sharing that with everybody. It’s fun and it was good for me, too. And somehow Tyler made it work between myself, Kerry [Washington], Anika [Noni Rose] and the rest of the cast. We juggled it and it worked. I wouldn’t have been able to fulfill either this commitment or my other commitments if it wasn’t that way. I like it. I enjoy that. It gives me a little bit more freedom. I would also like in the future, too, to do something with a smaller cast. But I enjoy this. It’s fun, and it’s fun to watch other actors work and how they approach things. I got to see that this time around.

How was Tyler’s approach this time as opposed to the ‘Married’ films?

JJ: He’s always so deeply involved. I saw it more so this time because he wasn’t an actor. He was just a straight director. He didn’t have to put on that actor hat, and I know I drove him crazy. I’ll tell you that right now, because while he was on the set with others, I was constantly texting him with ideas and things that I saw for my character. I really tried to wrap my head around her, creating things I don’t’ think you guys ever got the opportunity to see, but my workbook and my folders and the magazine for the character, I actually created with the cover and all the editorials inside and all the layout. I also did research and went up to the offices of Harper’s Bazaar. They helped me in getting the correct dialogue for certain things. I think that with Tyler hearing that from me on a daily basis, I drove him crazy, but I think he was really into it and not that he was ever into the other films, but I saw it more so as a director and he was excited about that. I think he said he felt a little intimidated here and there. There were moments I saw a little bit of stress but that happens. That always happens on a set, whether you have to make all your scenes for that day, this and that. Then to have people like me always, "Can we try this? Can we do this? What if I did that?" So I think he did a wonderful job. And that was the difference. I saw that he was more into it this time around because he was just directing.

You’ve got three films under your belt in three years. Has the acting bug bit you?

JJ: Definitely. This is my first passion. This is my first job. This is what I really always wanted to do in life. I became a singer, and I’m very proud of that, and very happy about the way my career has gone and is still going. I will never give up singing, but I will definitely do more films than I have in the past.

Awhile back you mentioned your dream project was to do a Lena Horne film. Do you still want to do that? Are there other projects you want to do?

JJ: There are so many projects that I would love to do. I’m always thinking of things, and there are things in development. Nothing that I’m going to truly talk about because it’s not etched in stone, but there are more things on the horizon. I’m just excited. I can’t wait to get to them.

Music-wise, what’s going to be next?

JJ: I actually decided to go and just take my time in the studio next year. I’m not in a rush. I’ll see how I feel when I want to release, as opposed to being told I have to release at a certain date.

By Wilson Morales