Honey: An Interview with Jessica Alba
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Interviewed by Wilson Morales
HONEY: An Interview with Jessica Alba
It’s been some time since we last saw Jessica Alba on the screen, big or small. After her breakout role as Max on TV’s Dark Angel, Jessica was featured on countless magazines as the next big thing, and still continues to do so, even though the show is now cancelled. With the show gone, Jessica has set her sights on being a major player in the Hollywood industry and what better way than to have a starring role in a studio film. Coming out on Dec. 5th from Universal pictures is HONEY, in which Jessica plays Honey Daniels, a young gifted dancer/ bartender/ store clerk who gets the chance to live her dream as a choreographer while giving back to her community. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Ms. Alba spoke about the rigors of learning the dance moves for the film.
WM: Are there things we don’t know about you that we have yet to see?
JA: I hope so. Not that I consider myself a great actor or anything, I haven’t even touched on a character in depth acting wise the way I know I can. After my next studio film, “Into the Blue”, which I’m doing with Paul Walker, I really want to do an independent film that’s totally character driven and doesn’t have anything physically challenging to do.
WM: Are you into hip-hop music and its culture?
JA: Not really the culture because I have been isolated because I’ve been acting for so long. I’m not really part of anything other than what I do. My brother loves it. I love hip-hop. I’ve listened to it since I was a kid. I’m part of the MTV generation, so I’ve listened to it before. I went over to Tokyo and Germany, and Paris and London and hip-hop is everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you speak English or not, the kids love it and they love dancing. I just thought that if you combine the two, it’s a no brainer. The movie doesn’t need to cost a lot of money and it’s a complete departure from “Dark Angel”. “Dark Angel” was intense for me. It was impossible for me. I worked on the weekends, 10 ½ months a year, in the cold, in Vancouver; with night shoots 4 to 5 days a week. I would leave at dark after working and come back at dark and then it was raining. I wanted something that light and fun and just goodhearted and between Sept.11 and the war, to me, I just felt like it would be such a breathe of fresh air to go and have an experience that it’s not a thinking movie but a predicable story. It’s all these things that are not that deep but it’s a good time and there’s good music.
WM: Did you listen to any hip hop music to prepare yourself for the role?
JA: I listened to hip hop music before and also for the film because the choreographer worked a lot with this artist called Mario and Puffy. We listened to Mary J. Blige and Biggie (Smalls) and lots of other artists.
WM: When you are dancing in general, are you dancing as Honey Daniels or as yourself?
JA: Honey dances way better than me. She taught me how to dance with the counts and the specifics. I have my own style but Honey is really good.
WM: You mentioned that you took this film because it was lighthearted. I think the film offers lots of messages to young kids. Is there one message you wanted to get across?
JA: The script was completely different when I was first attached to it and Billie and I really banged out what we wanted this film to be about; to touch on the theme on the hip-hop music industry and most importantly to emphasize on the money and the girls and the drugs and the gangsters and all this stuff. And I was like, “What about people who are from the hip-hop industry and music industry who want to give back to their community and aren’t ashamed of where they come from instead of promoting this “East Coast, West Coast” thing and go live in The Hamptons. What if they stay in the neighborhood and they give back and I wanted that message to come across because in my heart I felt like that was the right thing to do and that was one of the big themes. I wasn’t a poor kid, but I almost was. Both parents have to work because it’s hard right now and a lot of things are expensive. To live in this country is expensive and you don’t have your parents when you go home and when all you have is your peers, it’s hard. They don’t know what’s between right and wrong as much. They can’t see beyond the 7th grade, 8th grade, and so on. So, I thought that it was better to give the kids a place to go and have inspiration and she gives these kids an opportunity beyond peer pressure. That was another theme I wanted to get across.
WM: The movie recalls films of this genre such as “Fame” and “Flashdance”. Were you a fan of those films?
JA: Absolutely. When I was a kid I wanted to be a dancer and my father wasn’t here for us and my parents didn’t have enough money to send me to dance school. Any professional school can get expensive and my parents didn’t have the money for it. I had the Paula Abdul dance Reebok sneakers and I told her about it. I used to watch “Flashdance” all the time and “Dirty Dancing”, “Saturday Night Fever” and “Fame”. I made my dad put up a plastic bar on my door so I could pretend I was a ballerina and do my own routine and stuff. With this film, I got to fulfill that.
WM: How challenging was it to get those moves down?
JA: It’s hard. Six hours of training for 3 ½ months is what I did. I took beginner’s ballet and beginner’s jazz and then I had to learn how to do hip-hop, which is really fast, and hitting things, and looking cool. You have to look cool when you do it, and for the movie, they always wanted me to smile. There’s a dance scene with the kids where a kid falls down and I show her how to do the move, I almost fell through the slats. It was so hard to fall down and look cool and then smile.
WM: Andre Harrell is one of the producers of the movie. Did he come by the set to how the production was going?
JA: He came by the set a couple of time. When I first met him, he said he coined the phrase “ghetto fabulous”. He just brings his fabulous thing to hip-hop and if we were doing anything different, he would say, “This has to feel real, this has to feel authentic.” He would tell us if we were doing it right or wrong. He was the cool man on the set because he’s been doing this a long time and he still hangs with Puff (Daddy).
WM: What is your ethnic background and where did you grow up?
JA: I started off in California, and then I went to Mississippi, and then Texas, and then back to California. My father is Mexican-American-Spanish and my mom is French and Danish.
WM: If I poked around in your record collection, what would I find?
JA: I have Donna Summers, I have Josh Stone, I have The White Stripes, I have the Neptunes, and I have Missy and Buster, and Coldplay. It’s pretty ecliptic.
WM: What was it like working with Lil’ Romeo?
JA: He’s a great kid. His father’s Master P so he’s definitely part of the hip-hop society. He’s the coolest kid I ever met. At 13, he’s the epitome of cool and I always felt like a dork when I would learn the dance cause I wasn’t getting it right and feeling like Gumby and he’s over here and doing it all, really cool and eating his French fries. He’s a real nice kid. We would play catch in the parking lot. He’s like a little brother.
WM: Who would you recommend this film to?
JA: I think anyone, whether they were fans of “Dark Angel” or whoever, any age group; it’s a fun movie. It’s just a good time, and if you’re a fan of Dark Angel and you think that I’m only allowed to do action, dark and heavy stuff, then you’ll probably won’t dig the movie. But if you have an open mind and you understand that I’m multifaceted, then you’ll have a good time and hopefully enjoy as much as you enjoyed Dark Angel.
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