(The Root) — His upcoming departure from BET's 106 & Park may mark the end of a seven-year era for Terrence J, but the burgeoning actor is far from slowing down. The host-turned-actor is ditching the popular countdown show for Hollywood — and he's going in with a bang. Terrence J's latest role comes in Sparkle, where he worked alongside the late Whitney Houston and pop songstress Jordin Sparks.
The Root sat down with Terrence J to discuss his leap onto the silver screen, his aspirations to become Hollywood's next leading man, flashbacks from his seven years at 106 and his favorite memories from the set of Sparkle, including his brief moment with the music legend herself before her untimely death.
The Root: What was the experience like working on the set of Sparkle with such powerhouse stars?
Terrence J: Sparkle was an amazing experience — it was just a great cast. [While] the movie is pretty serious, it was a lot of fun working with Jordin and Derek [Luke]. [Whitney Houston] was beautiful, she was elegant. She was just a really strong presence. I think the media portrayed her in a way that I certainly didn't see on set.
I only had one day on set with her. I remember I wanted to take a picture [with her] really bad, but I decided not to because I didn't want to come off like a groupie. Now, I'll never get that chance. I learned from that experience [to] never take anything for granted — you never know when it'll be your last time to see somebody. She's somebody that I'll always hold near and dear to my heart.
TR: Sparkle is just the latest film in which you've had a role. You've starred in Stomp the Yard, Burlesque and Think Like a Man, and you're finishing up work for Battle of the Year, which releases in 2013. Why Hollywood, and why now?
TJ: If you look back 10 years ago, you had Jamie Foxx, Martin Lawrence, Will Smith; there were sitcoms that were being green-lit a lot more. Now, we're in a different place in Hollywood, where it's more reality-based; there's not as many shows that are [there] to catapult careers.
106 was a strategic step. [It] is one of the best jobs in the world because it's given me so many relationships and a fan base. Now, I'm just continuing to work hard on the craft and become a better actor.
TR: Some say Hollywood is tough for young black actors. What are some obstacles you've faced in breaking onto the scene? Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
TJ: Just coming from the hosting world, it's kind of hard for people to see you in a different light. When people look at you as a host, it takes them a minute to break away from that. That's the biggest challenge thus far.
Future plans are to become a leading man in Hollywood. Not a black leading man, but a leading man period. And, to hopefully get the good roles that I've dreamt of my whole life. That's the ambition, and it's just going to take a lot of hard work to get there.
TR: What are some of your best memories from 106 & Park? And, why do you think it's so critical for 106 to cover news important to the black youth community, such as the Trayvon Martin case?
TJ: Being there to deliver the stories that change people's lives — like [the earthquake in] Haiti. When the situation happened in Haiti, people were using 106 & Park to deliver their messages to loved ones that were displaced. Things like that really mean a lot to me.
It's imperative because we're really the only ones that can speak on Trayvon Martin. I am Trayvon Martin, just a couple years older, an African-American male. I know the challenges that he faced. It [was] truly an honor to be able to use the show as an outlet for his family to express their feelings. And, for his supporters, [supporters] of the movement that's taken place, to express themselves.
Joshua Weaver is The Root's editorial assistant.