|Patricia (Janet Jackson) and Gavin (Malik Yoba) in Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married Too?” (Quantrell Colbert photo)
Born in Gary, Ind. on May 16, 1966, Janet Damita Jo Jackson entered show business at the tender age of seven years old when she appeared onstage with her already famous elder siblings at the MGM in Las Vegas. This debut was followed two years later by appearances on her family’s variety show “The Jacksons” which, in turn, led to starring and recurring roles on such hit sitcoms as “Good Times,” “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Fame.”
At 14, Janet signed her first recording deal. Placing acting on the back burner to focus on her first love, music, she went on to enjoy extraordinary success upon the release of her breakthrough album, “Control” in 1986. Over the course of her ensuing musical career, she has accumulated five Grammys, multiple MTV Awards, Billboard Music Awards and Soul Train Music Awards, to name a few.
The film “Poetic Justice” marked this very versatile talent’s first foray into acting in feature films, and that was soon followed by a co-starring role in “Nutty Professor II.”
Privately, Janet continues to focus on speaking out and giving back, raising money for charities such as the Cities in Schools and America’s Promise. She has also supported the Watts Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club of America, the Starlight Foundation, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, A Place Called Home in South Central L.A. and American Foundation for AIDS Research. In addition, Janet established the Rhythm Nation Scholarship with the United Negro College Fund.
Most recently, Janet honored her brother Michael’s legacy and supported the people of Haiti by joining more than 80 artists who collaborated to record “We Are the World 25 for Haiti.” Here, she talks about reprising the role of Pat in Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married Too?” one of those rare sequels which is actually better than the original.
Watching “Why Did I Get Married Too?” the first thing I noticed was that it afforded you an opportunity to display a much greater range of emotions. How did you enjoy that?
I loved it! I absolutely loved it. I was so thankful that Tyler had written such an amazing piece for me to explore. So, I was really excited about it. When he first gave me the script, he warned me, “When you read this, you’re really going to flip out. I think it’s going to be exciting for you.” And it was.
It’s very rare that an entire ensemble cast comes back for a sequel. How was it being reunited with everybody again?
I loved being with them again. It truly is a family. There’s closeness and connection. After filming the original, when we went our separate ways, I felt like I had a new group of friends. We stayed in touch and tried to see each other whenever we were in town or in between projects. So, the minute we heard there was going to be a sequel, all of us were immediately on board, knowing we would be able to get back together again. And then, for half of it to be shot in the Bahamas made going to work feel like being on vacation with your friends. The crew members were sweethearts, too.
What is it about Tyler that makes him special?
He’s an amazing man. One of the things that I love most about him is that he has this spirituality about him, and it’s a really big part of who he is. I adore Tyler, and I love that about him.
What do you think the experience will be like for the audience?
I think more so than anything people are going to enjoy the film and they’ll also walk away learning a lot from it.
Have you ever related to a song by someone else which intimately spoke to you at a point in your life?
Definitely! There are two things that really move me: music and acting. And I’m not talking about my music or watching myself as an actor, but listening to other people’s music and watching other actors. There are so many different songs that have moved me. It all depends upon the mood that I’m in at that moment. Plus, I was raised with a ton of brothers and sisters where, obviously, the music running in and out of the house was very eclectic. So, I had a lot under my belt by the time I grew up. It all depends upon the mood that I’m in, the space that I’m in and what I’m feeling at that moment. But definitely!
Which do you enjoy doing more, acting or singing?
I enjoy them both a great deal. I have a passion for both. Maybe acting just a little bit more because it’s more of a challenge for me, while music comes so easily.
What’s the biggest way you’ve grown as an actress since “Poetic Justice?”
I always knew that I could go deep. How deep? I don’t know. But it always seems that with each character I take on, I’m challenged to go deeper than the last time, and then again deeper than the last time. This is the deepest I’ve ever been asked to dive. And to see how deep I actually went for this, and that I wasn’t afraid to go there in order to give Tyler exactly what he envisioned for the character, which was pretty deep, that’s what I discovered about myself.
What are you doing to make a long-lasting, positive impact on the world?
I work with a lot of different charities, and by that I don’t mean merely by giving money, but by really getting involved hands-on. I’ve always said that one of the reasons why I was put on this Earth was to help people. That’s something I’ve always enjoyed both here in America and if I have the opportunity when I’m traveling out of the country. For example, I like to visit orphanages to spend time with the children. That’s very important to me.
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