Tika Sumpter doesn’t follow the mold. The singer/actress/model may be easy on the eyes, but she has the talent to shock and awe. In her latest endeavor, Sumpter plays the headstrong pre-med student who treats performing as her side hustle in the 1960s musical flick Sparkle.
Vixen caught up with the multidimensional starlet to talk about her real-life singing family, working with Whitney Houston and maintaining her killer physique.
VIBE VIXEN: When you landed a spot in the cast of Sparkle, what was your initial reaction?
TIKA SUMPTER: I read the script at first and I kept saying I want this part, I wanna be a part of this movie. I put myself on tape and then I had to go to L.A. to meet the producers and all that. When they told me I got it, I was floored. I literally laid on the floor and cried. When you hear that one of your favorite artists is gonna be in the film, you’re like, What?! Whitney Houston’s gonna play my mom?! So many people auditioned for this film for every part, so I was grateful that I worked hard for it and they gave it to me.
What about the script attracted you the most?
It’s just well thought-out. I heard in the original that [my character] Dee [Dolores], she wasn’t really relevant in it at first, so with this, I felt like I played a part where she was and she had a voice. She was strong and independent and thinks she knows everything but also loves her family and would do and say anything for them. She’s kind of a protector, and I love that about her and her strength. She doesn’t really care what people think. She’s like, ‘Look, I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do even if you don’t like it.’
What special preparation did you do for the film?
Well, a good script is 90 percent of the battle, but of course, I looked at the era on YouTube, just people performing like Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, The Supremes and the Marvettes. I did go to Motown, the record company, and the mood just brought you back to that time. I just wanted my character to be well-rounded and intelligent and know what’s going on.
What was the most challenging part of playing Dolores?
I don’t know if it was challenging but I was scared I wasn’t going to get the choreography [laughs]. The whole performance part is scary. I’ve done stage stuff before, so it was just that nervousness because it was in such a small amount of time we had to learn everything and record.
Well you nailed it so you don’t have to worry about a thing! Any possibility you may take your singing or theatre career further?
Well, I’m doing it right now. I’m recording music and doing a show next month. I’ve done it before and I wanna do it in a bigger way, and this is the perfect storm for me to do it. No artist is just one thing. Actors wanna sing, singers wanna act, and I’m not gonna allow anybody to put me in a box because I’m from a singing family. My mom sings opera; my sisters were trained by my mom. It’s just something that’s in my family so why not use the gift that God gave me to show the world and share it?
It’s kinda like art imitates life. You actually grew up in a real-life Sparkle family.
Ah, you’re so right! And my mom loves going to red carpets with me so it’s perfect.
What did you learn working from your on-screen mom Whitney?
VV: What did you learn working from your on-screen mom Whitney Houston?
TS: There’s so many little nuggets, but one, always be humble. She has every right to not be if she didn’t wanna be, like you know, she’s Whitney Houston! That’s what you would think but she’s the opposite of what a diva would be. [I also learned to] just show humility and be open to learning. She was so vulnerable. She knew that this story kind of paralleled with hers and she was just an outstanding person. It’s usually the people who act like they’re ridiculously fantastic who’ve done the least and she’s done a lot [but] is still the most humble person ever. She was happy to be there on set.
One thing I loved about your character was that she broke from the group to pursue medical school and music at the same, so she didn’t really dabble with any guys. But if the script was changed and Dee was romantically involved with one of the male co-stars, who do you think she would’ve chosen?
[Laughs] That’s such a funny question! Everybody’s like, ‘Dolores doesn’t have a man,’ and I’m like, ‘Her man is her books!’ They would have to write in a new character. Maybe we could take somebody from the original. It definitely wouldn’t be Satin ’cause she would not even have that!
How about Levi?
Maybe in the beginning with how he was, but I don’t know if Levi’s her type. We would have to create a new character.
Another thing the fans are going to notice are your to-die-for abs. What is your secret?
Oh God, girl! I was in that gym trying my hardest ’cause when I saw those outfits, [I was like] ‘Why am I in these ones like this?’ and they were like, ‘Because you have the figure to do it.’ I was in the gym, trying to eat healthy and work out at least three times a week, but I’m definitely not as committed as the athletes in the Olympics. I wish I was!
Sparkle hits theaters Aug. 17.