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Jurnee Smollett-Bell Talks 'Temptation'
Jurnee Smollett-Bell lit up the small screen as Jess Merriweather in Friday Night Lights. Now, she’s charming audiences with her role as a young married woman tempted to have an affair with a handsome billionaire in Tyler Perry’s seductive thriller Temptation, in theaters Friday.
The actress, 26, talked to Parade.com about the star-studded cast, which includes Kim Kardashian and Vanessa Williams, and how being a happy newlywed in real life made the role especially difficult.
On taking on the character of Judith.
"She is so complex. I know people who have very good intentions but come from a sheltered background, and when they get to the big city, people around them just start breaking them down. What fascinated me was how much the film really at its core is about choices, and how those choices lead to actions and behaviors that she never thought she was capable of. In the beginning of the film. She starts off so different than the way she ends up, and as an actor, that was a very interesting challenge."
On working with the incomparable Tyler Perry.
"He’s so much fun behind the scenes! He keeps a really great set. It’s amazing to watch how professional he is. He’s the first one on set, and he’s the last one to leave. He knows everyone’s first name and their job, and he’s always making sure that the actors feel comfortable. I felt at times like I was the most important person in the world to him — just by the kind of attention and comfort that he gave to me. He was so open to ideas and suggestions. He just was really open to collaboration. As an artist, that’s what you look for in a director."
On how being a newlywed (she married musician Josiah Bell in 2010) made this role especially challenging.
"I think one of the challenges for me was to really imagine what it would be like for a woman to step out and cheat on her husband. I started the film a year after I had gotten married to Josiah, so I was experiencing the bliss of being a newlywed. It was so hard to imagine how that can even be possible because Josiah has me wrapped around his finger, and I can’t think of any guy but him! I was like, ‘Tyler, I don’t think she would do that or go there that quick,’ and he would have to remind me that I was Judith not Jurnee!"
On having great chemistry with her two leading men: Lance Gross (Brice) and Robbie Jones (Harley).
"I feel like both Lance and Robbie brought out a different side of Judith. I love the early scenes with Brice — where we’re young and in love. His performance was so heartbreaking. I really did see him as a really great guy. And then Robbie brought out a completely different side of Judith — this wild, crazy, fun, smokey-eyed chick, which was so much fun to play as well. I think I got the best of both worlds with those guys."
On costars Vanessa Williams, Kim Kardashian, and Brandy Norwood.
"How gorgeous are these ladies? Vanessa Williams in person is like… the camera cannot capture how gorgeous this woman is! She is just so breathtaking. She’s such a legend. I’ve always looked up to her and admired her grace. And Brandy, I’ve known her since I was a little girl, so I was so excited that she was in this film. She’s not only gorgeous, but also so talented as an actress. And Kim was so much fun. She’s such a sweet girl. Tyler told her to think of me like her sister, and that’s how we were able to have that fun banter in the film. We both come from big families, so we bonded over our siblings and stuff like that."
On her role in HBO’s True Blood.
"I’ve never played a character like Nicole Wright, and I’ve never been a part of a show — or a film for that matter — that has all these animals and stunts and biting! It was thrilling for because it’s a whole other world."
On being around for the end of Friday Night Lights.
"It was such an honor to be a part of that show as it closed its chapter. I think that’s going to go down as one of the best TV shows in television history and to know that I was a part of that is very humbling."
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