Darrin Henson may be a lot of things, but passive is not one of them. The charismatic entertainer gained worldwide recognition from his choreography and dance work, all the while planting the seeds that have developed into a formidable dramatic acting career. With television work including the popular Showtime series Soul Food and the powerful HBO film Life Support, and movies like Stomp The Yard, Henson is only beginning to catch his pace in the types of roles he has prepared himself for.
We talked with Darrin Henson recently about the various upcoming movies he has, how he chooses his roles, his independent success with the four-times platinum Darrins Dance Grooves, and why staying true to his roots is just as important as his growth.
AllHipHop.com: Lets talk about the movies you have coming up, like The Salon and The Last Stand.
Darrin Henson: Right now Im filming a movie called The Express in Chicago; its basically about the Ernie Davis story. Im playing a young Jim Brown. If you know anything about Ernie Davis, hes actually the first person to win the Heisman Trophy, but Jim Brown helped to recruit him to Syracuse after he left. Thats the movie Im doing now; thats a Universal film. The film that Ive just completed is called A Good Man Is Hard To Find, which is a Fox film due out in November. It stars myself, Golden Brooks, Deborah Cox, Darius McCray, Mel Jackson, Melissa DeSousa and Hill Harper. Its a very powerful film on family and relationships.
AllHipHop.com: Going from choreography to doing TV shows like Soul Food and movies like Stomp The Yard, how important has it been for you to show people the diversity of your skills and talents?
Darrin: I dont really think about how to impress people, I just do what I love to do. When I feel like choreographing or dancing, thats what I do. If today I felt like I wanted to just dance, I would go back to dancing. I dont live my life to please other people, but hopefully people are pleased by the work that I do. I dont think about one thing when Im doing the other when Im acting I dont think about dancing at all, because Im working on my craft as an actor and Im telling the truth about these characters. The same thing, when Im dancing I dont think about acting. The two are very separated and segregated in the terms of my mind and how I focus on them.
A lot of people do stories and theyre like, Darrin Henson just booked a new movie, the choreographer and dancer. Im like, No, Im Darrin Henson the actor at that time, and if youre discussing choreography and dance then Im Darrin Henson the dancer and choreographer. Now, if its about being a renaissance man and an entrepreneur, then I can see how someone would be interested in all aspects of that. But when Denzel Washington is doing a movie, they dont talk about how he spends time on the football field with his son when theyre talking about him playing Hurricane Carter or Malcolm X. The two have nothing to do with each other.
AllHipHop.com: I think that people are inspired by people that have diversity to their talent.
Darrin: Absolutely, I agree with that when youre talking about the process of evolution. But when youre talking about a feature film and the characters, and then all of a sudden N Syncs name gets thrown in there, it kind of throws me off, because its like one has nothing to do with the other. Thats not a plague on your questions; its just a plague on me as an individual who takes what he does seriously in both worlds.
AllHipHop.com: Did you have any formal acting training?
Darrin: I had acting coaches, absolutely. I didnt go to school for dancing, that was just the natural ability that I had growing up in the Bronx. Im not the only one; you got [Rock Steady Crews] Mr. Wiggles [and] Crazy Legs, and so many people who did the same thing.
AllHipHop.com: As far as picking movie roles, is there a standard that you set for yourself in the types of roles that you choose?
Darrin: Absolutely. I like to choose roles that send people on emotional rollercoasters. I like characters that have arcs. Playing Lem five years on Soul Food and seeing how he was this young man that grew up to be a good man, a good father and a business runner, thats a great part and character. In The Salon, I play an attorney named Michael Edward whos really just trying to take Vivica Foxs characters business through Eminent Domain and then they wound up falling in love, thats a great arc. Playing an attorney who has to deal with his personal values and work ethic, thats a tug of war; playing Jim Brown, what more can I say? The man historically has done so much for our people. Hes set a precedent and a standard for sports and as a man.
In [the HBO film] Life Support with Queen Latifah, [I played an] undercover record company producer. For me that was strong, because theres a lot of cats running around here living that lifestyle, and its time to tell on them because if theyre not gonna take the responsibility then we need to bring that to the light to create dialogue. Im an actor, thats what I do. The same way Tom Hanks played that character in Philadelphia, these stories need to be told. Look at what Queen Latifah did, she played a woman with AIDS. Thats powerful, we see her in Bringing Down The House, and then we see her play this woman. Its incredible, and in this movie Im playing opposite Dennis Quaid – huge actors. Thats what Im talking about, so its just a really exciting time for me in my life.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned Deborah Cox is in the next film that youre doing. You actually choreographed for her in the past havent you?
Darrin: Yeah, I used to choreograph for Deborah Cox. In A Good Man Is Hard To Find, I play the lead, Golden Brooks plays my wife and Deborah Cox plays a battered woman, she did a really fantastic job.
AllHipHop.com: Ill bet it must be fun for you to see things come full circle, having people you worked with early on, to come back and work with them on really big things.
Darrin: Absolutely, its just really amazing. I talk to people all the time about roles. Keanu Reeves is this amazing black belt now; Laurence Fishburne is a black belt because they did a [The Matrix]. Thats hot you get to learn martial arts. In this movie Im a football player. Jim Brown was also an incredible lacrosse player – I played lacrosse every day and I got a weightlifting trainer, Ive gotten real big now. You can go on my Myspace page and actually see pictures of how I look now. Its great because I change for the roles – Im a method actor.
AllHipHop.com: Its really fun to watch people like yourself, Will Smith and Queen Latifah who were in the Hip-Hop culture at an early age and then came out to be Americas next top movie stars.
Darrin: Its a great thing, like this brotherhood and sisterhood in a crew. We come from the Bronx like, Look, we gonna do it and then we went out and did it. Its fun more than anything. Jennifer Lopez has got this new movie coming out with Marc Anthony. Im really excited about the movie because it looks incredible; its called El Cantante. She plays his girlfriend in it and Im like, Go J!
I was with Mr. Wiggles at his house in Vegas last month, and we were chilling talking and having a great time, it was incredible. Those are my boys. Crazy Legs and I were on the phone the other day. Hes doing something in June that Im going to, a baseball game. He called me like, Yo, you gotta come play, Im like, No doubt.
AllHipHop.com: Youve won awards for choreography, NAACP Image Awards and others. Do you feel like that type of recognition from your peers is important to you as an artist in general?
Darrin: Most definitely, its important to me because of where I came from. I want to make sure Im representing properly. Mr. Wiggles always tells me to let people know where I come from. Scott La Rock was my first manager when I was a kid, I used to tour with KRS-One. If you look on the back of the Criminal Minded album theres thank yous there that say B.I.A. B.I.A stands for B-Boys In Action. That was the crew that Scott La Rock used to manage that I danced in.
A lot of people dont know where I came from. I grew up in the Bronx. I was a little kid but at the same time I was around it all. I used to go to the Bronx River Zulu Anniversary jams – I remember when Bambaataa gave me my first set of Zulu beads and my t-shirt; it was just dope. Now Im just involved with really high-level conscious people. A really good sister of mine is named Soulflower, shes out of Miami. You talk about Hip-Hop I wanna do some stuff with her. You can find her on myspace.com/soulflower. Shes incredible. KRS-One did something on her album; its just fusing that way. Me and Mr. Wiggles are doing a movie in July together called Groove. We start filiming it in New York together in July. Its a dance film.
Im having a great time. My movie The Salon stars Vivica Fox, Terrence Howard, Monica Calhoun, Dondre Whitfield, Garrett Morris. Im filming this movie The Express. In July I start filming Groove, which is my feature film, and then in November A Good Man Is Hard To Find is coming out. So Im really excited – life is good. Then my commercial for my DVD Darrins Dance Grooves Part 2 starts airing next week.
AllHipHop.com: You did how many million copies of your first DVD?
Darrin: Four million.
AllHipHop.com: How has it been for you to have your own independent thing?
Darrin: Incredible. [laughs]
AllHipHop.com: Everyone was on pins and needles waiting to see how the public would react to Stomp The Yard. A lot of the Greeks spoke about it really highly, it was a little Hollywood, but just the fact that it showed Black Greek life was really important to some people.
Darrin: The movie did $80 million in the U.S. so obviously somebody liked it, and I was glad I was able to do it, because in my life I wanted to do a dance film. John Travolta did one, Gregory Hines did one, [Crazy] Legs and Wig[gle]s in Beat Street. I was like, I gotta get down with a movie, I cant be the only one who doesnt have a film. Im really thankful to everybody at Sony/Screen Gems and Rainforest films for allowing me to come and play. Im just gonna keep doing what I do. Hopefully everybody will keep supporting me.