Bernie was just the coolest guy - he had that infectious smile and presence and spirit. It was such a shock to hear of his passing, especially right after we finished shooting that - it really floored us all.PC: He had a very special aura about him, even from afar. You know, when we were out in Memphis and in Louisiana - those were the two places where we shot that film - there were fans standing by and watching us shoot and he would always go over and sign autographs and talk to them. PC: What a blow that must have been to the company. I learned so much from him and he had such an impact on so many people's lives - I still remember things I learned from watching him work on that.And, I have to say, his mouth can't always keep up with his brain - he's always going, going, going.[Laughs.] He has a lot of energy and great vision and a great sense of humor. PC: Having appeared on Broadway in RENT, what are your thoughts on the new era of rock musicals such as that and NEXT TO NORMAL? What I think is the best part is that people are thinking outside the box and shows are getting edgier.PC: What were some of your favorite roles in the shows that you did back then? PC: Haven't you worked with Lee Daniels, the purported director being considered for the film? SL: It's like people see us as twins or something! I did a Deborah Cox video and a Heavy D video, too - back then, I was kind of in with Brett Ratner's company who was producing lots of music videos at the time. [Laughs.] PC: What can you tell me about your upcoming film set in the same era, 1982?SL: Well, I think my favorite was probably INTO THE WOODS - I played the Witch when I was just, God, like, 17! Actually, I remember getting a phonecall when I was in San Francisco for MISS SAIGON, but I was afraid I'd be turned away because it was an Asian-American call only and just feeling like, "Oh, God, I love this show so much." PC: Gigi is often cast non-traditionally. SL: That's who I heard about it from, actually - we were having dinner together and he was talking about it. You know what's funny, too, about the Kerry Washington thing, is that when SCANDAL was coming on there were posters up all over with her on them and my mother - my own mother - called me and said, "You're doing SCANDAL?! I get stopped in the street and people are like, "Kerry! " But, yeah, she's a gorgeous girl and she's really talented and I'm flattered people think we look alike. PC: Tell me about working on BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY - a personal favorite of mine. SL: Ugh, that music - Paul Scott Goodman is so, so talented. Sighs.] Ugh, it's so sad that it never really went anywhere. SL: 1982 is this indie that I did with Wayne Brady and Hill Harper and Ruby Dee - and I think La La Anthony has a part in it, too. But, yeah, it's a tough movie - I play this crackhead mother who is disenchanted at home even though I have this great little daughter this great husband who love me. SL: It's pretty intense - it's definitely intense. SL: THE LAST LETTER is a psychological thriller that I just shot.On the show, he is kind of going about his law business in this wild, crazy kind of way, but, obviously, at the same time, he is really talented - so, basically, it is about this struggle between the lawyer character with these other lawyers and other people in his life and finding the balance between them. PC: And a great cast headlined by Cuba Gooding, Jr.. And, Greg Berlanti is producing, who is so great and who is really hot right now, of course.
So, onset, it was always like, "Oh, let's try this! They really let us take a lot of liberties and let us get the best results possible. I hope there will be something down the line soon, though.I have to say, I can't wait to see LES MIZ, though - it looks so impressive. And, that film will always be close to my heart just because it was my first film project, too. PC: Hopefully there will be a deluxe edition of the DVD someday with the full score as you filmed it. PC: Considering Jamie Foxx has also shared the silver screen with your seeming-to-be doppelganger Kerry Washington, I was curious... We have a great cast for that, too - Omari Hardwick and Lynn Whitfield and lots of people. Those two were like twenty-day shoots and I just did one more that I just got back from doing that was a thirty-day shoot. SL: It was, but, you know, we just got in there and did them and just cranked them out. It's been a busy couple of months and I am looking forward to taking it easy for a little while now. PC: What is that like as a popular guest starring actor such as yourself?I think how they are doing it will be so interesting to see. I've never even done a film before." So, to get in and be involved and witness that type of production and see Jennifer [Hudson]... SL: Well, you learn to just kind of gear up for it. Obviously, living in LA, my agents and managers are always looking for that "perfect thing" - they are always trying to get you on a TV show or something that will make you a brand or whatever.[Laughs.] PC: A little short in the tooth, but great for the character's Act Two transformation! Ugh, I just love that show - and I just love Sondheim. Unfortunately, the project I had met with him about fell through, so I never got to work with him, technically, on that, but I see him at various events and obviously I am a big fan of his. PC: Going back to your early music video days: is it true you are in D' Angelo's "Cruisin'"? SL: Oh, well, first of all, let me tell you: that show is so special, I don't know how it didn't go beyond that workshop straight to Broadway. And, at the time, that show was groundbreaking and different and the music - that music - was just so great. But, it's funny you bring that up because my birthday was just recently and Paul Scott Goodman Facebooked me and he wrote, "Happy Birthday, darling," and I just thought, "Aww! Yeah, it's just such a special show and I am so grateful we got to do the cast album of it eventually, too. But, hey, it lives on through people like you and there is a following for it and people who love it and talk about it still. It was this big cast and it's a period piece - I guess the 80s is a period piece now, which is crazy to think about, at least for me; but, anyway... So, she ends up falling into the drug world and becomes a crackhead and gives up her family... I play this demented woman who has this sleep disorder in that.You know, I was just that kid who was in my car bumping all the Broadway tunes - I had all the soundtracks to everything. I wasn't aware he had such a gigantic theatre love like he does. The whole thing was just an incredible experience, needless to say, though. There are some sections that are so fabulous and so great that didn't make the final cut for the movie, too - they would be so great to see as part of the whole thing. PC: Patrick Wilson remembered it fondly when he recently did this column, as well. " and I couldn't get that song out of my head the whole rest of the day. But, it was a great time back then doing the workshop - you know, we really, really all thought that the show was going to go! I will always remember the great performance that Patrick gave in it - at the first workshop we did and then later on when they did it again. So, you know, she doesn't know the difference between reality and dreams - it is very eerie and tense. I literally just got back from shooting three indies back-to-back-to-back - they were all these guerilla-style, get-it-in, no sleep, six-day-week shoots. ADDICTED was the last one that I did - I just shot that in Atlanta last month and that was a really great shoot so I am looking forward to the finished product. Hopefully, I will stay put here in LA for a little bit - until pilot season hits, at least.This was done before GLEE, though - it's just another example of that, you know, timing is everything; it was just three or four years before GLEE; and, then, everyone wanted singing and dancing. SL: Yeah, actually, I've heard stories about how hard GLEE was to pitch originally, so I don't know. And, oh, Pam Grier is just the baddest chick I have ever met! She is very involved in the stuff Michelle Obama is doing with obesity - she is planting things in Washington and she is out there being an activist. He passed away right after we did that film, actually. [Pause.] To be honest, I still get sad just thinking about Bernie and about my experience working on that with him.With LIMELIGHT, Telly was in it, too, and he is just a remarkable human being and I was so happy to get to work with him and I hope to again in the future. It's like this great thing where she is so fierce and fabulous, but, at the same time, she is the kind of person where you could also see her on the prairie somewhere with her dogs in a tent. She is this amazing, dynamic woman and I respect her so much. You see, the thing about Bernie was that he was just full of so much love for his fans and he was so grounded - and he would preach that, too; especially with us younger actors.PC: As a DREAMGIRLS diva yourself, what was it like working with the divine Pam Grier in WOMAN THOU ART LOOSED for you? PC: What was it like working with her onset, one on one? She is just one of those iconic women - somebody that really paved the way for the strong, sexy, all-encompassing African American woman. PC: Another legend you shared the screen with was Bernie Mac, in his last film, SOUL MEN. He'd say, "Don't forget where you came from!SL: Oh, well, we shot for like two weeks, and, the day she got to set, everyone was like, you know, [Whispers.] "Oh, Pam Grier is coming! It was so exciting and I loved meeting her and talking to her. PC: Would you want to possibly portray her on film some day? " The way that he would work would be so different from Sam Jackson - you know, Sam Jackson liked to rehearse and had more of a thespian streak to the way he worked, whereas Bernie was totally off-the-cuff and wanted to just adlib and have fun.Let's do this," and there was no pressure, ever, really - it was this huge Dreamworks production and they really took the time to do it right. PC: You would participate in a reunion someday, then? I always try to get back and see as much as I can in New York, too. Actually, I just saw Telly recently at the MEMPHIS celebration for the 1000-show anniversary - Sergio Trujillo and some RENT people I knew were there, too, so that was really great.PC: Every detail was attended to with care and due diligence. PC: You once worked with Telly Leung on a theatre-related TV pilot that he told me about that sounded quite provocative called LIMELIGHT... But, yeah, back to your question: LIMELIGHT was interesting - it was this FAME-type of show. She has been through so much and she is so socially aware.