So you have a new movie, 'Why Did I Get Married Too,' written and directed by Tyler Perry, coming out April 2nd, which we'll get to in a moment. But first I'd like for you to talk about a project that I know you're passionate about and one that you're not only starring but also writing and directing.
It's a web series on BET.com called 'Shop Talk: What's on the Hearts of Men.' It started off as a play and it's something I've been working to turn into a film. My goal has always been to present a platform to speak to what's on the hearts of men. It consists of nine webisodes that feature my son and I spending the afternoon at the barbershop, where discussions are taking place about things on the hearts of men. What was really interesting is in the first episode is there's a scene where I'm walking with my son and he asks me, "So when did you know you became a man?" and I tell him I'm still trying figure that out. The reaction to that was really strong. A lot of men were like, I can't believe you would be that honest with your kid. They said a lot of men would sugarcoat it, but you kept it real.
You take relationships of all sorts very seriously and I know that it informs your work in terms of projects you choose to be involved with.
I'd like to think that my finger is on the pulse because out I'm in the world talking to people and making myself available for these types of conversations. I've been hosting relationship seminars so it's an evolving passion of my own, as I've asked myself a lot of questions and I'm very curious to see what other people think as well.
There are a lot women (and men) who come to Black Voices looking for commentary and perspective on relationships. Anything in particular you'd like to share?
Most people aren't working on themselves enough to understand what it is they really need to do to be successful in a relationship with others. By having a successful relationship with yourself enables you to have more successful relationship with another person. It's about being self-aware of what your needs are, what your tendencies are and what levels of compatibility are important to you. It took me a long time to reach these conclusions for myself. There was therapy, failed relationships, reading books, talking to people, traveling, experiencing different things and then I realized that I need someone who is compatible – emotionally, physically, spiritually, and financially. Those things are important to me.
We always talk about life imitating art. Is there anything in 'Why Did I Get Married Too' that resonated with you in terms of your personal experiences?
There is a beautiful scene featuring Lou Gossett and Cicely Tyson, who play a married couple. In the scene, they speak about a love in such a beautiful way. It was deep because it represented everything that I'd want to say at 65 had I been with a woman for like 40 years. They broke it down on how it is to really love someone. Love is not boastful. Love doesn't keep a record of wrong. It's funny because at the time I was actually in a relationship. And I remember calling this woman one late night when we were shooting on the beach in the Bahamas and I told her this scene is crazy because it's how I'd want us to be. But marriage freaks her out and those are her words. She said that I was too intense. She would say "Malik, all you want to talk about is your heart and your soul and your purpose." And she would act like that was an affliction. There was something about her emotional makeup and her lack of desire to go deep and look at her own sh*t that never would allow us to reach the potential of the ideas that Tyler talks about in the movie, specifically in the scene with Cicely and Lou.
So what about you and Janet Jackson, who plays your wife? How was it working with her?
She has a big booty. Janet is a sweetheart, but, seriously, I didn't really know.
Yeah, you're right. I didn't really know either. So how does the relationship evolve between you and Janet's character in the sequel?
All I can say is I had to channel my inner Ike Turner. It was like word, you want to go here with this? When I read it, I was like, yeah okay.
How is it working with Tyler Perry? He gets a lot of criticism from certain corners of the black community, but he also gets a lot of credit for putting a lot of black people to work.
I have a lot of respect for Tyler. He's a man definitely moving on the same vibration in terms of doing for self. It's an honor to work with him. He makes it real easy. There's not a whole lot of jumping through hoops and having to do all that stuff that some folks want you to do in this business.
Earlier you mentioned something about your purpose. You clearly seem to be driven by something else than just the art of acting.
I feel like my father in that sense. For me, my purpose is to make people think. While he only had the opportunity to impact his kids and those in his immediate circle, I have a platform and I feel it's my responsibility as a Yoba. My father raised me to understand that this is your job. He said if there's a crack, fill it. I feel that everything I have done in my career has been a service to humanity. It's never been about being a star. It's never been about being a sex symbol. It's never been about being any of that sh*t. If I can stimulate someone to think differently or deeper and to connect with their greatness in a way that they may not have even thought was possible [then] I've done what I'm supposed to do.
So what about the sex symbol thing though. You say it's never been about that, but a big part of your celebrity status has centered on being a sex symbol of sorts.
I always appreciate the love, even on a superficial level, because it is what it is. But I really believe that I was introduced to people as a young dude who did sh*t that people cared about in terms of my character [on 'New York Undercover']. I'm not that guy that was a model-turned-actor. So I appreciate that fact that people may appreciate how I look and all that, but I always felt that my true appeal was my ability to communicate. I mean it's all good. I appreciate it. It was never my goal, but don't think I never made the most of it.
Click here to watch episodes of Shop Talk: What's On the Hearts of Men
Mason Jamal writes about issues pertaining to the style, substance and sensibilities of men (and sometimes women). For more of his musings, you can visit www.MasonSays.com. To have his commentary delivered directly to your email, subscribe here. You can also keep up with Mason's random thoughts and daily observations on Twitter @masonsays.