It is thirty minutes past three in the afternoon on the West Coast. DeVon Franklin is running slightbly behind schedule for our clal taking place after six in the evening on East Coast time. In DC the sun is taking it’s mark on the horizon to beign another beautiful hazy orange sorbet of a sunset. The Sabbath is drawing near by the second, but in California, Franklin has more time to work with. Still, the minutes are ticking away and if anyone knows Franklin, a devout Seventh Day Adventist, they know he will shout down business around sundown on Friday through sundown Saturday.
Franklin’s voice finally booms through the phone just as my view of the sun begins to slowly dissolve. Anone cantell his days are hectic, or maybe not. His greeting comes with ease. His “Hey, what’s up?” sounds more like someone who just took a leisurely stroll than someone who wrapped up a three hour lunch meeting.
The thirty-four year old is the vice president of production for Columbia Pictures under Sony Pictures Entertainment. he has already gained notoriety for films such as Jumping the Broom that starred a du jour cast that included Angela Bassett and Paula Patton; and the remake of The Karate Kid with Jackie Chan and rising star, Jaden Smith.
If that is not enough, Franklin is a newlywed. He and his wife, actress Meagan Good, were married in May and have been in wedded bliss ever since. Video clips of the couple joking with each other on their road trip back from their honeymoon (dubbed mini-moon) have gone viral. It is indeed adorable to watch Good sing karaoke style to the pop tune “Love You Like A Love Song,” with an off key Franklin joining in with a few mumbles of the chorus until he finds that spot he knows well.
With the actual honeymoon behind them, it is back to work for both. Good will be away from home for three months as she tapes a new TV show while Franklin heads back to his office and film sets. Work plus marriage is a balancing act Franklin is still learning.
“I’m trying,” he says. “I’m learning to be a husband and what it means. While we don’t have planned date nights, in these first few months of marriage, every day has been date night to me, because I definitely don’t want to take anything for granted. I take it very seriously when it comes to taking time in laying the foundation of marriage. Even while she’s away or if I’m busy, we find a way to connect with each other.”
The summer caught him savoring the cinematic project that is Sparkle, a remake of the 1976 classic that starred Irene Cara in the lead role. “It is no secret that we can be harsh critics of any vintage work before viewing, especially classic Black cinema such as Sparkle. With the current state of Black cinema on life support, we want to be sure that our story is told with a fair balance, transparency and with accuracy whether an original creation or a remake. If it is a remake, for goodness sakes, cast the right people and stay close to the original as much as possible or else there is hell to pay in this day and age of blogging and social media.”
With that ease in his voice Franklin assures, “I think the movie preserves what the original is all about. One of the things to remember is that the movie is not a Sparkle story. The story was centered or formed around her, but it was about Sparkle and her sisters and the human struggle.”
Fans of the original have been abuzz about Whitney Houston’s role. In the shadows of Houston’s untimely passing, people wonder if the revamped role of Sparkle’s mother was developed specifically togive Houston more meat to work with as it seemingly flirts with mirror reflections of her life. In the original, Effie, played by actress Mary Alice, is a domestic worker, who although has a presence and a voice in the film, it is very limited. With the remake, Houston’s presence and voice are strong, with the film giving the mother a new name, Emma, and introducing her as a former singer having a cautionary tale.
“Changing the role of the mother had nothing to do with Whitney,” explains Franklin. “When we looked at developing characters, one of the things we wondered was why did the mother have such a strong resistance in allowing her daughters to pursue their dream of singing. It was never explained in the original. So we decide to give the mother a background that would explain the resistance. Also, in doing that we had the mom reach back in her faith and one of the lessons to come from that was that her experiences did not mean they would become her daughters’ experiences.”
Having Jordin Sparks play the title role seems like a no-brainer. In a role that was originally set aside for the rising star Aaliyah before her death, Sparks has captured all the right elements that bring the character Sparkle to life.
“She has this innocence about her,” Franklin says of Sparks. “We needed to find someone that had the same wonderment that Irene Cara had with the original. She embodies that. This is such a great story with a great experience in the music and inspiration.”