Monday, September 14, 2009

First Movie Role, Lasting Impression

Perry movie makes millions, creates star

A movie has tremendous power. It can twist and turn our minds and emotions in ways we don’t generally discuss with strangers. Whether cast members give us a flashback of a hurtful, happy or hysterically interesting time in our lives, a great movie can also pour over the moviegoer a connection with a crucial character. In Tyler Perry’s latest box office hit “I Can Do Bad All by Myself”, the person on screen who tugs at the hearts of everyone is 16-year-old Jennifer. “She brought tears to my eyes,” says Derek Easton.

From the moment she hits the screen, you can tell the teenager has gone through a lot. “That little girl had such a bad attitude. She had too much responsibility for her age,” says Frances Makle. The death of Jennifer’s crack addicted mother left the teenager and her brothers to live with their grandmother. Later in the movie, the grandmother dies too. The children end up living with an aunt, who initially detests becoming an instant mother of three. Playing the role of the aunt is Oscar-nomineeTaraji P. Henson.
Hope Wilson plays the role of the teenager who’s the sole symbol of love, stability and trust for her young siblings. “I’m really grateful. He (Perry) gives people a shot. He doesn’t hesitate to take someone and give them a chance to show to the world they have it, says Wilson.
In a way, Wilson’s ability to deliver a flawless performance is quite shocking, on Hollywood’s talent measuring scale. Aside from a few sporadic TV roles, the Nigerian native has a year of professional training. “I’m beyond excited,” says Wilson. “I’m still pinching myself because I always wanted a career in film and in television and to have a lead role, I wouldn’t have even dared asked for such a thing,” she adds.

Intense classical and theatrical performance training at the elite London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art nurtured Wilson’s acting desire and gift. Life lessons helped her wow casting directors and become Jennifer. “My grandmother died when my mother was only three, so she lived her life on guard all the time and I thought that’s how you were supposed to live, says Wilson. “Later in life I learned if you don’t change, all that anger just makes you a bitter person.”

A few years ago, a decision to change directions professionally put Wilson on the path to finding her way on-screen. “If you feel like you want to do something, you have to really do it. Don’t wait for validation. It has to be almost non-negotiable and run through your blood,” she says. Wilson’s pursuit of happiness as an actress came at the expense of another dream. After graduating high school at 15, she set high goals. “I wanted to be a doctor,” says Wilson.
During her senior year in college, Wilson could no longer ignore her urge to break into the entertainment industry. “I’ve been acting since I was about three. I would watch soap operas and reenact the scenes from the shows, movies or anything I saw on TV or I’d try to reenact something I read in a book,” says Wilson. She put her science books away and headed to London, hoping to return to California skilled enough to find work. “I didn’t want to look back on my life and regret anything,” says Wilson. Judging from LAMDA’s training and the reaction from fans, Wilson’s decision was the right career move. “She did a wonderful job,” says Sam Harris, of Wilson’s performance. “I could not tell this was her first time,” she added. As much as her fans adore her work this first time around, Wilson appreciates them as well. “I want them to understand that they are valued as an audience,” says Wilson.

According to some reports, “I Can Do Bad All by Myself” grossed around $24 million over opening weekend. The thousands of fans who hit theaters across the country, likely came out to see stars like Taraji P. Henson, Mary J. Blige and Gladys Knight. After seeing the movie, some are now ready to add Hope Wilson to their list of Hollywood favorites. “She’s a good actress,” says Frances Makle. “It just looked like it came to her naturally. If she’s in anything else, I’ll go see it.”

Whether Wilson returns in another Perry film is unknown. She’s however, still carving out a place for her in a tremendously tough industry. “I’m part of a production company. Eventually, I want to produce my own movies,” says Wilson.
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