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Sumpter was also in LA when the news of Houston's death was reported.
"I had just got off the phone that day with her assistant because we planning on having lunch and my makeup artist was on the phone with her husband and she goes, "No, no, no!" and then says, "Whitney's gone!" I don't know what happened inside but I just said, No it can't be true it must be some stupid rumor. Then I turned on the news and everyone was calling me and I kept saying, "Oh my God" and I just sat there and just cried."
"It was really hard for all of us," says Sparks. "It was so unexpected and the last time we had all seen here was in Detroit when we were filming the movie and we were all just so happy and so excited - she was just this ray of light, so then the next time we seen each other was at the funeral and it was just surreal. We're not all here for this. We were just laughing together at the table, cracking up. Surreal is the only way I can describe it. Whitney gave so much of herself to the people she became close to and to her fans and you give that much to everyone and the whole world just felt like it stopped for a minute."
As the actors prepare for the upcoming release of the film, memories of Houston dominate the conversations between them. Discussing the environment on set Sparks recalls a fond memory of Houston during a late night shoot.
"We were chilling and I had my iPod and 'Teach me how to dougie' was on, so I just got up and started dancing. Then Tika got up and Carmen and everybody from hair and makeup was up and just having a blast because it was late and feeling squirrelly and trying to keep our energy up and Whitney walks in. She says, "Whats that?" So we explained the song and demonstrate the dance and she said, "Well uh ... show me!" She comes in and just started dancing with us and it was so fun because she was so fun-loving like that, she had the greatest sense of humor and she just wanted to genuinely get to know all of us."
Sumpter concurs. "She could have went to her trailer after shoots saying, "Peace out," but never. She came to set. As executive producer she didn't have to come to set if she didn't want to but she was always there to encourage us. If you were messing with your dress, she would say, "You look great," I love that about Whitney, because she could have been a total Diva if she wanted to - a superstar wanting us to have moments is major."
The memories make the loss bearable it seems for Sparks. "It's been really fun talking about all the memories we've had because sometimes when talking about her - something she said or did, and I feel like she's going to walk through the room."
Houston and her love child Sparkle influenced Sparks beyond acting. The songs and sounds from Mayfield's original soundtrack and songs on the current film's playlist have inspired her to consider exploring and expanding beyond her current pop-influenced, rhythm and blues repertoire.
"Last year I was in this state of limbo, things were happening with my label and I had just left my management so there was no one here to help me go get something so I was sitting there thinking, "Is this it?" Then Sparkle fell into my lap and it was the perfect opportunity. It gave me the chance to do something new like acting as well as get out new music for my fans so it was really perfect. But stylistically it was something different ... something I hadn't done before and really inspired me. I was really excited because I grew up on Mariah and Whitney and Celine and Christina, so my sound right now is I want to do early Mariah, early Whitney and it won't be weird now which it could have been if not for this movie," says Sparks.
Both Sparks and Sumpter are optimistic about the wide release of the film on August 17 and believe it will appeal to fans of the original and a new, younger audience. "Sparkle is a movie that will touch people from all walks of life with its universal themes of family, struggles, love and dreams."
Sparks is currently working on her second feature film, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, starring Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Jeffrey Wright, and Anthony Mackie. The film is scheduled for release in 2013.
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