While she’s lent her musical talents to films before, Grammy-winning singer Mary J. Blige wanted the Living Proof, her contribution to The Help, to be more than a mere soundtrack listing.
Based on Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel of the same name, the Help captures the essence of 1960s Jackson, Miss., chronicling the relationships between three very different women who come together around a secret writing project that puts them all at risk.
“I saw a screening of the movie twice,” Blige explains.
“At each screening I had my Blackberry and I would write down each time something would make me cry and I would write down when I laughed. By the time we got to the studio, the song was almost written.”
And while the song intertwines thematically with the film, it’s still an intensely personal piece for Blige. “It means everything to me,” she says of the tune. “It means I know exactly where I’m going. I know what lies ahead for me. I know that my journey continues because it’s been so rough here that to have any life, I have to have the courage to keep moving.”
And moving forward is something Blige excels at, starting with moving from music into acting. Having already made several television and film appearances, most recently in Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself, Blige is currently shooting Rock of Ages.
Describing her casting in the Broadway smash-turned-movie as “a blessing,” Blige plays Justice, “a gentlemen’s club owner — a very nice strip club owner,” she says.
“I have to be the light in a dark place. Normally the person that’s always the most bubbly person is the person with the most problems. The person is always smiling. So, that’s who Justice is. And that’s basically my part. Of course there’s singing. I sing and I act.”
Blige is taking her new career seriously, working with an acting coach to hone her skills. “I’m improving,” she says modestly.
While she says music has given her great confidence in life, “acting is just the opposite. It says to me, ‘You’ve got a lot of work to do. You’re blinking. You’re stuttering. Keep working on that. Keep working on your confidence.’”
And where does she hope that growing confidence will take her? Ideally into a Steven Spielberg film. “If he ever does a huge movie, I would love for him to call Mary J. Blige to be one of the African-Americans in the film,” she says. “That’s a big deal.”