Twenty-two year old Jessica Alba, who starred in James Cameron’s post-“Titantic” television series “Dark Angel” (and won a TV Guide Award as Breakout Star of the Year in the process), is making her starring feature debut in Universal Pictures’ “Honey.” She plays a New York dance instructor/waitress who fulfills her dream of becoming a video choreographer while also raising money to build a dance studio as a symbol of hope in her crime-ridden neighborhood.
During a recent visit to Dallas, Alba was direct about her involvement in refashioning the script to her liking. “I really had an impact,” she said. “I used to be quiet and listen to the director and nod my head and try to please him, and in the end I always felt dissatisfied with the result. It didn’t quite fit. When we collaborate, it just feels better, and the result is always better because my whole heart is in it…I just wanted [‘Honey’] to be something that was inspirational and uplifting, [about] people following their dreams. A movie that I’d want to see.”
Alba was also pleased to make a dance movie, although it required a great deal of work on her part.
“Dance movies inspired me when I was a kid,” she said, “and I wanted to see that for the kids these days, for their generation. They don’t have the ‘Flashdance’ or the ‘Fame’ or the ‘Dirty Dancing’…[Lately] there haven’t been a lot of dance movies.” She was especially happy that “Honey” included plenty of hip-hop choreography. “Sometimes people don’t correlate [hip-hop] with dancing,” she noted, and she hoped the movie would counter that idea.
But the dance routines required lots of effort. “I did [training] about three months before we started shooting the movie,” Alba recalled. “I did basic ballet, jazz, hop-hop. I had to learn how to do counts, like an eight-count–it’s like a dance terminology that I never knew about…I’d never done any dance before, [except] in front of the mirror when I was a kid, pretending I was Janet Jackson, or whatever. But of professional training, I’d had none.”
Still, the dancing was nothing compared to what she’d gone through for “Dark Angel,” in which Alba played a genetically engineered young woman pursued by the agency that had manufactured her. “I trained for a year” on that show, she said. “It was like being a soldier, literally. That was hard—really, really hard.”
But the series was what convinced Alba to remain an actress. She’d wanted to go into performing since she was six, and became professionally active at 12, soon landing roles in several features and a couple of TV shows. She also studied with William H. Macy at the Atlantic Theater Company. But she was uncertain whether to continue acting or to go to college.
“I gave myself until eighteen to see if I could have a real career at this,” Alba said. “And when I was seventeen, like three weeks before my eighteenth birthday, I got ‘Dark Angel’…To me that was the stamp of approval, when Jim Cameron chose me to be the head of this very big project. I thought, okay, maybe I can do this for a living.”