411 Mania Interview: Actor/Singer Marques Houston
Marques Houston has made his mark in such films as Good Burger, You Got Served, and House Party 3, proving he can successfully transition from music to film. His benchmarks for this are Mark Wahlberg, Jamie Foxx, and Will Smith, who he cites as major influences in this interview. Musically, he wants to tell the soundtrack of his life and is currently working on a new album. Recently, I caught up with Marques Houston to discuss his role in the new dance film Battlefield America, being a role model, the type of films and projects he wants to be a part of in the future, and a whole lot more. Battlefield America is out on DVD right now and is directed by Chris Stokes, whose previous projects include You Got Served and Somebody Help Me. There is also a You Tube link which includes the interview in full.
TONY: You have collaborated many times in your career with Chris Stokes. What is it about that collaboration and that creative process that brings out the best in you?
Marques Houston: Well, I think after you work with someone for so long, you really develop a great working relationship. We have that. We have that great working relationship. He really knows what I like to do as far as an actor, a singer, and everything like that. I get him as well as a director. He’s one of those directors, once you work with Chris, even actors that have worked with him in the past, you get spoiled because he cares for the actors. He’s like, ‘I need my actors to look great.’ He’s not a selfish director. He’s not one of those people who feel like, “I want my work to look good.” He wants everybody’s work to look good, the whole cast to look great. I think that’s one of those the things why I like working with Chris so much. I feel like he’s a great writer and director as well. His concepts and his ideas are really, really great.
TONY: You mentioned how he brings out the best in all of his actors. You’ve done different projects before, film, television, but how do you view yourself as an actor right now?
Marques Houston: As an actor, I view himself as a beginner, being one hundred percent honest. Even with this Battlefield America movie, I would make jokes with my friends, ‘This is the first time I’ve really acted.’ It was the first time I got to be outside of myself and play a different character, not just being a natural and doing what comes naturally to me. I felt like this was my first time being an actor as far as Hollywood goes. I’m a newcomer to the game. I try to model myself after people like Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Mark Wahlberg, people who have done both music and acting and were able to make a really, really successful transition from the music business to acting. So that’s definitely where I want to be.
TONY: You mentioned Mark Wahlberg, Jamie Foxx, and Will Smith. What do you think is one thing that all of them have in common that has helped them transition from music to film so effortlessly?
Marques Houston: I think their work ethic, working hard and being so devoted to what they do and taking it really seriously and not playing around with it. When Will Smith got into acting, he took it really seriously. I know Will personally, and everything he does, he gives one hundred and twenty eight thousand percent. Those are guys that gave me good advice coming up. Will Smith and Jamie Foxx are actually two personal friends of mine. They’ve given me great advice on making that transition. I think that with Mark Wahlberg what I really respect about him, I don’t know Mark Wahlberg personally, but what I respect about him was he was able to do the music transition and do films and I like the fact that he does a lot of executive producing and behind the scenes work as well. That’s what I like about Mark Wahlberg and respect about him as well.
TONY: You’ve done dance films previously in your career and you have some coming up in the future. What do you think makes a successful dance film? What has to work for it to look authentic and to be a good piece of entertainment?
Marques Houston: I think the key to making a successful dance film is having a strong story but having also a strong team of dancers. With this movie, Battlefield America, what really, really attracted me to it was it was never done before with kids of this age. I was like, ‘That’s different.’ We’ve seen it with the teenagers in You Got Served and Stomp the Yard and the Step Up franchise and you’ve seen it done with the adults, but we’ve never seen the little tikes go at it. I thought it was something different, and I think kids are going to eat this DVD alive and they’re going to love it and try to learn all the dance moves and everything like that. I think this is definitely what separate this movie from the rest of them too. I think the key to a successful dance movie is the dance and the great story.
TONY: You mentioned how this film has a great story. For you in terms of your career as an actor and in music, what kind of stories do you want to tell?
Marques Houston: I want to tell great stories. Will Smith gave me some advice when I was a lot younger, he told me the key to making a great film, period, whether it’s action, whatever kind of film it is, is a great love story. Whether it be a family that loves each other and you want to see a family that loves each other, whether it be best friends, a romantic comedy, a romance movie, but the greatest stories have love in them. I want to make great movies that can make you laugh and that can make you cry and keep you entertained. That’s the kind of movies I want to make, but my next goal is to be in an action movie.
TONY:In terms of music, what kind of stories do you want to tell?
Marques Houston: Well, musically, to me, music comes from the soul and I’m working on a new album right now. I just want to be able to tell the story of my life, just whatever I’m feeling or whatever mood I’m in, those are the stories I want to tell musically. I don’t have necessarily a set story I like to tell musically, just whatever comes from my heart. I like to write my music to tell the story of me. It’s like a soundtrack to my life, that’s what music is to me.
TONY: You mentioned how music is the soundtrack to your life and you like to tell great stories with film. In terms of film and music, what do those avenues bring to you creatively? Are they similar in a way?
Marques Houston: They’re not similar at all. When I go into the studios, music is more natural and it’s whatever is in your heart, whatever you decide to sing. Acting, you have to take it way more seriously than music. You have to study a lot, memorize, and become different characters, sometimes it takes a little bit of method acting, so you have to get into a character a little bit more and step outside yourself and who you are. You have to focus a lot more. There’s a lot more riding on being an actor because it’s not just naturally what you’re used to and you can’t take it back. Once it’s printed on the screen, every movie I see, I think, ‘Ah, I could have done that better.’ It takes a lot more pre-preparation than music does. Studio, I could just go in the studio right now and knock out a song in a couple of hours. Acting is not like that. It’s a lot more preparation than that.
TONY: It’s interesting, because you feel very confident in the studio and when you’re doing a film, you feel unsure of yourself in a way. What are some film or television projects that you’ve done previously that you look back on and think, ‘You know what? I did a really good job in this one.’
Marques Houston: I always feel like I could do better. People will come up to me and be like, ‘Oh, you did so great.’ I just recently watched Battlefield America and I was like, ‘I could do better.’ I’m always going to be one of those people that feel like I could do better on anything I do. I’m my own worst critic, and I think most actors are. I’m never satisfied with my work.
TONY: One of the great things about what you do is that you really put yourself out there in a positive light for people. What is that like for you handling that responsibility to do something positive and be out there in a positive light? Do you make a conscious effort to do that or is that sort of the person you are?
Marques Houston: I think that’s the person that I am. I really focus on trying to be positive and sending positive messages out there. I’m one that realizes that I get looked up to from a lot of the younger kids out there that do look up to me as far as a role model. No, that’s not ever the role that you set out to be, and of course you want to be yourself and be able to do things and have people not judge you. I for one feel like it’s important to give people out there something to look forward to because everyone needs a hero. I’m not saying I’m anybody’s here or anything like that, but when people can come up to me and say, ‘Hey, your music really helped me through this. Seeing you do this really helps me.’ That’s what really makes me feel like what I do is not in vein. I don’t do it for money or fame or anything like that. I’ve never been that kind of person because I’ve had money and fame since I was little, so that’s not really what it’s about. It’s more about the message behind what I do and being able to inspire people.
TONY: You mentioned how you’d like to do an action film in the future. What are some of your personal goals for the future as far as musically and in terms of being an actor and what are you currently working on?
Marques Houston: Currently, I’m working on a new album, untitled, but I’m working on some new music right now that I’m very, very excited about. All my fans have been wondering what I’m working on musically. I finally decided to do another album. As far as film and television, I’m working on some film and television projects I’m a producer on that I’m not in, actually, just behind the scenes. I mentioned Mark Wahlberg, so kind of getting my executive producer/producer hat on. Definitely getting more into writing scripts, so I’m trying to take that step into the next phase of my career, which is doing movies. I want to be selective. I don’t want to just do any movie that comes. I want to be selective in the movies that I choose and I want to be able to choose the ones that I want to do and do just those and but also do great projects that I’m not in as well.