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Darrin Henson talks "Black Coffee", new book

Darrin Henson at premiere
Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for BET

While L.A recovers from a few days of rain, another force of nature keeps finding new challenges and seeks to face them head on in Hollywood. Former choreographer turned actor Darrin Henson, best known for his role in soul food and choreographic iconic artists as Michael Jackson, Prince and N'Sync (He's the guy behind "Bye, bye, bye") is not only seeking to reach audiences with his work in front of the character, but to make a difference by bringing back some common sense in his new book "Ain't That the Truth. We recently sat down with Darrin to discuss his new book and his new film "Black Coffee."

BILLY TATUM: Tell me about your new book “Ain’t That the Truth?”

DARRIN HENSON: “Ain’t That the Truth” is really a collection of positive affirmations. The tagline for the book is acknowledging, admitting, and inviting the truth into your life. It’s really a daily, monthly, and yearly reminder of who and what we really are. We talk to ourselves all the time, but if we did it out loud, I think that our ears would hear and our brains would respond. Jim Rome said “Don’t wish for more challenges. Wish for more wisdom.” I think about that and go “Ain’t that the Truth?” Challenges help us to grow. What we want is to have more wisdom to deal with the challenges. Ain’t that the truth? So, it’s really a collection of positive affirmations and sayings. One of the funny ones is, and it’s a funny way to look at ourselves. I wrote that “It’s not that diabetes and heart disease runs in your family. It’s just that no one RUNS in your family.” It’s a way to look at ourselves and go “Aint that the truth? Let me get up and do something today. Let me anchor myself in a positive way, because what would it cost me if I didn’t do it?” That’s what I want to wake people up to. If we don’t take action in our lives, what is it going to cost us later?

BILLY TATUM: “Black Coffee” recently premiered at the Pan African Film Festival. What drew you to the project?

DARRIN HENSON: Honestly, “Black Coffee” was speaking to who I am at this time. I’m going through a metamorphosis in my life. I know that we all have challenges in our life and we all get to a level of success and it tapers off. What do you do there? Well, you have to take new action. Well, that’s what Robert did in the film. He’s happy, he thought, and then he gets fired. Well, think about it. You can’t get fired from the company that you’re the CEO of and the light goes off. His father owned the company. When it was time to pass the baton, Robert didn’t want the responsibility. So, he winds up getting fired in the company that his dad used to own. If that’s not a wakeup call, I don’t know what is. It’s something that speaks to the masses. It’s serendipity, but it’s love at times that we weren’t expecting. It really is a time and place where we have to activate our responsibility and I thought “What a wonderful way to do it and it’s a conversation over coffee.” One of the taglines of the movie is “Love is Brewing.” Well, something is brewing all the time. When we drink coffee, we get this rush of adrenaline and caffeine is pumping and that’s what this film felt like. It was an opportunity to boost my life individually as Darrin Dewitt Henson, and within the character, he had a boost and it happened through coffee. The character played by Christian Keyes is his cousin in the film and wants him to deliver coffee. It seems like the silliest thing to do because this guy is a creative guy and a painter. He doesn’t deliver coffee, but because he took action and did that, he met the woman that ultimately becomes his wife and his love. Again, it was serendipity and these are the crossroads of life. I wanted to convey to the people that watch this that there are crossroads all the time and that serendipity is happening all the time. What we need to do is realize it. We need to have enough wisdom to realize what’s happening in our lives.

BILLY TATUM: The character you play is pretty mild-mannered even when his girlfriend humiliates him. How close are you in personality to Robert?

DARRIN HENSON: I would’ve been the opposite of Robert. I wouldn’t have allowed her to keep the car that long. I wouldn’t have allowed her to keep the insurance. Her clothes would’ve been in the street immediately (LAUGHS). I think a part of Robert is inside of me. I think we have to take thought and you have to prepare. It was a new chapter in his life. He realized that it wasn’t what he thought it was going to be. I don’t know if he thought it was perfect for him, but he was tolerating her because he needed someone in his life. He wanted someone around. He wanted someone to go to sleep and wake up with him. These are the things that she desired and he gave her not all of it, but a little bit of it. He shared himself. He knew that you have to get a little to give a little. I think where he woke up to the truth was “You know, Mita. It’s time to move on.” It’s one of those places that the light went off. When he got fired, and she left, the light went on. It was like “Ok, this is what was happening around me all the time.” Whereas Darren isn’t just looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, he’s paying attention to the tunnel itself. I change things and I’m aware of things as they are happening. It’s being aware of your surroundings all the time and I think that’s important. In terms of the reaction, I think I would’ve been 50% of what Robert was. Not completely polar opposite of Robert but maybe 50% of what Robert was.

BILLY TATUM: That’s good because you never know if bail money will come fast enough.

DARRIN HENSON: I know. (LAUGHS) In my book, I talk about this. “Don’t do something permanently stupid, because you’re permanently upset. Ain’t that the truth?”

BILLY TATUM: Your career has ran the spectrum of entertainment. How did you go from choreographing music videos to acting?

DARRIN HENSON: Honestly and literally, it was choice. It was choosing which direction you want it to go in. I say use frustration against itself. As a choreographer, I had completed my goals. I had put my goals down. I had activated myself to the intention of the goal. I met my goals head-on and I lived in the moment when they were happening. I worked with Michael Jackson. I worked with Prince. I choreographed for SWV and the older groups like C&C Music Factory. I choreographed for all of the music award shows. What happened in ’99 and ’00 was serendipitous. I worked with Michael Jackson for a year and said “Ok, I’m satisfied.” I worked with Prince and said “Ok, I’m satisfied. I have everything I wanted except for the MTV Music Award.” And I said I’m going to act now. During that time, I had already choreographed N’Sync’s “Bye, bye, bye” and they were already on the road performing it. The video was produced in 2000. The wonderful part about that was I decided to act, because I wanted new challenges. I was going to go out, audition, and put my best foot forward. Well, 3 months later, the audition for “Soul Food” came up. I went and auditioned and re-auditioned. Finally, after a screentest, I booked the role. Now, I’m on “Soul Food” and I’m an actor. On September 9th of 2000, my name gets called as the MTV music award winner for N’Sync’s “Bye, bye, bye.” That’s literally how it happened. Then, I was on the show for five years, Showtime’s biggest show and I thought “Wow, all you have to do is tie yourself to your intention and enjoy the process.” And I thought I’m going to live that way. No matter what happens. Just stay focused on my intention and enjoy the process, because I know success comes next. The worst thing you can do is not start.

BILLY TATUM: What got your over the rough parts or how do you deal with procrastination?

DARRIN HENSON: You learn how to use negative things against themselves. It’s the same thing with procrastination. You learn how to procrastinate against procrastination. If you’re going to procrastinate, procrastinate against procrastination. (LAUGHS) Use it against itself. If you’re going to be frustrated, use frustration to work for you. Use it in a positive way and do something about it. I said positive frustration (as in) I’ve choreographed for every artist that I wanted to work for on my vision board, so I’ll act now. Acting came next and it coincided. I did “Stomp the Yard” and was able to act, because I had gone to acting classes and done all this stuff. When “Stomp the Yard” came up, I was able to use my expertise in dance and choreography and it culminated in a movie starring role. It was just awesome. When I see that, these lights come on, I go “Yeah!” and it’s those defining moments where you start to write your obituary now.

BILLY TATUM: Was the goal in writing the book to help people?

DARRIN HENSON: I love helping people and kind of being the person to assist people wake up to themselves. Someone did it for me. I had Gregory Hines give me a wakeup call and I had Jim Brown give me a wakeup call. My dad gave me my wakeup call. My mom gave me my wakeup call. In different ways, but it came from different people. We’ve heard the old cliché “A fool learns from his own mistakes, but it takes a wise man to learn from the mistakes of others.” If we really start practicing that and focusing on what other people have done, we can find success, because we can role model other positive people and what they did. If it worked for them, it can work for me. It also works with the negative. If they did that, I can learn not to do that. I’ve learned from a fool’s mistakes.

Darrin Henson is certainly no fool. In part two of our interview, he tells us about what roles he'd like to tackle next, life under the big top, and which projects are in his future.

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