MD: Now, I remember in one of your first profile pieces on American Idol you said that you were too afraid to sing in church.
TG: I was.
MD: So how did it feel to not only sing in a choir in a church but on the big screen?
TG: So when we were shooting it, it was really bad for me because I was really scared. Still. [laughs] The funny thing about this movie is that it's my church. It's my church from American Idol!
MD: That same one where they showed you in the audience?
TG: This is my church, yeah, where I was sitting in the audience. We're using my choir from church, so it's the same fear! When I was singing "Now Behold the Lamb," I pre-recorded it, so I'm thinking, "I don't have to sing out. I can lip-sync." Rob was like, "No. You have to sing with it; we need the emotion; we need to see and feel that you're singing this song now." So I was really scared. I haven't lost that fear of singing out. I can sing in the studio all day. But it's something about church, me, and singing that just doesn't mesh. [laughs] Maybe singing in a choir--I can do that. Singing solo, I'm still like... I don't know. Maybe it's because these are the people you know; you think that they might judge you--there's so many things that come to mind when you're at church that doesn't come to mind when you're just on stage. I don't know; maybe it's just some psychological problem.
MD: But did this help at all? Do you feel more comfortable singing in church?
TG: I know; I can do everything else. [laughs] Maybe singing in another church; I just can't sing in my own church. When I was in my church when they called me out American Idol, they said, "We're gonna film you." They didn't tell me I was going to sing. So when they called me out, I was like, "Are you serious?" Nobody at church knew I did any of this. I was just the girl who went to church, sat in church, and left. So it was very nerve-wrecking when they called me out to sing. I have hard time accepting applause from people that I grew up with or that I know, and so to be out in church and to be put out on the spot, it was like,"Why are you doing this to me?" It didn't feel right.
Q: So the role you play in the movie is quite natural for you.
TG: Yeah. I actually got my parents to go to church when I was a kid. I got myself baptized at an interdenominational church that I went to. I would go every Sunday from 7 to 2. I would go to Bible study, and then my parents would have to come because they'd have to come and pick me up. But they'd drop me off at church for Bible study, and they'd come back at the 11 o'clock service and sit through the main service, which went until 2 o'clock.
Q: When did you find out that you were starring opposite Boris, and what was your reaction?
TG: OK, so this is bad, and I think every woman is going to hate me. I really didn't know Boris's story. [laughs] I never watched Soul Food. I wasn't familiar with Boris.
Q: Calvin Klein ads in the underwear...
TG: Didn't know he was a model. Didn't know he was from Germany. So when I first met him, I didn't get him. I was like, "What's his story? What's going on?" Right before we started filming, I got to know that he was from Germany, and he'd come here, and he didn't speak English when he got here. So I got to know him. Now, everybody's like, "And you didn't tell me? You were working with Boris Kodjoe, and you were his love interest, and you didn't invite me to the set?"" [laughs] I'm like, "I didn't know it was that big of a deal." But he is such a nice guy, and part of me is glad that I didn't know because maybe it would've been a different response. The kind of bond that we formed during filming was natural, and it was just a good friendship, and it was because I didn't know his story or that he was a model. Granted, he's gorgeous. He's very, very gorgeous. [laughs] But it was just like, "there's another cute guy."
Q: How was the screen kiss?
TG: That was nerve-wrecking. I can't speak for Boris; I can only go by the air that was in the car before we got out. And we talked; we yapped the whole time we were on set. Well, when this particular day came, we were talking beforehand; everything was cool. When they said, "OK, rehearsal up!" and we got in the car... [long silence]
TG: You could cut the tension. [laughs] I think we were both in our head like, "Oh my God, what are we gonna do?" It was such tension--or maybe it was just me. [laughs] It might not have been Boris at all because I had to initiate the kiss, so I'm thinking, "Aw man. Maybe I don't actually have to kiss him during rehearsal. Maybe I can fake it, and we can do the real thing later." But once we actually got up in rehearsal, Rob told me exactly what he wanted me to do: "Grab him, bring him down, and take control!"
TG: Right, if you say so! [laughs] There were so many things going through my mind because technically I never really done that kind of kiss on TV. [laughs] Only the furthest I've gotten is a peck!
TG: So I'm just thinking to myself, "Right--this is acting; this is all stage; it's not real. So you just act like you're kissing, and you just kind of move your mouth, but nothing's really happening. OK, I can do this"--[makes pucker/kiss noises] I'm coaching myself in the process. And once we did it, it was just like, "OK! Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah"--we started talking all over again. But before the rehearsal, right up until the point he said, "Rehearsal up; get in the car"--we were talking. We got in that car, there was silence. We didn't even play the radio. We just kind of sat there like, "OK." But then afterwards we were cool again.
Q: The scene with the phone was very funny, too; that just seemed to come so naturally. Was that like a one-take deal, when you were on the phone and talking, and you were saying, "Don't you see me on the phone?"
TG: That was just fun. [laughs] That was so my personality. That was something that I would want to say but probably wouldn't have the guts to actually say; I would probably just ignore the person and keep on walking. [laughs] I liked the whole "There's a phone to my ear. What do you think that means?" [laughs]
MD: So how did this role come to you? How did you get involved in the film?
TG: Bali. And right when I came back, my agent--literally right after I got off the plane; they knew exactly when I was coming back--she called me and said, "There's a script waiting for you. We need you to read it tonight and have a decision by tomorrow as to whether or not you want to do it." I was like, "I don't have to audition; I don't have to do anything?" It was funny because I had been given the script a year before but never heard anything about it, so I threw it out like "This isn't going to happen; I don't need this script anymore." And it was the exact same script. After I read it, I was like, "Yeah. Of course." When I met Rob, he said that ever since he came up with the idea of the movie, he thought that Rain was me. And I was like, "Wow. That's pretty cool."
MD: A lot of your roles have singing involved. Is it easier for you to act when you have music to work with?
TG: I don't think it makes it easier. I just think it's the one thing that links most people to me. There's a movie; there's a singing part--oh, there's Tamyra. What I'm hoping is that eventually I'll get roles that don't involve singing, that aren't really closely related to me as a person, that are the complete opposite. I think as an actress, not only a singer, I want to be able to explore the different realms of that. If I was a singer, and I only got to sing one particular type of music--that would drive me nuts because you don't feel as though you're able to grow. Technically acting's the only thing I've made money in, so I want to keep doing it until I make money singing!
TG: People will take you seriously. I think that I'm starting to be taken seriously as an actress. I have been given roles that haven't involved singing but not that many. Hopefully that will change eventually.
Q: Do you find gospel music more challenging to sing than, say, pop?
TG: No. Gospel is your soul, is your heart. There's nothing--I want to say "borderline" about it. If you're not fully into it, you can't really sing it. And I love gospel music. I don't sing it, and the only reason that I don't sing it is because I feel as though if I ever sing gospel music, I don't want to be a hypocrite. I don't want to be singing gospel and then living my life a completely different way. So that's why I wouldn't personally sing gospel music right now, but I love it. I love Yolanda Adams. I love everybody, but Yolanda's my favorite. Everybody assumes that because my voice is soulful that I grew up singing in the church. But as you know, that's never been the case. I've sung in choirs but just never the church.
TG: I do have an album out now; I'm working on my second one. It's called The Dreamer. That's the name of the first one; the second one I don't have a name for yet. I've just switched management, so I'm actually in the process of searching for a new deal. I went with an independent label for the first album, so this next one I would like to be a major [label release]. So we're in the process of shopping.
TG: Yeah, but in the 12-minute they show you. [laughs] It was really bad.
MD: Do you know how the 12-minute version will be released?
TG: It won't be.
Q: Send us a copy.
TG: If I ever get one. [laughs] The six-minute version is mainly a European campaign; they're playing it in the theatres. Actually, I think they may be trying to buy slots in the theatres where The Gospel's playing, to tie it in.