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Sparks, Sumpter talk about new movie, 'Sparkle'

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Staff Photo: Meghan Kotowski Jordin Sparks and Tika Sumpter stopped by Atlanta's Four Seasons Hotel to promote their new movie, "Sparkle."

ATLANTA -- Funny fact: Whitney Houston didn't know how to "Dougie" until she was on set filming the movie "Sparkle."

One night in between shoots, the cast was trying to keep their energy high when Cali Swag District's "Teach Me How to Dougie" came on an iPod. Everyone, including Jordin Sparks and Tika Sumpter, danced and "Dougied" when Houston walked into the room.

"Whitney walks in and was like, 'What's that?' And we were all just like, 'Uhhh.'" Sparks said.

The late singer wanted to know how to do it, so they showed her.

"She started dancing with us. It was so fun because she was so fun-loving like that," said Sparks, who plays the lead role of Sparkle. "She was goofy, had the greatest sense of humor and she just wanted to get to know all of us on a genuine level."

While Houston was one of the executive producers on the film, she also played Emma, an over-bearing religious mother in "Sparkle." Both Sparks and Sumpter were nervous to work with Houston, but got over the nerves quickly because the international pop star was down to earth every day.

"She wanted us all to shine," said Sumpter, who plays Delores "Dee" Anderson. "I love that about Whitney because Whitney is Whitney Houston and she could have been a total diva if she wanted to. She really wanted all of us to have our moments."

Besides working with Houston, the actresses fell in love with the experience because this movie is a cult classic about three sisters who form a girl group in Detroit during the rise of Motown during the '60s. The original film was released in 1976.

"I didn't see the original before all of this," Sumpter said, "I saw the script and knew that whoever was in this movie was going to be super special. And I knew that I had to be a part of it, some way, somehow. ... I know that my sisters and family members who were older than me saw it and were obsessed. And they were like, 'You'd better get this right.' I feel like we got it right. We had the essence of the original, but we made it our own."

Sparks was even more nervous about the venture because this is the first movie she's ever starred in.

"How I overcame the nervousness and the kind of fear of messing up was the cast was so great for me," she said. "I was just like a sponge soaking up everything Tika did, everything Carmen (Ejogo) did, everything Whitney did, everything the boys did. ... There were a lot of emotional scenes. I'd never had to dig so deep emotional to get those tears to flow.

"Since there was music involved, that was when I was in my comfort zone. So for me, if they needed anything, I was helping them with the musical performances, choreography and in the studio."

"Sparkle" opens today.