Mary J.Blige

On “Rock of Ages”, her blossoming acting career, and her anxiety issues

Mary J.Blige has one of the best moments in “Rock of Ages” – it’s a rousing little sequence kicked off by a bravura belting of ‘Anyway you want it’. But truth to be told, the musician steals much of the Adam Shankman directed rock movie.

We caught up with Ms Blige to discuss everything “Rock of Ages”.

Were you impressed by your non-musician co-stars?

I didn’t see the movie but I heard the songs. I know it’s terrible that I didn’t see the movie yet. I heard the songs and I was impressed by Tom. I’m really impressed. And Catherine – I didn’t even know she could sing like that.

Did you ever think you would be in a rock musical? Are you a fan of rock and roll and of musicals for that matter?

I’m a fan of rock and roll. I love just all kinds of music. Musicals, the reason why I felt like something like this was going to happen because when I was in school, my music teacher used to put me in the plays. I did some dramatic stuff, in elementary though. To answer your question, did I ever think that I would be in a rock and roll musical? No. This just came out of nowhere.

Would you like to pursue acting more?

I’m going to pursue it more. I love it. I’m going to ease into it, continue to get the acting coaching and learn more. I really want to work for it. I don’t want to suck.

When you think of all the music videos that you shot in your life, you’re acting in these music videos, so you have…

But you’re acting as yourself. If I had to become you, that’s a hard job. Who are you? That’s the question. What makes you move? What makes you tick? There is a lot that comes with that. With me, I know everything I want to do, everything I’m saying, everything I’m thinking.

Did you relate to this character well? Could you connect with her?

Yeah I did. Just being a strong person in tough places. My life has been full of that, having to be strong in really, really bad environments.

You said that it came out of nowhere, how did you get involved in this movie?

Adam Shankman gave me the part. I met Adam in a housewarming party for Jennifer Lopez maybe two years ago. We were hanging out with him and he just kept saying, I’m going to put you in a movie. People in Hollywood say things…He was a nice man so we just hangout with him all night. And six months later, he showed up with a script.

This movie is about how people want to make it in Hollywood. How did it all started for you?

I went to a karaoke machine in a shopping mall and I sang one of my favorite singers, Anita Baker’s song, Caught up in the Rapture. I just sang it just for fun. They gave me the tape. I took it home. My mother’s boyfriend heard it and went crazy and said, he knew people on his job that can help me. He took it. There was a guy by the name of Jeff Red that was an R&B singer. He was already out and he gave it Jeff Red. Jeff Red was still working at General Motors. You know what I’m saying. Jeff Red called his people and gave them the tape and they played the tape for them and then the CEO/President of Uptown Records came to my house. They heard me sing in person and the rest was history.

It was kind of easy with you.

No it wasn’t. I was 17. I had to wait. There was a wait after they said they’re going to sign you. They’re going to give you an advance. When you live in an environment like I lived in, the wait is hard and then the environment is hard. It wasn’t easy.

Is there any rock star who inspired you for Justice’s role?

I had to look at the Pointer Sisters back in those days, and Patrice Rushen and Donna Summer for just the hair and stuff like that. There was someone else…Chaka Khan.

You are a fan of theirs anyway.


So you could relate to your character but I imagine you could also relate to Julianne’s character?

At what?

Of trying to make it.

Yeah. When I was growing up, I had a couple of women surround me. They helped me out. They gave me things and gave me my first piece of jewelry and show me the ropes with men, you know a teenager. They weren’t just like Justice, they were, okay, if you’re in it, you’re in it but you can’t stay here. They taught you how to make a decision for yourself.

It was nice to see in the film a strong woman supporting another woman because often in movies it’s women competing against each other.


Did you choose the more inconvenient way where it was rather convenient to stay where you were? Like as you said to Julianne in the film you said like you could stay here. You can make a lot of money as a dancer but you would rather do something else and follow your dream.

It’s easy to stay there but you’ll die there. You’ll not just die physically you’ll die spiritually. You’ll just be dead. That’s not a living environment. That’s like what Justice said, that’s just a rest stop, that’s just a stepping stone for your next destination. I think the message is that even in an environment like that you have to feel good about yourself and give your best. That’s what I believe [inaudible 6.27].

When young people come to you today and they want to break into music or acting or whatever it is and ask you for advice, what do you suggest to them?

The first thing I say to them is believe in yourself when everyone stops believing in you. And don’t give up. When you fall just get up and keep going. You’ve got to have that faith that you can do it.

How much do you mentor as Mary J. Blige, as the artist and as the woman? How do you give back to young artists?

I mentor a lot. I have a group of women that I mentor to, that I have sent to college. I have a foundation that is being worked on that you know a bunch of stuff happened, but my goal was to give back, was to save the lives of women, to help them have a second chance at their lives and to give them an opportunity to get education, to encourage them to feel good about themselves and to help the women get to complete their education. I think when you have information you can sit up in a room like this and make a mistake but come back because you know what you’re talking about. You understand what I’m trying to say? I think knowledge is power for real.

So yeah, I give back. I’ve sent 25 women to college. I have a Mary J. Blige Center for Women in Yonkers that has a GED program, a childcare system, a computer room. The childcare system is for the women that are trying to go on job interviews but, remember, they can’t find a babysitter. It’s just to help them complete their education and be what they dream of being.

I got to go to the set last year of this film and I was saying I couldn’t believe all the details. It was quite incredible. When you walk down to the Sunset Strip, what feeling did you have?

It was like, okay how did he do this? The ladies sitting – do you remember the big lady… I was like where do they all this stuff. It was creepy. It was creepy how they duplicated it the way they did – with the record stores. What was that record store?



Did you ever play in The Whisky or some famous clubs here on the Strip?

No. I remember Tower Records. There are things when you see, you’re like, “Wow!” You forgot all about that stuff. And then you see a lot of it on TV as well and movies like how did they do that? How did Adam do that?

What sort of music were you listening to? Are you listening to the rock and roll?

I was listening to a lot of R&B, a lot hip hop but I was exposed to all these songs and all the rock and roll through MTV. It was the only video station at the time. We were watching the video station waiting on George Michael to come on, waiting on the Eurhythmics to come on. We got exposed to Pat Benatar in Love is a Battlefield. It became our anthem. When I was a little kid my father was a musician. He had Grateful Dead albums. He had The Eagles. I was introduced to soft rock through WABC. We didn’t have Hot 97 and WBO and all that. We only had WABC and WNBC which was AM stations. They only played Elton John and Ambrosia and The Eagles. I can go on name that tune. I have a lot of song history when it comes to that.

Did you take direction easily from Adam or were there moments were you wanted to say something but you felt this is my first time working with him? What was that process like for you?

With Adam, he knew exactly what he wanted and I got it. He would say do this, do that, do this and that, maybe don’t do too much of that, just try this and try that. And I got it. Some days it’s like a lot but you just got to pay attention. He just knew what he wanted. It made it easy for us.

How do you think you’ll be watching yourself on the big screen?

Nervous. I’m my own worst critic. I’m hard on myself. I can see every little thing that I did wrong. Not that I did right.

What do you think you’ll be looking for the most; how you look or how you sound or how you act?

It’s the acting.

You would think that you don’t get nervous anymore because you’ve in the business for such a long time.

I get nervous. I’m nervous right now. Before I walk in here, I take a deep breath. {laughing}

We’re not that bad.

It’s just me.

To Top