‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ star Jaqueline Fleming talks Harriet Tubman role

Jaqueline FlemingJaqueline Fleming has quietly worked as an actress on hit sitcoms since the 90s. This year the actress has gained more notoriety after starring opposite Terrence Howard in the critically acclaimed film “The Ledge.” Fleming plays Howard’s dishonest wife in the Matthew Chapman-directed indie thriller.

STORY: Watch ‘The Ledge’ Trailer

Fleming is also apart of the highly-anticipated TD Jakes film ‘On the Seventh Day.’ The thriller follows a couple whose past secrets unravel when their six-year-old daughter is kidnapped. The actress has also landed the role of underground railroad pioneer Harriet Tubman in the new Tim Burton-produced film, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” The big budget film is about Lincoln avenging the death of his mother after she’s killed by a vampire. Lincoln brings down a system of ancient vampires/slave masters who use their slaves as food. And of course, he runs into historical figures like Harriet Tubman.

BlackActors.net spoke exclusively with Fleming to discuss some of her upcoming projects, how she got her start in the business, and what her future plans are in Hollywood. Read the exclusive interview.

BA: Thanks for taking the time out for this interview. First off, I want to congratulate you on all of your recent success. You’re really making a name for yourself in Hollywood. How did you get involved in acting?

JF: I was always fascinated with acting. I was probably about 3 years old when my family said I was reciting commercials and re-enacting them. I was drawn to theatre early on and performed as Dorothy in the wizard of oz I believe in the 3rd grade. I did plays all throughout school and ended up at Columbia film college where I did loads of theatre. Got my first agent in Chicago and did tons of commercials so I could afford to do theatre full time( didn’t really pay anything doing theatre…lol!) but I didn’t care. I loved it that much. Did my first studio film, Losing Isaiah. A small speaking role opposite Halle Berry and she actually is the one that encouraged me to go to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and tv.

BA: You’re also an acting coach..

JF: The coaching came by accident. While in New Orleans doing volunteer work at Children’s hospital I was approached about coaching. A lot of the tv shows I have done are in syndication and people in the hospital were like “Are you an actress!? Do u teach acting to kids?” So I looked for a place to coach some kids and ended up renting a room, and two weeks into it the owner of the building said she could no longer afford it. I took it over and thus began Jaq’s Acting Studio, which has just made 3 years. I hired awesome teachers to teach at the studio, and I am now more than just the face of the studio. Greeting actors as they come in and talking to them about the acting program, and the journey ahead of them.

BA: You’re attached to so many great projects. How have you been dealing with all of your recent success?

JF: Not sure really. When I first got to Hollywood I worked a lot right away, but I wasn’t spiritually grounded enough to handle Hollywood and all it entails. Now a decade later, I am a mentor and a business owner. I am very centered and grounded, so it feels right. I am humbled every time I get a part or someone wants to interview me. I’m in a place of gratitude and I hope the journey I am on has a purpose to drive and positively impact those around me.

BA: I just saw your new film ‘The Ledge.’ You’re acting alongside Terrence Howard. What was that experience like?

JF: It was like WHAT!!! He blew me away! He is so talented. He doesn’t hold anything back when he performs! So you just roll with him. He gives you so much to work with in a scene. I can’t wait to work with him again!

BA: You guys have some really dramatic scenes in the film. How were you able to bring so much authenticity to that role?

JF: For that role, my struggle internally was relating to the characters choice to have children with his brother for love. I had to wrap my head around that and dig deep. I spent so much time on the character backstory to understand the choice she made. I could never do it, personally.

BA: How did you land the role? Tell us about the audition process.

Jaqueline Fleming, The Ledge

IFC Films

JF: Well, I fought like hell for that role. I dug so deep I couldn’t stop crying. I felt I had to be that woman’s voice. I had to tell her story. I wanted the challenge because I didn’t understand her at first. I wanted to embrace someone so opposite of me. I wanted to know what it felt like to love that hard. To know you would do anything to make someone happy. I had to experience that as an actress. I wanted that challenge and the director [Matthew Chapman] cried when Terrence and I finished our scenes. He said “I knew it, Jaqueline! I knew this role was for you.” I wanted to feel that pain and I did. It made me feel so alive and drained at the same time.

BA: You’re playing Harriet Tubman in Tim Burton’s ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’. What can you tell me about your role in the film?

JF: It was absolutely phenomenal on so many levels! It was more challenging than any other role I have ever done.

BA: Timur Bekmmbetov directed the film. What was it like working with such an edgy director?

JF: You gotta really be on your A-Game because he is very detailed and moves quickly. It’s not the time for an actor to learn the process [while working with him.] I would like to work with him again.

BA: You don’t look that much like Harriet Tubman, so you must have given one hell of an audition. How did you land the part?

JF: I just want to tell everything. I have so much to say about that down to why I was chosen, the set, the clothes, the everthing. BUT, 20th Century Fox had us sign a non- disclosure form, and we are not allowed to speak about the film or show photos or anything until they start the press junckets. I am only at liberty to say I had a great time filming. It’s killing me! I want to share that experience…trust me, I do! It was a honor and humbling experience to portray Harriet and I researched everything I could find about her. I put a lot of work in studying her. I studied and researched everything about her.

BA: You were cast in the new TD Jakes film ‘On the 7th Day.’ How is that going? Tell us about your role in the film and what it’s like working with such a star-studded cast.
Jaqueline Fleming, Sharon Leal
JF: We just wrapped it! It was such a wonderful film, with a wonderful cast and director. The story is compelling. Wow, is all I can say! It twist and turns like 100 going north. Sharon Leal nails that role! Nails it! I was so excited to work opposite her. We play best friends in the movie, and I am her support system when her daughter is kidnapped until….well, you have to watch the movie to see what my character Tia does. What we all do to Sharon Leal’s character in the film. The film is full of twits and turns.

BA: I’ve seen your acting reel and you’ve worked with just about every big name in black hollywood since the 90s. Who’s your all-time favorite co-star (and why)?

JF: Angela Bassett. I love her work and respect how deep she goes into character. Her thoughts are crystal clear. You always know what she is thinking in a scene even when she is silent. She recently came to my acting studio [in New Orleans] and before the night was over, she ended up directing actors in scenes for the acting class. She is true to the craft and I respect her so much. The video of her in my acting studio speaking to actors is on my Facebook page. She was down to earth. For her to come share her time and wisdom about the industry with aspiring actors made us all love her that much more. She is the real deal.

BA: Your former ‘Treme’ co-star Wendell Pierce recently made some disparaging comments about the new film ‘The Help.’ Have you seen the film? What’s your take on the whole controversy?

I can’t wait to see the film. I heard the performances are powerful! It’s on my list to see. Heck yeah we should play maids, butlers, slaves, and etc. We are performers and we are telling the writer’s story. I recently had an audition for Lee Daniels movie, ‘Paperboy,’ and I was trying to find a movie like ‘The Help’ to watch as I was auditioning for the maid in Lee Daniel’s movie. In fact, ‘The Help’ inspired my audition outfit. I just don’t see the big deal. It’s a bigger deal if we don’t play the roles! To take the voice away from a strong African American woman who is a maid is wrong. It takes away their voice and their story if we don’t portray them. I want to play everything. I want to tell the writers’ story. I want to tell the characters back story.

BA: Do you have any advice for black actors trying to make it in Hollywood?

JF: Yes. Take control of your career. Learn how to write, direct and produce and enjoy the journey. Preparation meets opportunity. Train and be ready for that moment. Just enjoy the journey it seasons us.

BA: What’s next for you?

JF: Next??? TV Producer. I want to develop my own tv shows and continue to act. I want to keep building businesses and keep giving back and helping. I want to continue to impact the youth positively. Make a difference and continue to foster the creativity in those around me. Live a purpose driven life and have fun doing it.

BA: Thank you so much for answering our questions. You’re setting a wonderful example for your students and we can’t wait to see you in theaters!!

JF: Thank you very much for this interview. I am grateful.

‘The Ledge’ is currently available on Demand. “On the 7th Day’ is expected to be released in Spring of next year. ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ is set to open in theaters on June 22, 2012.