A look inside the 'Secret Life' of Alicia Keys

11/5/2008, 5:21 a.m.
The film had so many subtle touches like that, which delivered an emotional wallop. Its effective use of space and emptiness reminded me of your music.

That is a beautiful image, and thank you for comparing it to my music. I appreciate that so much. I agree that [director] Gina [Prince-Bythewood] did an amazing job, and everybody involved loved it from the minute they signed on. She created a very nourishing environment on the set, where we just supported each other and wanted to do an incredible job. So I’m really, really happy about how Gina was able to be so subtle, yet so strong.

To me, it was the most important film of its type since “Eve’s Bayou.”

Funny you should mention it, because I watched “Eve’s Bayou” prior to beginning work on this one because I felt it would have a similar vibe. Also, I wanted to watch it for the accents, figuring it would give you a nice feel for the regional dialects, given that it was set in the bayou. But did you know they didn’t do any dialects in that film?

I never noticed that.

That was really funny, but it was still a great movie.

On what did you base your interpretation of June Boatwright?

On many things. On my own personal emotions and feelings … on my understanding of my character’s complexities and really wanting to bring them forth even without explaining them. I also based her somewhat on these beautiful pictures we had from this book called “Freedom Fighters.” There was one girl in it in a black and white photograph who just had her arms crossed. The way she was looking at the camera made me feel, “Wow! That’s my June!” There was something about how hopeful and strong she was, yet closed-off emotionally, that I really wanted to take and make a part of June.

I also took some inspiration from a really good friend of mine who has a kind of attitude like June has. When you first meet her, you’re terrified of her. You think she’s just the meanest thing, when she’s really a sweetheart and so vulnerable underneath it all. That’s why she has to be a little tough, because she can’t afford to give all her love away. So I really took a lot of those firsthand experiences and put them into June, too. She was based on little pieces of a lot of different people and things.

Another thing I was impressed with was that there was an arc not only to June, but to so many characters in the film. That degree of development added to the richness of the cinematic experience.

Seriously, that’s true what you say. You see each person start one place and end up somewhere else. How many times do you have a film where so many characters can make such significant transitions within it? So I agree.

I also liked the way the movie made statements about the civil rights movement without hitting you over the head with it.

True, because you wouldn’t quite say it’s a story about the civil rights movement, but it’s definitely about that era. I’m really proud of that aspect.

Any truth to the rumor that you might play Philippa Schuyler in the screen adaptation of her biography, “Composition in Black and White”?