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Jurnee Smollett-Bell would like to clarify one thing: She'd be nervous to set you up on a date with one of her friends. It's too much pressure, she says. Thankfully, real life doesn't intrude on art: Smollett-Bell plays Judith, a matchmaker/wannabe marriage counselor lured into some infidelity of her own in "Tyler Perry's Temptation."
The 26-year-old actress isn't a stranger to the small screen, either: She was a series regular on "Friday Night Lights," was just cast in "True Blood," and even took a turn as Denise Frazer on "Full House" from 1992 to 1994.
NextMovie caught up with Smollett-Bell in New York City ahead of the March 29 release of "Temptation" to discuss Netflix binge-watching, marriage counselors and, of course, her favorite Journey song.
You play the titular marriage counselor in this movie.
I play Judith, who wants to be a marriage counselor. And that's what she's frustrated about, is that she's not. She graduated college, and, like most college graduates, she has to take the first job that's paying her. It's at a dating service and she's pretty much just helping old guys get a date, which is so boring and disgusting to her when she really just wants to help people work out their problems. Ironically, through this job, she ends up meeting some guy who ends up causing her to see that she's not so happy in her own marriage.
Would you be a good marriage counselor?
Yes, I am oftentimes the ear for some people that I know and love. Which I like being. I don't know if I'd like being a marriage counselor though, because that's too deep for me. I interviewed therapists and marriage counselors as research for this, and I was like, I respect what you do, but I never want to do it. Could never do it. I don't want to do it. It's just overwhelming. I have respect for therapists in general, because they hear so many stories. It's a lot to hold and take in. I've been married for two and a half years, so I'm somewhat of a newlywed. I couldn't say I'm an expert or anything, but I have learned some things in these past two and a half years about being married.
What's your best advice for a happy marriage?
My best advice would be that you have to be vulnerable with each other. Like everyone says you have to be honest, you have to communicate, like yes, of course, but you gotta be willing to be vulnerable. We all try to pretend we're the person we want to be when we're really not, and you've just gotta be willing to say here are all my flaws, here's who I am, take it or leave it, if you love me still, then let's do this.
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Okay, and the other side of that: Are you a good matchmaker?
You know what, I have an idea. I want to throw a party and have all my couple friends bring a single friend to — not put any pressure on — but kind of do a speed dating thing with all the single people. "You should be with this person, you should be with that person." I like the idea of matchmaking, I'm just not very good at it. It's too much pressure! These are peoples' lives we're talking about here. What if it doesn't work? If you're friends with both of them, then it's awkward if it doesn't work.
Kim Kardashian is also in this movie. Do you watch "Keeping Up with the Kardashians"?
I don't. I'm a grandma at heart. Really, I'm just now catching up on "Downton Abbey" and "24" and "30 Rock," all these shows that my friends have been talking about, I'm just now catching on.
Are you a Netflix marathoner?
Yes! Yes! Me and [husband] Josiah [Bell] literally Netflix everything. We started "Downton Abbey" in January. Season 3, episode 5 we're currently at, I don't want it to end because it's fantastic. How good is it?! I love Lady Mary, she's so great, and I love Cousin Matthew and their relationship.
Bates is so amazing. He's in jail right now, that's what I know. Don't tell me anything.
I'm not caught up!
Oh, well he's not in jail. You didn't hear that from me.
What other series have you been binge-watching?
"30 Rock," definitely.
It's appropriate for any occasion.
Any occasion! Especially eating. You never feel guilty for eating while you're watching "30 Rock." I would feel bad watching "The Biggest Loser" and eating a bunch of donuts.
Speaking of TV, you were in "Friday Night Lights." Did you watch it when it was on?
No! I caught up before I started shooting. Actually, I had started watching it before I was cast. It's weird, I keep getting cast in shows that I'm just catching up on, like I was cast in "True Blood." I just joined the cast and I'd never watched the show before. Now I need to catch up. It's bananas, crazy.
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Which do you like better, TV or film?
They're both so different. Film, the beauty in that is that you're in it for a few months and then you're able to walk away. With film there's a consistency to it, but what I like about the TV shows that I've been fortunate to do, like "Friday Night Lights" and "True Blood," is that it feels like you're doing a film. You're not on a stage, it's not stuffy. Like "True Blood" we had animals and stunts last week, and someone got bit —
I can't tell you, but it was an animal. It was something. Someone got bit.
Have you heard anything about a "FNL" movie?
I have heard things rumbling in the jungle about the movie, but I don't know too much about it.
Would you be in it if they asked you?
Totally, if they asked me, if it made sense. In the end, you know, Jason Katims did such a good job wrapping up the show that I don't really know where he'd re-enter it from a film perspective, so I don't really know where Jess would fit in, or if she does fit in. if she does fit in, I would totally be a part of it. I love "FNL."
Did you cry watching the show? Or does being in it kind of take you out of it?
There was a scene I teared up on a little bit that I was crying in it, and it was weird because I was crying watching myself cry.
Is it like laughing at your own jokes?
Yeah! It was a scene with Coach. I think i had broken up with Vince or something.
Do people every recognize you?
For different things. It always trips me out when someone recognizes me from something that I did when I was like four years old.
Like "Full House"?
Does that happen a lot?
Weirdly, yes. I'm like 26 now. I'm an adult. I'm a married woman. Please tell me I look different from when I was four. They'll go through the whole list, from "Great Debaters" on down, and I'm like, but HOW? "Great Debaters" I understand, but "Full House"?
Do they quote at you?
Yeah! They quote a lot that scene from "The Great Debaters," the monologue in the debate. They're like "the time for freedom is now," and I'm like, "I appreciate that."
Your name is Jurnee, but what's your favorite song by Journey?
Oh! Man, I actually really like the group and my mom's a big musichead. She didn't raise me listening to them, and I didn't start listening to them until I was older and I was like oh, I love this group! "Don't Stop Believing."
Are you just a small town girl living in a lonely world?
Yeah, actually. Actually, it's funny. They mention South Detroit or something, and that's my husband and me. He grew up in Detroit and I grew up in New York, LA, slash everywhere.
Did you ever have any embarrassing screen names?
I had a really complicated screen name that no one could remember, so I never had any friends. It was really terrible. It was like lovely, but not spelled like that, like LV, something dumb. See, why so complicated?
What would your porn name be?
Oh my gosh, I don't watch porn, but you know. OK, so whenever I bowl, you know you have to come up with a username, my username is always Lady Diana. My middle name's Diana, and I'm a lady.