I had expected Terrence Howard to be gracious and charming. People who want to promote a new film or CD usually are, and Mr. Howard, the star of Hustle & Flow and other films, has just produced his first music recording, Shine Through It. He was actually a singer and songwriter before he became an actor (and a carpenter—he still works occasionally as a professional carpenter!), and this album of songs he has written for himself reveals a whole new creative side.
But the interview went far beyond anything I would have imagined. Mr. Howard's mother died just two weeks ago, and he was clearly in a reflective mood. In our studios he shared vivid and brilliant insights into the craft of acting, the symmetry of music, his family history (his great grandmother was on Broadway; his father went to prison for manslaughter), and even the nature of the universe (Terrence Howard wanted to be a scientist).
Terrence Howard in NPR's Studio 3A.
I have interviewed thousands of actors over the years. None have been as eloquent, illustrative, or fascinating as Terrence Howard. As we were leaving the studio, we talked about our children, and he grabbed my arm.
"I touch you, my fingers leave an imprint," he explained. "The shape of my fingers will disappear. But maybe something I said will live on. Something you said to me will live on. And my son and your daughters will learn something from us, even if they don't know where it's from. But that's how the bubble of the universe encloses us all, isn't it?"
We can only run about twelve minutes on our program this Saturday. But I urge you to hear the full-length version that will be available on our website starting on Saturday afternoon, after 2 p.m. eastern time. Fortuitously, too, the entire interview was recorded on video, and a portion of that will be available on our website, too. It is riveting.
Of course, Terrence Howard is handsome and glamorous. But to see his eyes moisten as he speaks, and hear his voice thicken, you will be witness to a man who is sharing his soul