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HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK

About The Characters
In bringing his vision of STELLA to the screen, Sullivan worked very closely with Angela Bassett, whom he came to value as an important collaborator

In bringing his vision of STELLA to the screen, Sullivan worked very closely with Angela Bassett, whom he came to value as an important collaborator. "Angela is an artist with all 88 keys," he explains. 'She's a virtuoso, and I was constantly astounded by her range, depth and ability to bring so many nuances to her character."

Terry McMillan shares Sullivan's enthusiasm about Bassett. "Angela was the perfect choice to play Stella," she exclaims. She is beautiful, strong and emits a certain kind of sensuality and strength that I think Stella represents."

Indeed, Bassett came to have an intense understanding of her cinematic alter ego: "Stella has dealt with so many disappointments in matters of the heart that she puts romance in a place where her expectations are zero.

After meeting Winston, Stella has major reservations about having a relationship with him. After all, as a single mother and 40 years old, she is concerned about what this 20-year-old could possibly see in her. "Stella's heart is talking to her," says Bassett, but she can not believe it. She's thinking, when I'm 50, he'll be 30. Will he still be in love with me? So she's very cautious."

The object of Stella's affections - and dilemma - is Winston Shakespeare, the young Jamaican with whom Stella embarks on a relationship that leads her to question not only her concept of love, but the very way she's led her life. To cast this critical role, the filmmakers embarked on an exhaustive search in England, New York and Los Angeles.

Early in pre-production, Sullivan decided to eschew the use of a star. "lt was important for the audience to be able to discover this mysterious young man right along with Stella," Sullivan points out? So it really didn't make sense to use a name actor whom the audience would already know."

The idea of using a newcomer did not faze Sullivan, as he had previously worked with several actors making their debuts, including Jada Pinkett, Samantha Mathis, Duane Martin and Josie Bissett. Nevertheless the search for Winston was more difficult than he had anticipated. "I had to find an actor who was skilled. sexy, and credible as a Jamaican," he shares.

Taye Diggs, a handsome young actor from the East Coast, got the nod after a screen test with Bassett. "Taye is charismatic and smart, and the energy between Angela and him was amazing," says Sullivan. Echoes Terry McMillan: "Taye is really sexy, incredibly handsome and strong. But he still has this boyish quality.

"And his smile is a killer," McMillan adds with a smile. "When I saw him in the movie, I said, 'Yup, I'd have given him my number!"'

Diggs had auditioned while still performing as 'Benny the landlord' in Broadway's "Rent." After learning he had landed the coveted role in STELLA, Diggs found a unique and spontaneous way to celebrate. "To relay my excitement to my colleagues in 'Rent' I took off all my clothes and streaked around the theater, screaming, 'I got the part! I got the part!"

Diggs's unorthodox method of celebrating was a sharp contrast to the serious manner in which he approached the role. And he was a quick study. He also benefited from working with Angela Bassett. whom Sullivan describes as a "generous and giving" artist. Diggs is quick to concur: "Angela's very organic," he comments. "You just look into her eyes and it's all ther

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