Jurnee Smollett-Bell got a wakeup call from Tyler Perry. Literally.
The actress, known for playing Jess Merriweather on two seasons of critical darling Friday Night Lights, was asleep in bed one day when she got a phone call from an Atlanta number.
“He said, ‘This is Tyler Perry.’ And I was like, ‘Shut up. This ain’t no Tyler Perry.’ I thought it was my brother or someone playing a prank on me,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter with a laugh.
It turns out that Perry had written a script with the lead role in mind for her.
“I read it and it thoroughly intimidated me,” says Smollett-Bell, 26, who was a newlywed at the time. She wed musician Josiah Bell in October 2010.
The film sees Judith (Smollett-Bell), a marriage counselor who has been married to her childhood sweetheart (Lance Gross) for six years, struggling with the temptation to have an affair with a suave social-media mogul (Robbie Jones) who is a client at her firm.
“I had to go and think about what it would be like to cheat on your husband. Who wants to do that a year after you get married?” she says.
But Smollett-Bell was up for the challenge. And it turns out she would be challenged from day one of the shoot.
On the very first day, she had to shoot one of the sexiest scenes of the film, in which her character first commits a cheating act with Jones while they’re on a flight together.
“The first day was us having to be very convincing that we were having this seductive tension,” she says.
The Lionsgate film is a departure from Perry’s more lighthearted comedic work, focusing on the dark drama of Judith’s tough choice.
But Smollett-Bell tells THR that Perry, who wrote, produced and directed the film, kept it light between takes.
“We had a lot of long hours on the set,” she says. “He would crack a joke or break out into song or go into a funny voice.”
Temptation opens in theaters on Friday, March 29.
Watch THR‘s video lounge interview with Smollett-Bell above. Check back for more from Smollett-Bell, who will reveal the key to a good marriage and what kind of advice she gives to her single friends.
Email: Rebecca.Ford@thr.com; Twitter: @Beccamford