Darrin Henson is the definition of a multi-hyphenate, someone whose talents can hardly be boxed into any one genre or article. Whether he’s choreographing, acting, directing, producing, or even writing his own book as an established author, the Bronx, New York native has been blessing the entertainment industry for over three decades… and he continues to make history.
In describing himself, Darrin Henson states, “I tell people I’m a spirit living a physical experience, learning as I go along and giving as I go along. That’s literally my serious answer. I’m a spirit living a physical experience: learning, going, growing, and glowing. And that’s exactly how I feel.”
Darrin’s all-star resume includes working with all the greats, including Michael Jackson, Prince, Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, NSYNC, Xscape, Jagged Edge… the list goes on. But aside from his work as a choreographer, it’s hard to miss Darrin on the small and big screen. Fans will remember him from his roles in the timeless films Soul Food and Stomp The Yard, and things have only gone up since then.
Darrin is currently starring in Carl Weber’s The Family Business on BET and ALLBLK’s Double Cross, and is excited as ever to be releasing his own documentary.
Sheen spoke with Darrin to discuss what it meant to work with Michael Jackson, how he got into acting from dancing, his new shows, running one hour a day everyday, goals, and more!
Just being from the Bronx, what does that mean to you?
It means that I know what the true element of hip-hop is. There are 5 elements: rapping, DJing, graffiti, dancing, and clothing. Those are the true 5 elements of hip-hop. Without them, it’s not true hip-hop. Hip-hop has to have all 5 elements.
Would you say you embody all of them?
Well, I’m not a DJ. But for me, growing up in the Bronx afforded me the opportunity to learn what true hip-hop is, as opposed to what it seems like or appears to be. Or in a disorganized way of teaching what it is. I know what it is because I was in the middle of it growing up.
You’ve worked with all the greats from Michael Jackson to Prince to Jennifer Lopez. What was your first taste of “oh shit, this is for real?”
My first mentor and my first manager were DJ Scott La Rock. I met Scott La Rock as Scott Sterling in his college, which was Castleton State College. During that time, he was my big brother, my first manager, my first real mentor. I realized the responsibility that went along with show business because we were performing. This is during the time when I met KRS One, and KRS-One joined the group. It was show business, and I learned that it was compound work very early on.
The show with my talent and the business aspect is what I had to learn to build, grow and pay attention to. There are so many other artists out there whose lives juxtapose what growth in the entertainment business really means, which really should be financial stability. Because if you’re sharing what your talent is with the world, then you should be paid for it.
What were your experiences working with Michael Jackson? That’s legendary in itself.
It’s just one of the most amazing times in my life. That was in 1995, I remember it vividly. I remember meeting him. I remember shaking his hand. I remember the comments he made to me about how incredible he thought I was. I remember rehearsing with him. I remember it all. It takes precedence in my brain, which I think affords me the opportunity to still move with that expertise that I’ve learned from working with him.
Talk about transitioning from dancing to acting.
Dancing to acting was really positive frustration. I had done everything that I wanted to do with dancing and choreography. In 1999, I was nominated for an MTV Music Award. And I lost, rightfully so, to Ricky Martin for “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” I was frustrated, so I said I need a challenge. Literally, all my dreams have come true, but I hadn’t won the MTV Music Award yet.
I decided to walk into acting and audition for a television show called Soul Food, and I wound up booking it. But at the same time, that same year, I got a call from Johnny Wright, who was the manager for NSYNC. He convinced me to choreograph “Bye Bye Bye,” which I won the MTV Music Award for. So I learned how all things are connected.
How was your time doing Soul Food?
It was amazing. That was my classroom for acting, very similar to fashion. You try out things, you deal with different colors and different patterns. I did the same thing with acting, with emotions in different scenes. You try out different emotions for your character until you get to learn your character. In terms of Lem Van Adams, I knew them very well.
I know you just wrapped production in a new movie, A House Ain’t Home.
I’m starring in that as well. A House Ain’t a Home is a play that I turned into a shop for television/film, that I wrote and directed. I’m also starring in two shows right now. One is on BET, which is called Carl Weber’s The Family Business. We’re in the fourth season. The other show is Double Cross, which is written, produced, and directed by Christel and Howard Gibson. They’re both good shows on each network, so I’m very blessed and I’m very thankful.
When it comes to fashion on the Family Business, it’s a very fashion-forward show. It’s exciting because you never really know what our stylist is going to put us in, but it’s always the hottest item on the market. I’m always happy when we have more scenes to do because that means more Gucci, more Louie, more Prada, and more of all of that. She makes sure that the Duncans, who we are, are wearing the hottest things.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
I don’t really have any, per se. I just wear what I enjoy. If I feel like being loose, like today, I have on this double wrap sweater. That’s very loose-fitting and open. Sometimes, I like wearing fitted suits. Sometimes, I like wearing jeans. I always wear Italian leather shoes. I don’t like cheap shoes. All of my shoes are at least $500 and over. I love wearing well-made shoes, and I like my clothes to fit my personality for the day. The same way Sheen is fashion-forward in terms of how they present, it’s the same idea that I use. It’s about what feels good to me, on me, for me.
What can we expect from your documentary?
My documentary is called Darrin’s Dance Grooves, the Untold Darrin Henson Story. It’s really about my entire life of how I grew up. If you enjoyed Kanye West’s journey, if you enjoyed the journey in Mary J. Blige’s documentary, you’re really going to enjoy this. Because there’s music, there’s dance, there are conversations that people never knew about regarding me.
You still dance, right?
Of course, I still get down. Everything that you see me do in Stomp The Yard was me, there are no body doubles. Unlike other movies, there were no body doubles in that film.
What was the highlight of that?
To actually dance and act in a film. I felt like I joined a fraternity of actors who dance and dancers who act, like John Travolta, Gregory Hines, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Michael Jackson. All of these people did films and danced. For me to do Stomp The Yard, to utilize my acting and dancing was pretty awesome.
Any goals for yourself at this point?
Yeah, I’m filled with them. I have a vision board that’s very very present right now. I want to direct a really big action film. I want to star in a film with John Travolta, with Denzel Washington. I want to do a play that is comparable to Fences. I play Raven in Tekken, so I’ve kind of done the superhero thing, but I want to do it even bigger now. Raven is from the martial arts fight game Tekken, which is a Namco video game. Huge all over the world, especially in the Asian community. I was able to do that. I just want to do it again in a bigger, better way. My body is incredibly in shape currently. I feel really good, I’m healthy. I’m actively seeking new, expansive roles.
What is your workout regimen?
Wow. I run one hour a day, every day. Every day, I run at 6am in the morning. It’s a part of my lifestyle. You know what? I never do this, but I’m going to take you to my gym. [shows home gym] Welcome to my world. I run an hour a day, then I train on the weights. I work out, and I box. I got all my equipment set up. After that, I play video games. [laughs] You gotta have fun in life, right? So I try to enjoy all of it.
What’s one thing fans may not know about you?
I’m really spiritual. A lot of times, people think I’m a lot like the characters that I play on TV, but I have real faith. Because if we don’t and if we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t be moving as strongly as we are doing what we do. Because there’s a lot of negativity, there’s a lot of resistance. There are a lot of no’s, and there’s a lot of disbelief. So my faith is incredibly strong. As I started off this interview, I said I’m a spirit living a physical experience. That’s very true for me.
Anything else you want to let us know?
I’m looking forward to being on the cover of Sheen very soon.