Terrence Howard wants you to know he’s a narcissist.
The Academy Award-nominated actor told a packed Mitten Hall last night that he believes “there is nobody more important in this world than Terrence Dashon Howard.” The initially disarming statements, however, were part of Howard’s larger message of self-empowerment directed at young people.
The lecture was sponsored by Temple’s Main Campus Program Board. “We wanted to invite a celebrity who had a meaningful outlook to share with students,” said Brendan Bailes, president of MCPB.
Howard is currently in previews of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway, with James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad. Bailes said Howard’s current commitments made the lecture possible.
Howard began by congratulating everyone present for being the “winning sperm.” Howard marked this as the first battle he ever won.
“My daddy was a hustler,” Howard said as he described a rough childhood, growing up biracial in Chicago. “Even though I was raised there, I am not ghetto,” Howard said. “Ghetto is a place and not a person.”
“When I started acting, and they wanted someone black, they wanted someone who acted like they expected a black man to act. They didn’t want me,” Howard said.
Howard described the importance of being self-sufficient and not having to rely on others. Self-taught in the areas of piano and guitar, Howard also taught himself to act. He maintains that he employs a one-mistake-only attitude.
“I ain’t never done a play before in my life,” Howard said. “That first night [on Broadway], I sucked so bad. I told myself that will never happen again. I got out there that next night, and I showed my ass. I was not going to fail.”
Howard caused a commotion among the crowd when he boldly stated, “I don’t like acting. It was the best means to make a dollar.” He said when he was younger, he wanted to be a chemical engineer, but learning of his girlfriend’s unplanned pregnancy changed his priorities.
But the acting business isn’t devoid of meaningful moments for Howard.
“I was doing a film called Idlewild. For a minute, I actually felt like I was in the early 1900s,” Howard said. “When they yelled ‘cut’ and I had to get into an SUV, I felt like something was wrong. It was totally being caught up in that moment. It was something special. That’s what you look for as an actor.”
Outside the expansive glass windows of Mitten Hall, some loud expletives interrupted Howard’s words. He paused in thought and began to discuss Hustle & Flow. He said that the hip hop lyrics of the film bothered him.
“I did not want that Oscar because I did not appreciate what was in it,” Howard said.
“I’ve got an album coming out, but I’m not telling you all this because I want you to buy it,” he said. “I’m telling you this because I want to give a comparison to the words [from Hustle & Flow].
“Everything you say will have an effect upon somebody,” Howard said. “The most beautiful thing you have as a human being is the ability to communicate and to express.”
Jesse North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.