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Why Janet Jackson put her acting above her music

”The Klumps” star still pines for the role she lost to Halle Berry

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Janet Jackson
Paul Smith/Retna

It’s been seven years since Janet Jackson made her movie debut, in John Singleton’s 1993 romantic drama ”Poetic Justice.” But the R&B diva, who has more gold records than any other female artist, pushed her music to the back burner in order to revive her stalled acting career. Now both endeavors are on track: She stars opposite Eddie Murphy in ”Nutty Professor II: The Klumps,” while ”Doesn’t Really Matter,” her single from the movie’s soundtrack, is at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.

To play Murphy’s love interest in the comedy sequel, Jackson says she stopped work on an as yet untitled album — her long in the making follow-up to 1997’s ”Velvet Rope.” ”We’ve finished about three songs, but we aren’t planning to release the album until next year,” says the 34 year old Jackson, who has a five CD $70 million recording contract with Virgin Records. ”I’d like to dive into another film either after my next tour or before. I would love to do drama or a romantic comedy, just so long as it’s something good.”

Jackson, who began her acting career on the ’70s sitcom ”Good Times,” has been eager to snap up quality work ever since she missed her chance to play the one role she’s coveted since she was 10 years old: Dorothy Dandridge, the pioneering African-American film star best known for her Oscar nominated role in 1954’s ”Carmen Jones.” But ”X-Men” star Halle Berry beat her to the punch with last year’s HBO biopic ”Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” — a performance that earned Berry a Golden Globe and an Emmy nomination.

Though Jackson had been vocal about her own planned Dandridge project — which she hoped to produce and star in — she doesn’t begrudge Berry the awards and critical acclaim. ”A lot of people said ‘You better get on this before she does it,’ but it wasn’t about a race,” says Jackson. ”It was about telling the story properly. And [Halle] did a wonderful job. I know Dorothy is watching and smiling.”

Still, Jackson isn’t ruling out a Dandridge venture in the distant future. ”I just think you need to leave some space in between [the two],” she says. She’s also interested in developing projects about other celebrities, though she isn’t naming names. ”Nothing is etched in stone yet, but there are definitely projects I’m going to produce in the future,” she says. May we suggest a tell-all biopic on brother Michael?