Exclusive: That Grape Juice Interviews Lifetime’s ‘Aaliyah: Princess of R&B’ Star Alexandra Shipp

Published: Saturday 15th Nov 2014 by Rashad

The Wizard of Oz couldn’t deliver the amount of courage needed to be Alexandra Shipp at this very moment.

Aboard the highly anticipated Lifetime biopic ‘Aaliyah:  Princess of R&B,’ the Phoenix-bred beauty takes on the role of one of the genre’s most beloved entities while combatting an army of naysayers – including the ‘One In a Million’ singer’s own family.  Chronicling her rise to fame and the controversies that clouded some of it, the movie, helmed by ‘Queen of All Media’ Wendy Williams, is set to explore (like never before) the life of R&B’s fallen angel.

As the film is being greeted with mix reviews from fans and critics alike before its official arrival tonight at 8/7c, Shipp tells That Grape Juice how she’s handling the skeptics, the challenges that came with singing Aaliyah’s music, and so much more.

Sail on down below the jump to see more from our exclusive chat with Miss Shipp.  As ever, it’s a must read:

TGJ:  Thanks for joining us today, we really appreciate it!

Alexandra:  Not a problem!

TGJ:  We are so close to the premiere of Lifetime’s ‘Aaliyah: Princess of R&B.’ Tell us how excited you are about that?

Alexandra:  I’m so excited! When you work so hard on something and it finally comes out, you are just overwhelmed with excitement because people finally get to see what you’ve worked so hard on.

TGJ:  That’s amazing. I know you’ve been asked a million times, but I’m curious to know: how did you prepare for this role given the absence of people so close to her?

For me, I’m pretty technical. I watched interviews, music videos, behind the scenes stuff, etc. I just wanted to get a feel for her mannerisms. I listened to all of her songs over and over. During the recording process, we went over some lines over and over again until I had the right inflection and mannerisms.

I wanted it perfect. She had such an impact on people and they’re going to be going through this with a fine tooth comb so I wanted it to be right for them.

TGJ:  Do you feel prepared for those who will be analyzing the film with the “fine tooth comb,” so to speak? Be it negative or positive, because her fans are so devoted to her legacy, have you braced yourself for what people will say about the movie?

Alexandra:  Yes, totally. I know I worked really hard at this and put my blood, sweat, and tears into it. I didn’t sleep for a month!  I love this movie! So, I’m proud of the work that I’ve put out there and am ready for what people have to say.

thatgrapejuice-alexandra shipp

TGJ:  That’s so awesome. The movie has been shrouded in controversy since its conception. So, without having that support from the people who were immediately in her life, did that controversy ever come as a concern?

Alexandra:  Of course. But, at the same time, that’s out of my control. I’m just an actress who was hired to do the job. I understand when families don’t want to be involved and I understand when things fall through in movies. But, I think the final product we got is amazing.

I hope when her family sees it, they’ll be able to smile because we’re celebrating her life. We’re not unearthing demons or sharing things people didn’t know about her.

TGJ:  We’ve heard about your bravery when it came to having to record the songs. Share with us where your mind was when you were re-recording some of Aaliyah’s biggest hits.

Alexandra:  My mind was in tunnel vision. I’m going in there, warming up, listen to the song a million times, and then sometimes I would even put shades on to get into that vibe.

TGJ:  When you think about your progression as an actress as you look at this film, what do you think it tells about you about you?

It’s so fun to see. It’s completely different from when I was on ‘House of Anubis.’ The actings different, the content is different, the storyline is different. So, being able to see my episodes from that and then see these scenes in the Aaliyah movie is eerie and exciting.

TGJ:  We know that when people watch this film they will see Aaliyah.  But, what are you hoping people learn about you after seeing this film?

Alexandra: I hope people see my level of hard work and professionalism. Because I got to portray one of my idols, but also because I got to star in something really big. People have waited for a long time to finally have an Aaliyah biopic.

Also, it’s rare that there’s a lead black female in a film.


TGJ:  Now, as with many interviews, we have a segment called “Five From Fans” where we received five questions from our readers for you. 

1) TGJ: What is your favorite biopic to date?

Alexandra: ‘Selena.’ My best friend and I from middle school would lie in bed and watch that movie over and over. I loved her music.  But, recently, I’ve fallen in love with ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It.’

That was a whole other level of awesome.

2) TGJ: Were you ever intimidated by working with Wendy Williams?

Alexandra: Yes, definitely! She has such a big personality, but she’s such a nice woman. I have so much respect for her.

3) TGJ: Given that you’ve studied her life, if you ever had the opportunity to meet Aaliyah, what would you two talk about?

Alexandra: I’d ask her how she handled it. I have my assumptions, but I want to know how did she handle the intensity of her life. I wanted to know how she kept succeeding in such a big career.

4) TGJ:  What would you say was the most challenging scene in the movie to shoot?

The most challenging was ironically the most emotionally easy scene. That was when Aaliyah and R. Kelly tell her parents they got married. We were able to really “get there” pretty quickly because there was such chemistry between all of us.

We only rehearsed it once or twice, but it worked! Everyone just started clapping. There was such electricity!

5) TGJ:  What’s your favorite Aaliyah song?

Alexandra: It varies. My initial overall favorite is ‘Try Again.’ After that, it’s ‘At Your Best’ and ‘Back and Forth.’


TGJ:  Thanks for answering those questions. So, we’ve asked you all about Aaliyah, but what’s next for you? What should we look forward to in 2015?

Alexandra:  I’ll be releasing some of my own music. I have ‘Straight Outta Compton’ coming with Ice Cube. After that, the sky’s the limit!


Interview by: Quinno Rashad (That Grape Juice US)

Click to follow Alexandra Shipp On Twitter

Catch ‘Aaliyah:  Princess of R&B’ tonight at 8/7c only on Lifetime! 


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  1. tits mcgee November 15, 2014

    I knew Aunt Wendy frequented this site..

  2. I love to get ‘2 On’ November 15, 2014

    Cute girl, but she ain’t no Aaliyah. Much love and respect for baby girl.

  3. #TeamTinashe Stan “Aquarius” Now In Stores November 15, 2014

    Everyone you can watch the movie on livestream online. And reviewers have already panned the film saying we already know everything, the production is a mess and Airhead Shipp doesn’t deliver.

  4. Molly November 15, 2014

    She’s gonna get dragged so bad if she doesn’t deliver that’s all.

    • BeyRihLiyah November 15, 2014

      she’s not going to deliver the critics have been dragging this hoeeee and shes going to be tore to shreds on twitter lol

  5. SMH November 15, 2014

    I will not be supporting this mess.

    • Tasha November 15, 2014

      You Say that yet you commentBand view every article, inTerview, and video snippets released…. Do you guys not know thaT by doing all of that that IS supporting the movie… Lol ignorant.

      • BeyRihLiyah November 15, 2014

        bittttch go choke on your daddy’s d*** and leave people alone

  6. Tasha November 15, 2014

    So mad you guys didn’t ask her what songs she re recorded in the movie, if she recreated any music videos, and if he cast mate from drumline, Letoya Luckett, helped her prepare for the role since she knew Aaliyah.

  7. tits mcgee November 15, 2014

    I think the writing is on the wall when, the only scene they bring up, is the parents find out she’s married.

    I think this will be a disaster. I’m gonna watch clips on YouTube to see how she interprets, baby girl’s songs. Lol.

    • NiCKI WILL SLAY November 15, 2014

      Chile they got Iggy songs in this movie. IGGY AZAELA. Pathetic.

  8. BeyRihLiyah November 15, 2014

    welp this non-acting bitttch career is over haha people have been trashing this especially the critics

  9. BeyRihLiyah November 15, 2014

    if you want to watch a real Aaliyah biopic go to vh1.com and watch her behind the music fucccck this Lie-opic

  10. NiCKI WILL SLAY November 15, 2014

    1.I don;t like this girl at all. I read some ignorant, simple minded, racist things about black people in the past. SOme dummy wrote an article judging the entire black race based on something they saw on BET. LOL
    She then retweeted the article saying that was the truth about black people. Watch this phony show up on BET to promote this crap.

    2.Is she biracial b/c ice Cube’s wife is not biracial and neither id Aaliyah? Yes she is.
    I’m tired of the discrimination against black women in Hollywood. Why can’t they hire a black person to play black people?

    How do they know what happened with the family if they didn’t talk to the family? SMH

  11. Mark111 November 15, 2014

    No matter how we feel about this film,SShe’s just an actress doing a job. I feel people will come at her vs the network or Wendy.

    • Brian310 November 15, 2014

      People will trash her because she claims to be this big fan but proceeded with doing this movie when her family made it clear they didn’t want it done…but I do agree that if it is terrible Wendy should be criticized for it.

  12. TheElusiveLamb November 15, 2014

    She’s about to get dragged so hard. I know I can’t support this. It’s pathetic.

  13. Anne November 15, 2014

    Just watched the film. Not bad, I thought it was pretty good. Alex did a great job. I know it would have been insensitive to show a crash but the ending could have addressed her untimely death a little better in my opinion. Other than that and the obvious absence of her hit songs, Lifetime did her story justice in my opinion.

  14. coolness November 16, 2014

    This poor girl’s career is over before it even started. Zendaya, you dodged one hell of a bullet!

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