No, she doesn’t rap. Herron just has a role in one of the best hip-hop films of all time with “Juice,” in addition to sharing a big screen debut credit with co-stars Omar Epps, Khalil Kain and a pre-legendary Tupac Shakur.
The Ernest Dickerson-directed drama, released on January 17, 1992, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. At the center of “Juice” are four Harlem teens (played by Epps, Kain, Shakur and Jermaine Hopkins) whose friendship is tested after plans to gain universal respect from robbing a local store take an unexpected turn. Herron figures into the story as Yolanda, the girlfriend of Epps’ character, Quincy “Q” Powell.
Venturing out of the comfort zone of a group, Herron embraced playing someone far removed from her real-life persona and exploring Yolanda’s motivation for carrying on a relationship with younger man.
“For me, it was just being able to step outside of who I am and play another person because I would never want to be a nurse in real life [laughs],” the entertainer confessed to EURweb while yielding to never putting on the scrubs for real. “I wouldn’t want to be a nurse, but to be able to go outside of who I am and bring another character to life who’s a nurse, who’s seeing a younger man. She [Yolanda] was in a marriage with another guy that didn’t work out for whatever reason and now she’s with a younger guy. I just thought that’s just an interesting thing to play because I wouldn’t do that either.
“I wouldn’t date somebody way younger than me. From being able to step outside who I am and bring another character to life and try to make it as believable as possible and find things about that character that make sense as to why she does what she does. Why is she dating a younger man? What made her want to be a nurse? Just trying to play that role and make it believable, that kind of stuff was interesting,” Herron continued about her approach to portraying Yolanda. “It was like, ‘Ok, this is a challenge and I get to not be Cindy from En Vogue. I’m Yolanda. She’s a nurse and this is her life.’ And to make up all of that, who this character is, you just do all the background stuff on the character to make her more believable. Like come up with where she was born, who her parents are, where she went to school. All of that stuff is what I think. When you can do all of that, it’s what helps the character be more believable and more real. And just the challenge of that. That was an interesting thing for me to do at the time, to sort of be able to establish myself apart from En Vogue, sort of establish a little bit more of an identity to the public about me.”
Needless to say, Herron’s efforts paid off. Days off from En Vogue opened the door to fully committing to Yolanda and “Juice” and making the most of her time onscreen. Summing up her “Juice” experience, Herron has one description: “life-changing.”
“That might just sound kind of cliché, but it’s true,” she stated. “Because I had the chance to be a part of the film, I got to work with Omar Epps and be in a cast of really great people and be a part of a film that has a large cult following now, which is just amazing to me. That movie has a cult following. I would have never thought that, but it changed my life, just being able to work with all the actors and just to have that experience apart from En Vogue and everything that I was doing with En Vogue at that time.”
Point to recognition she’s gotten from “Juice” fans after all these years and Herron transitions to humble mode.
“To have people come up to me. I can’t believe that people can even recognize me today from that movie,” she shared. “I can be in some city, in someplace America and somebody go, ‘Hey you. Were you in that movie ‘Juice’? I’m like, ‘Really?’ … It’s changed my life in that way. Just to be a part of a great cast, a great story, to work under such a great director. Yes, all of the rappers and musicians that were in the film obviously already had a career going, but to see some of those actors just take off and blow up like they did, I just cherish that moment back then when we did the film … I’m really glad I went out for the film and was able to be a part of it.”
Looking back on “Juice,” Herron notes Shakur among those she learned from during her time on the set. The pair never spent any time together, but that didn’t prevent Herron from marveling at the late rap icon’s turn as Bishop in a sea full of folks who brought their A-game.
“I have to say that everybody in the film was very talented, everyone. But I gotta say, the performance that made the most impact on me, it was Tupac. Just his performance, out of everything that I saw in that film. And maybe it was just that I was so blown away by his performance and just didn’t think,” said Herron, whose appreciation was an unexpected jewel from someone she pre-judged. “I didn’t expect a performance like that from him because he was a rapper, you know, and rappers don’t act. Of course they do, but his choices as an actor were just so mind-blowing to me… It was just so unexpected to me. He was like a consummate actor, the choices that he made. I haven’t seen the film in a long time, but his dedication as the actor, as the character and his choices that he made, it just took acting to a whole ‘nother level for me. Just the seriousness of it, the approach of it. Everything about it took it to a whole ‘nother level for me. I was just so blown away and my whole image of him was forever changed from his performance in that film.”
“Everybody brought their own layers and colors and it was really a wonderful thing to see. I mean everybody,” she added about her castmates, while confirming Shakur’s “long-lasting impact” on her as actress. “For him to just transition as an actor and just kill it, that was such a long-lasting impact on me, definitely.”
Shakur wasn’t the only one to have an effect on Herron. The impact on the Grammy nominee was felt from the entire cast of “Juice” with each moment. And no moment on a movie set would be complete without a few bloopers to laugh at.
One in particular struck a nerve for Herron, courtesy of Hopkins, who played Steel.
Apparently the “Phat Beach” star was an admirer of his beautiful co-star. So much so that he tried to pull an intimate fast one on Herron when they were filming the hospital scene where Steel tells Yolanda that Bishop shot him.
“He had a really good sense of humor,” Herron said about Hopkins. “I remember one day on the set, when they rolled him in on a stretcher and Yolanda is standing at the nurse’s station and she sees him go by on a stretcher. And then she would kind of run behind the stretcher to see what happened to him. In the scene, once she gets to him, she bends down low because he says something to her. That was the direction from the director, but Jermaine, he was giving me his direction, not the director’s direction. He said, ‘Yeah, you bend down and then you kiss me, right.’ He was like, ‘No, the director said, ‘Bend down. You bend down and you kiss me’”
“I knew he was joking,” continued Herron. “But anyway, when we rolled, the director heard him say that. But I’m supposed to bend down low enough to hear what he has to whisper in my ear. So when we do the scene, the director is way down the hall, way down the hall with the camera, and we run through it before we film it. I bent way, way down to hear what he [Hopkins] has to say, and to the director, it looked like I kissed him. He said, ‘Cut! Don’t kiss him.’ And I said, ‘I didn’t kiss him!’ Because he heard Jermaine said, ‘You bend down, you kiss me,’ he thought I kissed him. He thought I bent down and kissed him. So it was just kind of funny. Everybody fell out. I was like, ‘No, no I didn’t. I didn’t kiss him. That was not a kiss.’ It was really funny.” [Laughs]
Since the release of “Juice” Herron has remained in the public eye musically over the years with En Vogue as well as exercising her acting skills with roles on “A Different World,” “Batman Forever,” “Malcolm & Eddie,” Lifetime’s “An En Vogue Christmas” and a stage version of “Dreamgirls,” in which she played Deena Jones.
While Herron’s singing career remains active with new music from En Vogue on the way this year, the question is will fans see her return to the acting arena? According to the vocalist, “there are no definite plans, as of yet.”
“I definitely would love to do more acting. I just have to be available to get to certain auditions,” Herron stated. “It just depends. Most of the time, when there is an audition that I might be able to go to, either on that account when the audition happens or when the project is going to shoot, I’m on the road. So that prevents me from just doing more acting, just that by itself.
“It’s always one or the other. I’m out of town during the audition or I can make the audition, but the shoot dates are gonna be during a time that I have to be out of town with En Vogue,” she added. “So somehow, I would definitely love to get back around to acting. It can even be theater. I love doing theater, too. When the opportunity arises, I definitely will be doing it.”
Scroll below to see the trailer for “Juice”: